Beyond World Series, Dodgers need to do better than Kershaw
The Los Angels Dodgers are dangerously close to being the Texas Rangers of 2010-11. Back-to-back World Series losses representing the peak of their powers and the inevitable, gradual fall down the mountain.
This year’s World Series has a stark contrast in the climate of the two participating cites. The Dodgers were frozen by Boston’s weather and bullpen, falling to a 2-0 deficit, retreating to the warm embrace of Sunny LA. The Red Sox have not lost on the road yet during the playoffs, and going to California isn’t going to make it any tougher for them. Even if the Dodgers win all three home games, their chances at taking one in Fenway is slim.
The Red Sox have Rick Porcello for Game 3 and Nathan Eovaldi for Game 4. If they want they can send out Sale for Game 5. They have the starting pitching advantage because the Dodgers don’t have anyone close to Clayton Kershaw, and that’s the problem.
This season alone, Kershaw finished with a 2.73 ERA. He was flawless in the NLDS with eight shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves. He had a similar outing against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NCLS but not before getting chased in the fourth inning in a Game 1 loss. A similar outing occurred in Game 1 of the World Series, where he gave up five runs in four innings against the Red Sox.
For a decade, Kershaw has been the best the Dodgers have in their rotation but the drop off from him to the next guy is like an A to a B. Not too long ago, the Dodgers had Zack Greinke which was like the Dodgers having two aces, but couldn’t get past the Cardinals in the playoffs.
This wouldn’t feel like much of a crisis if Kershaw wasn’t a subpar postseason pitcher. For one of the best staring pitchers of his generation, giving up five runs and not making it through the fifth inning has actually been the norm for him in October. If the Red Sox can shell the ace, there’s nobody in the Dodgers disposal that they can’t do that too.
The long term concerns for the Dodgers coming out of the season is possibly darker than the short term. The two American League teams that the Dodgers faced in the World Series seem like competing dynasties, getting stronger by the season. The bronze medalist in the league is the New York Yankees, who are are starting pitcher or two away from leap-frogging over Houston or Boston. All three teams are better than the Dodgers.
The production of Matt Kemp will likely be replaced with an outfield prospect like Alex Verdugo. Chase Utley will retire and Max Muncy will likely chase free agency after his big break and it’ll be a youngster like the speedy Tim Locastro who takes over as the next breakout star in the infield.
The Dodgers farm system will keep them on top, shedding age and remaining strong while looking fresh. The one concern is starting pitching. It’s the only group that outside of Walker Buehler can produce depth but not a star and a star is what they need.
The challenge of the offseason is for the Dodgers to find a starting pitcher that is comparable to Kershaw. He can no longer be the only ace in the hole going into the postseason if the Dodgers are going to finally win their first championship since 1988.