National League Forecast: Dodgers Rolling, and Only Getting Better; Are Phillies Their Biggest Threat?

Tyler Glasnow has pitched like the ace the Dodgers envisioned when trading for him, going 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA through eight starts.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers were 12-11 after 23 games, dropping three straight home series and at one point enduring a 2-7 stretch, it’s possible that 14 other teams in the National League collectively smiled at once. Two weeks later, teeth are undoubtedly clenched as the boys in blue have steamrolled to 14 wins over a 16-game stretch.

What’s even scarier is that the Dodgers are not even at full strength. Jason Heyward remains shelved, even if his playing time will dwindle upon his return with the emergence of — surprise, surprise — another talented young prospect in Andy Pages. The bullpen has dominated to a 3.24 ERA, second-best in the NL behind the Mets. They have done so without the services of Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen (recently activated), Evan Phillips (recently placed on IL), and Ryan Brasier (same as Phillips).

The rotation has yet to fully take shape. Bobby Miller and Clayton Kershaw (remember him?) are working their way back from a shoulder injuries, but the starters have posted a 3.26 ERA (third in NL) thanks in large part to strong performances by Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, James Paxton, and Gavin Stone. Walker Buehler just made his first start in two years as well. It is fair to place at least partial blame on the rotation for recent postseason failures, where injuries and inconsistency have reared their ugly head — especially last year in a three-game NLDS against Arizona.

With all this said, and LA on cruise control as they forge ahead to their 11th NL West title in 12 years, the rest of the Senior Circuit is not laying dormant. Despite being swept in LA, Atlanta is 22-12 and is finding a way to overcome the loss of ace Spencer Strider. The Cubs’ rotation has been excellent as well, posting an NL second-best 3.07 ERA. And then, of course, you have the Phillies. Philadelphia leads the NL with a 2.62 rotation ERA and is an MLB-best 26-12 despite getting slow starts from several offensive weapons and now missing Trea Turner for another month or so. Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez give them a three-headed monster that can compete with anyone, and Philadelphia suddenly bring a lot of postseason experience to the table.

Consider that the Phillies have won five postseason rounds the last two years while the two supposed NL heavyweights, the Dodgers and Braves, have combined for ZERO (!) in that same stretch. Nothing appears to be guaranteed in October, but the Phillies have a decided homefield advantage at Citizens Bank Park. It’s fair to wonder if they are, in fact, the chief competitor to the loaded Dodgers for the pennant.

And now back to the Dodgers for a moment. Does this truly become the year the Dodgers win their first full-season title since 1988? Consider that the club won 100 games last year with some noticeable holes on its roster, but more than patched those with an incredible offseason haul that included the best player on the planet, Shohei Ohtani (who will not return to the mound until 2025), Yamamoto, Glasnow, Teoscar Hernandez, and Paxton. Even if the final win total does not break any records — or even the 111 that LA recorded in 2022 — they look as deep and talented as any team during this era of dominance. Perhaps it’s fair to say that it may take two factors to bring them down in October — a combination of a Herculean performance and the pressure of boom-or-bust?

That all remains to be seen, as of course does health. You could also make an argument, that one thing that has constantly worked against the Dodgers is the fact that they are often just coasting into the final month or two of the season and have trouble turning back up the intensity, especially now with a longer break for the NLDS begins. Overcoming adversity can be a powerful weapon for teams when they reach October, as the likes of the D-Backs, Rangers, Phillies, and Nationals have proven in the past half-decade. But for every playoff underdog story, there are juggernauts like the 2022 Astros, 2018 Red Sox, and 2016 Cubs that did seal the deal in the Fall Classic.

Don’t underestimate how the trade deadline can potentially bolster the rosters of LA’s competitors, and it’s fair to estimate that the Dodgers won’t need to do much tinkering to theirs barring a crazy slew of injuries. But it’s also hard to envision any player movement making any team as talented as the Dodgers.

This is the fun of baseball, speculating how October will play out when we’re still nearly five months from the postseason. But all eyes will squarely be on Tinseltown and whether this loaded Dodgers club can finally put to bed the narrative of not being able to win the big one outside of a bubble.

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