If anyone doubted the Dodgers World Series credentials this season, they quickly proved otherwise. Los Angeles trounced the former MLB opening day record with eight home runs. That was a good start for the Dodgers, who are looking to not only be the National League champs this year but World Series winners.
The Dodgers have 23 NL pennants to their name. That’s a tie with the Giants for the most NL pennant titles, but the Giants have eight World Series titles to L.A.’s six. This is a promising year for the Dodgers to dominate for the NL pennant, and there are three reasons they are serious World Series contenders.
The Dodgers started the season with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill on the injured list. Kershaw went on the 10-day DL with a lower back strain to start the season. Back injuries have been sidelining him off and on during the past couple of seasons. Hill has a sore left knee. But, this may be the first season in years the Dodgers are a bit less dependent on Kershaw.
They’ve still got a strong five-man starting rotation even without the two veterans, which includes Hyun-Jin Ryu who got the opening day win. Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias flesh out the rotation.
Ryu had a good start out of the gate. So did Maeda, getting his first win of the season with 6-2/3 innings in his first start.
The 24-year-old Buehler is the present and future for the Dodgers. The right-hander has been the talk of the town.
“Buehler, who started the season in the minor leagues, has risen to become the most dominant Dodgers rookie pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela — and Fernandomania — took L.A. by storm in 1981,” wrote Sean Braswell in an Oct. 2018 Ozy article.
The Dodgers have nearly unlimited lineup options. Their outfielders of Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, and Alex Verdugo offer the advantage of playing in different fields. Many infielders can play multiple spots, too.
For example, Max Muncy plays first and third. Outfielder Taylor can come in and take over at second or short. Bellinger’s natural spot is first base. Veteran David Freese, who was traded to L.A. in August 2018, can take over at first or third. And, Enrique Hernandez can play almost anywhere except pitcher and catcher.
Through the opening weekend of the season, the Dodgers showed off their key feature which may take them to the World Series again this year. They had a home run derby all their own.
On that now record-setting opening day, Hernandez, who was playing second base, launched two home runs. Pederson, Muncy, Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Austin Barnes each also blasted their own. The fete tied a franchise record of home runs in a single game.
Muncy led the Dodgers with 35 home runs last season, and he participated in the home run derby in 2018. Bellinger’s opening day homer was accompanied by two more against the Diamondbacks that Saturday night.
Seager, one of baseball’s best shortstops and a two-time All-Star by the age of 24, is back in the swing of things after missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery.
And Barnes is seemingly enjoying his role as the premier catcher for the Dodgers. Before opening day, he had a career total of 12 home runs since his start in the majors in 2017. In the first three days of 2019, he added two more.
While we’ve concentrated on homers, we don’t want to neglect batting averages in general, nor the man with the red beard. Justin Turner had a .312 batting average in 2018. In the first three games of the season, he managed five RBIs. If the 34-year-old can stay healthy, we look for a nice average again this year.
Maybe no other player wants a World Series win more than Kershaw, who has carried the team through several postseasons. But, every other Dodger who’s been there for the heartbreak wants it badly, too. The strong starting pitching, powerful offense, and roster versatility ensure the Dodgers have a real shot at winning the World Series in 2019.