WHY DID THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS UNDERACHIEVE DURING THEIR RECENT RUN OF DIVISION TITLES?
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been on the greatest run in team history, at least as far as winning the division and making the playoffs annually goes.
YEAR RECORD RESULT
2013 92-70 won division, lost in NLCS
2013 92-70 won division, lost in NLCS
2014 94-68 won division, lost in NLDS
2015 92-70 won division, lost in NLDS
2016 91-71 won division, lost in NLCS
2017 104-58 won division, lost in WS
2018 92-71 won division, lost in WS
I should also add that while all of these team’s Pythagorean records were close to the actual result, the 2018 team’s Pythagorean record was 102-61. 6 consecutive division titles (team record), 2 pennants, 0 championships. Those 0 championships is the most important number to the team’s fans and analysts. It means that despite the success, the team still ultimately failed. What went wrong?
In 2013, they lost 4-2 in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis had a 97-65 record with a 101-61 Pythagorean record. They also won the World Series in 2011 and were in the NLCS for the third consecutive season. LA were in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. In other words, LA’s results were acceptable.
In 2014, they lost to St. Louis again. This time 3-1 in the NLDS. St. Louis had a 90-72 record and a surprisingly lower 83-79 Pythagorean record. Based on records, LA should’ve won. The games were close. St. Louis won the first game 10-9 in Los Angeles against LA’s ace Clayton Kershaw, who just happened to be the best starting pitcher in the game as well. They also won the third game 3-1 at home and game four 3-2 also at home. There are strange results in this series: LA batted .285/.351/.394 as a team, while St. Louis batted .238/.294/.452. Yet, St. Louis outscored LA 18-15. On the pitching side of things, St. Louis’s collective ERA was 3.86 while LA’s was 4.76. In short, LA came up short in clutch hitting situations and their pitching failed. This was an underwhelming performance by a team that should’ve won the series. Had they done so, they would have faced the 88-74 ( 87-75 Pythgorean) San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. San Francisco did win the World Series that year and had the core that also won titles in 2010 and 2012, so it’s likely that LA would’ve lost in the NLCS for the second straight year.
In 2015, LA lost in the NLDS again and this time 3-2 to the 90-72 (89-73 Pythagorean) New York Mets. The Mets went on to win the pennant, so had LA won this series, they would have presumably done the same, as the Mets pretty easily swept the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS after just barely beating LA. LA lost game 5 at home with the score of 3-2. Once again you have to wonder how an experienced playoff team could’ve lost such a close series to a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in 9 years and had to struggle to do so. As in the previous year, LA have outhit their opponents: .238/.293/.333 to .208/.273/.337. They also once again failed on the pitching side of things with a 4.50 team ERA compared to the Mets’ impressive 3.48. We can assume however, that had LA won the pennant, they probably would have lost to Kansas City as easily as the Mets did (they lost 4-1).
In 2016, LA broke through to the NLCS but lost 4-2 to the Chicago Cubs despite at one point leading the series 2-1. Chicago had a 103-58 (107-54 Pythagorean) record and went on to win the World Series, so this was an expected result.
2017 was LA’s year. They cruised to the best record in the game and then to a pennant, by sweeping Arizona in the NLDS and beating the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in an NLCS rematch. In the World Series however, they fell 4-3 to Houston, a team that needed the same 4-3 result to beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Houston had a 101-61 record (99-63 Pythagorean). Manager Dave Roberts cost the team game 2 by micromanaging matchups and using up relievers before the game went into extra innings, after pulling Rich Hill early despite a dominant start. LA should’ve had a 2-0 series lead and not a 1-1 tie after that game. This means that LA would’ve lead the series 3-1 after winning game 4, instead of a 2-2 tie. Houston won both game 2 and game 5 by 1 run in extra innings and LA lost game 7 at home, after Roberts strangely let the struggling Yu Darvish start the series deciding game. LA’s offense was terrible in the World Series, as the team batted .205/.290/.393. Houston on the other hand batted .230/.297/.467. On the pitching side of things, LA actually outpitched Houston with a 4.45 ERA to a 4.64 ERA.
In 2018, LA lost 4-1 in the World Series to Boston, who finished with a 108-54 (103-59 Pythagorean) record. LA simply played a better team, though judging by their Pythagorean records, LA should’ve won more games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers underachieved and should’ve won at least one championship and at least one more pennant.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter @NeilfromNYC and in the comments.