At 62-36 with a .633 winning percentage, the Los Angeles Dodgers have performed better than any other team in baseball. They have an eight-game lead over the Colorado Rockies in the National League West, and no other NL team has a winning percentage above .600. The New York Yankees are the only other team in the bigs with a winning percentage above .600, but theirs fails in comparison at .612.
So all that sounds well and good for the Dodgers, but do those numbers make them the best team in the major leagues?
No, I don't believe they do. With so much time remaining in the regular season, I prefer to look at personnel over wins and losses. Many things can change from now to the end of the regular season, and even if the Dodgers do finish the year with the best record, that doesn't necessarily make them the best team.
Now before I get into the specifics, keep in mind that I have nothing against the Dodgers. Manny Ramirez has always been one of my favorite players in the world, and I'm a fan of both Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton.
That said, let's get to the arguments:
(1) The Dodgers' starting rotation is inexperienced when it comes to the postseason, and it lacks a true, proven pressure ace.
Chad Billingsley has been a regular season ace for the past two years, but when his club needed him most in the NLCS against the Phillies, he crumbled. Here are the statistics to back it up:
@ Philadelphia: 2 2/3 innings, four hits, four walks, and three earned runs. Yanked early by Joe Torre.
v. Philadelphia: 2 1/3 innings, eight hits, three walks, and seven earned runs. Once again yanked early (and understandably so).
All I can say about those performances is...yikes. Or maybe "ouch." Now that doesn't mean that Billingsley isn't a talented pitcher -- he most certainly is -- but shouldn't the supposed "best" team in baseball have a legitimate ace? Someone with more experience or some postseason success?
I think they should.
Left-handed phenom Clayton Kershaw has been impressive to this point in the regular season, but he's also a concern of mine when the pressure begins to elevate. Kershaw's stuff is outstanding, but he's amongst the league leaders in walks per innings pitched. Spotty command is a recipe for disaster in the postseason, as Billingsley learned the hard way in 2008.
There's no refuting the electric stuff of Billingsley and Kershaw, but the inexperience and control concerns are all too real for the Dodgers and their faithful. That may very well be the reason why LA is considering a deal that would send Kershaw and James Loney to the Indians for Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. Lee would give them a more polished and experienced Game 1 starter.
(2) The Dodgers' lineup is good, but it's not going to scare anyone. The Phillies' lineup is scary. The Yankees' lineup is scary.
But the Dodgers' lineup? It's, well..."nice." And there's nothing wrong with that, but should the "best" team in baseball have a shaky ace and a "nice" lineup? Is that really all it takes to win a World Series?
I'm not sold. The Phillies have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino. All but Rollins (a former NL MVP) were voted to the National League All-Star team this year.
The Yankees have Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano. A great mix of batting average, power, and experience.
The Dodgers do boast Manny Ramirez (still probably the second-best hitter in the game), but the rest of their lineup is bordering on mediocre. Matt Kemp is a rising star, but Casey Blake is breaking down, and Rafael Furcal is in the midst of a disappointing season. The same can be said of Russell Martin.
Orlando Hudson has been a nice addition, but is he a complementary bat the likes of Raul Ibanez? Of course not.
I have to cut it short here because I'm on my way to work; I'm simply saying, the Los Angeles Dodgers aren't the best team in baseball. I'll take the Phillies and Cardinals over them in the NL, and the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels in the AL. Yet and still, the Dodgers remain a lock for the postseason.
(The Red Sox are the new Yankees. How did they make the transition? "JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)