Can Anyone Stop the Dodgers?
The boys in blue are 90-38, and well on their way to smashing their all-time franchise win record of 106. If any team poses a threat to L.A. winning its second title in three years, it's the Mets.
Before I get to the baseball, I wanted to thank everyone again for your patience as I continue to heal from the aftermath of my COVID-19 infection.
It’s now been six weeks since I first tested positive, and two weeks since I started heart medication for COVID-induced POTS. I’m feeling much better than I was two weeks ago, and a bit better than last week. I drove my car for the first time on Sunday and was able to do things I’ve always taken for granted, like getting my car washed and going to the post office without feeling like I would pass out or vomit. I felt almost normal on Monday.
But then yesterday my headache came back—and with it the brain fog—so I wasn’t able to do much except hydrate and rest. I’ve been staying at my mom’s house and I’ve been pretty down about *waves hands* everything. But one silver lining is getting to spend more consecutive time with my family than I have in maybe decades. If I hadn’t gotten so sick from COVID, I might not be going to my three-year-old niece’s twice-weekly dance classes, which have brought me a lightness and joy I can’t put into words.
I’m going to resume writing about baseball, but I’ll also do newsletters about my physical and mental health as this saga continues to unfold. I have heard from so many people who are also struggling post-COVID that it’s honestly staggering. I know how lucky I was to get properly diagnosed and treated as quickly as I was. I know that women (and particularly women of color) are often dismissed by doctors when they seek help for disorders with weird symptoms like mine. Because they are so frustrated and emotional about what is happening to their bodies, these women are often told it’s all in their heads, dismissed as cranks and sent to shrinks to sort it out.
In lieu of burning everything to the ground just thinking about this, I would just like to point out that we are in year three of a devastating global pandemic that has killed a million Americans and infected an estimated 94 million Americans (though both numbers seem low). Pandemics as devastating as COVID-19 almost always cause a large segment of the surviving population to experience lingering, long-term symptoms.
When the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 ended, misery continued.
Many who survived became enervated and depressed. They developed tremors and nervous complications. Similar waves of illness had followed the 1889 pandemic, with one report noting thousands “in debt and unable to work” and another describing people left “pale, listless and full of fears.”
The scientists Oliver Sacks and Joel Vilensky warned in 2005 that a future pandemic could bring waves of illness in its aftermath, noting “a recurring association, since the time of Hippocrates, between influenza epidemics and encephalitis-like diseases” in their wakes.
It’s clear that so many people are suffering with the lingering effects of this heinous disease. If you fall into that category, you can always respond to me here via email or in my Twitter DMs and I will do my best to reply as soon as I can. Just know you are not alone. And for those of you fortunate enough to be in good health, consider wearing a mask and/or taking other precautions to protect yourself when you go to large events like baseball games. I know we’re all sick of masks, but I’d wear a mask forever if it meant never again getting as sick as I was these last six weeks.
The Long Game is a reader supported newsletter. Both free and paid versions are available. The best way to support me and my work as I recover from this illness is by taking out a paid subscription now:
Now for some housekeeping: Today at 4 PM PT/ 7 PM ET I will be offering a live community discussion chat during the Dodgers vs. Mets game for all paid subscribers. Today’s a great day to take the plunge and become a paying subscriber if you love the Dodgers or Mets! We will watch the best team in baseball try to solve Jacob deGrom (or at least drive up his pitch count so someone else is forced to pitch the 7th and 8th) in what will surely be a playoff matchup preview. So, subscribe and join us today! We have fun! :)
We will also have another chat this Sunday night at 4 PM PT/7 PM ET that will be Dodgers vs. Padres. I know, I know. The Dodgers are getting a lot of love from national TV and in these parts, obviously… but look at them! They’re 90-38!
