Did the Padres help the Dodgers?

By: coachemup!



The Padres’ trades for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish were the two best things to happen to the Dodgers this offseason.

No, really.

The Dodgers have won their division eight consecutive years. And in each of those seasons except for 2018, they built up such big leads over their National League West rivals that they were able to coast to the finish line.

NL West standings since 2013

TEAM

  

WINS

  

LOSSES

  

PCT.

  

Dodgers

714

481

.597

Diamondbacks

578

616

.484

Giants

578

616

.484

Rockies

558

637

.467

Padres

539

655

.451

Put another way, the Dodgers have won 136 more games than the next-best NL teams (Arizona and San Francisco) over the last eight seasons. They have been an average of 17 wins better per season than both of those teams, and that figure would have been even bigger had the 2020 season been 162 games instead of 60. The Dodgers finished the pandemic-shortened season on pace for an MLB record-tying 116 wins. The second-place Padres enjoyed their best season in decades, and they finished six games behind the Dodgers. If San Diego kept up its blistering pace for a full 162-game season, it would have finished with 99 wins — 17 games back.

Until the Dodgers finally won the World Series two months ago, all of those regular-season victories looked like a mirage. The team had looked dominant — especially in 2017 and 2019 — but came up short in October over and over again. While it was true that each of those Dodgers teams belonged in the postseason, it seemed like the 91-to-94-win teams from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 might have only won 87 to 89 games had they played in a tougher division like the American League East. Even this season, when the Dodgers fielded the best team I’ve seen in my lifetime, I worried that they hadn’t faced enough great starting pitching to prepare them for October.

The NL West as a whole is not going to improve for a few more years. The Giants are still rebuilding, the Diamondbacks just tore everything down and the Rockies are a mess. But the Padres looked like a playoff team before they even added Darvish and Snell. Now they look like a team that can finally — finally — give the Dodgers all they can handle in the division.

If the Padres make no other moves before Opening Day (which seems unlikely given that their general manager is perhaps the most caffeinated in baseball), their rotation will look like this:

  • Blake Snell
  • Yu Darvish
  • Dinelson Lamet
  • Chris Paddack
  • MacKenzie Gore/Joey Lucchesi/Adrian Morejon

The Padres’ rotation would be even more devastating in 2020 had Mike Clevinger not injured his UCL. He underwent Tommy John surgery last month and won’t be available to pitch again until 2022.

Without Clevinger, the Padres did not have the arms necessary to win a title. But with Snell and Darvish, they’ve got aces in spades. What’s more, they were able to trade for these pitchers with talent from their formidable farm system without having to part with any of their top prospects. That sounds just like … the Dodgers.

Gore is San Diego’s top prospect, but he hasn’t proven himself in the big leagues yet. Paddack had a dominant rookie year in 2019, then regressed into a below-average starter in 2020. The Dodgers’ rotation of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin is probably better one through five than the Padres’ rotation is right now. But winning a three-game series against San Diego when it runs out Snell, Darvish and Lamet will present somewhat of a nightmare for any team, including the defending world champs.

And that’s a very good thing for the Dodgers.

Why? Because the regular season no longer matters much to Dodgers fans. Sure, it’s awesome to head to the Ravine on a warm summer night and throw back a few Micheladas while enjoying a cotton-candy sunset and some helmet nachos. But the days of getting worked up over June wins and losses are long over. And besides, we don’t even know when fans will be allowed to go to games again. After about three years into this run of divisional dominance, the novelty of October started to wear off. Anything but a World Series championship began to feel like a disappointment.

The Dodgers will not be able to repeat as champions unless they beat great pitching in October. Because of the shortened season this year and the lack of quality opponents in the western division teams they faced, they did not face great pitching on back-to-back nights until they played the Atlanta Braves in the NL Championship Series, and they almost lost. They fell into 2-0 and 3-1 holes in that series and had to somehow scratch out three consecutive wins over the Braves’ dominant bullpen, then Max Fried and then Ian Anderson to take that series. The Dodgers got a boost from three home runs off the bat of Corey Seager, who was playing so far out of his mind in October that he might have even embarrassed Sandy Koufax in his prime.

Dodgers fans are annoyed by suddenly cocky Padres fans. This is understandable, considering San Diego has won 175 fewer games than Los Angeles over the past eight seasons and got swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers. And while this budding rivalry won’t really be a rivalry until the Padres knock the Dodgers out of the playoffs and/or win a title of their own, San Diego coming hard at L.A. is a beautiful thing. The Dodgers haven’t had much divisional competition during their decade of dominance, and it hasn’t helped them in October.

Here’s hoping the NL West will graduate World Series champions for years to come.

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