N.L. West Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers

Like the Rays, this is essentially the same team as last year… with an extra Cy Young Award winner. But how Cy Youngesque is Trevor Bauer likely to be this year?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a monkey of their backs and are now trying to be the first team to repeat as World Series champs in more than two decades. Chances are pretty good that will happen.

The big addition in the offseason, of course, was Trevor Bauer, one of only 10 men named Trevor to play Major League Baseball. That statistical anomaly –as well as a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts– caused L.A. to back up the armored truck and open the doors. But, how good is Bauer really? In six full seasons, he had one season with an ERA under 4.18. The problem? Even though he strikes out more than one batter every inning, he also gives up nearly one hit every inning and, before last year, he was prone to walking batters.

Can he take the magic from last year and transpose it to this year? Maybe. He was almost as dominant in 2018, but 2019 saw him with ligament damage to an ankle and back spasms. As Bauer explains on his YouTube channel he made significant changes to his mechanics, but that was back in 2014, so that doesn’t help us act as prognosticators. The changes he made, by the way, were made due to pain in his hip caused by the way he was using his plant leg. One more thing, anybody who has taken to hating Bauer for pitching with the whole one eye closed comment he made in spring training, the YouTube channel shows a thoughtful, engaging pitcher who takes the time to answer a variety of questions.

The takeaway, really, is that the Dodgers likely got a number two starter with this signing and maybe a number one. Dodger fans should temper their expectations.

As for the rest of the staff, much of the relief corps left, with veteran Blake Treinen returning and relative new guys Jimmy Nelson, Corey Knebel and Jimmy Nelson now in the pen. They are bolstered by the return of Cy Young winner David Price from injury and starter/reliever Tony Gonsolin (2.60 ERA in 20 big-league games). Gonsolin is the epitome of a “nice problem to have” because the team has so many number one and two starters.

Walker Buehler is really good, but he gives up a ton of home runs (41 in 365 2/3 career innings). Dustin May (2.98 ERA in 26 games), Julio Urias (3.20 ERA in 74 games), and some guy named Clayton Kershaw (2.16 ERA in 10 2020 starts) make up the rest of the staff. Gonsolin will almost certainly see plenty of action though as an emergency starter and because Kershaw has missed starts in the four last full seasons. Kenley Jansen is not what he was as a closer, does not have the speed on the fastball and does not have the same bite on the cutter. But he’s going into his 12th season. He still knows how to pitch. But Dodgers fans sweat now when they see him come in.

L.A. really just needs their pitchers to throw strikes and the offense should take care of the rest. With a lineup that starts with Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, followed by Cody Bellinger, you’re going to score runs. If it were me, I’d put Bellinger in the three spot to get him more fastballs. He had one amazing half of play and has been average since.

One more note: Betts is off his game in right. I’ve seen half a dozen balls go over his head or land in foul ground that he would have caught last year. Regardless, this team is still very deep and has players like Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty, Max Muncy, and new second basemen Zach McKinstry and Gavin Lux to move around. They’ll miss the clubhouse presence and confidence that Kiké Hernández brought every day.

The Bauer signing was nice. Middle relief has some unproven guys. But there is more than enough here to make a deep run. Can they go all the way? I think they can.

99 WINS

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