Speaking of the team that is 90-38, I thought I had seen it all with this year’s Dodger squad until Tuesday night, when I witnessed two men who were not even on the roster 24 hours ago record the win (Heath Hembree) and the save (Jake Reed). Both were promoted from Triple-A hours before the game to help replenish the Dodgers’ ailing pitching staff, which is still chugging right along despite losing ace Walker Buehler for the season, Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw for months and top reliever Blake Treinen for basically the season. The latest bad news? Over the weekend the Dodgers placed NL ERA leader Tony Gonsolin on the IL with a right forearm strain. And while the team insists Gonsolin will miss only “a few starts,” that’s the same injury that leads to Tommy John surgery, which Dustin May just returned from after missing over a year, and which Walker Buehler just underwent for the second time.
On the surface, losing Gonsolin at this point in the season—when it’s too late to trade for help—would appear to be an insurmountable issue in the Dodgers’ quest to win a championship. But with the way this offense is producing? I’m not sure it matters.
The Dodgers lead all of MLB in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Their team OPS (.790) is 29 points higher than the second-best offense (Atlanta, .761).
It’s hard to describe how dominant the Dodgers have been this season to those who don’t watch them every day, but I’ll try. They have outscored opponents by 287 runs. That means they have been, on average, 2.24 runs per game better than their opponent.
The 1998 Yankees are considered to be one of the best, if not the best team of the past 30 years. They finished the season with a 114-48 record, and a run differential of +309. That means that the Yankees were, on average, 1.90 runs per game better than their opponent every night. The 2022 Dodgers have been 2.24 runs per game better.
There are 34 games left in the regular season. For the Dodgers to break their all-time franchise win record of 106 (set in 2019 and tied in 2021), they will need to go 17-17.
The Dodgers are currently on pace to win 114 games. The all-time MLB record for wins by a team in a season is 116, which was set by the Seattle Mariners in 2001. To break that mark, the Dodgers will need to go 27-7. A run like that is not out of the question, except that Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts don’t seem to care about it very much. If they did, they would not have employed Hembree and Reed in the highest leverage innings of their biggest game of the year so far on Tuesday night.
I’m calling Tuesday night the biggest game of the year, because the Mets have the best starting pitching this white-hot Dodger offense has faced all season and I believe they are the only National League team that can beat L.A. in a seven-game series in October.
But Tuesday night’s game was only the biggest game of the year for 24 hours, because Wednesday night they will go up against a dude who can win an entire playoff series by himself in Jacob deGrom. Sure, the Mets’ lineup isn’t as deep as the Dodgers’. Francisco Lindor is nasty and Pete Alonso is a dinger machine, but New York’s top three hitters do not stack up to the Dodgers’ big three of Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman. That Max Muncy has returned to form, and Gavin Lux and Will Smith are both playing like All-Stars makes the Dodger lineup an absolute horror show for any pitcher—except maybe deGrom.
It’s no secret that deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball when he’s healthy. But what makes his matchup with the Dodgers so exciting is that he dominates hitters the same way the Dodgers offense has obliterated the field. That is to say that If Jacob deGrom were a baseball team, he’d be on pace for 114 wins every season.
In a seven-game series in the NLCS against the Dodgers, deGrom would pitch twice. And in what should terrify Dodger fans, Max Scherzer would also get to pitch twice. The Mets wouldn’t even need another pitcher to record a single win to knock the Dodgers out.
Of course, the Dodgers would have to advance past the first round to even get to that point, which the 2001 Mariners couldn’t do, and the franchise-win-record-setting 2019 Dodgers couldn’t do, either. Still, that 2019 Dodger team had a horrendous first-round matchup in the Washington Nationals, who got to pitch Scherzer once and Stephen Strasburg twice (the Dodgers lost all those games).
If the Mets and Dodgers finish with the top two records in the National League (which looks likely, though the Braves trail the Mets by just three games), then New York and Los Angeles would not meet until the seven-game NLCS, disallowing the possibility that the Dodgers would have to face deGrom and Scherzer three (or even four!) times in a five-game series, which I think would give the Mets a slight edge.
As someone who has lived in both New York and Los Angeles, I know I’m rooting for this NLCS to happen. Even if the Mets might be the Dodgers’ kryptonite.