The 2017 Dodgers have been something special this season, but you may not have to go back very far to see a comparable team. This team has some eerily similar qualities to that of last season’s champs.
Though the season is not over yet, these two clubs are similar in many different facets. The first of these similarities is just the feeling of the teams. Last season even Dodger fans could see just how special that 2016 Cubs were. They were virtually unbeatable for the majority of the season just like the Dodgers were earlier this season.
It is tough to describe. But the Cubs of last season were just on a mission to get their club a World Series title for the first time in over 100 years. The wait has not been quite as long for the Dodgers, but the heartbreak since 1988 has still been torturous. The Dodgers similarly just seem like a team that is on a mission and has their eyes locked in on the prize.
One reason for this is how close they got the previous season. In 2015 the Cubs reached the NLCS before being bounced by the Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets. Just like the Dodgers got eliminated by the Cubs in 2016. The core players on each roster remained the same, and those players did not want that same bad taste of being so close but not tasting the champagne.
Other than the feeling of these teams, they also took care of business similarly. The Dodgers will more than likely end the season as the MLB leader in walks. Something the Cubs accomplished last season. These walks were very critical to the team’s success. This is because like the Cubs, the Dodgers’ batting average will end up being middle of the pack.
This season the Dodgers would come at teams in bunches. Some teams nip at you inning by inning, scratching one run an inning and it is death by 1000 cuts. But that is not what the Dodgers do. They end you quickly, putting up a majority of their runs in one or two monster innings. That explosive inning is exactly how the Cubs won games last season. Jumping on teams and taking their heart by outing up these absurd innings.
Now back to the rosters. Like I stated earlier, the core players on each respective roster were back to avenge an NLCS elimination. The Front Office brains added players that were supposed to get them over the hump. The glaring hole for the 2015 Cubs was finding a third outfielder. For the Dodgers, it was second base.
Friedman and Epstein knew their weaknesses and acted on them knowing how close that roster was. The Cubs signed Jason Heyward. He had an absolutely brutal year offensively compared to what he was used to, but he played phenomenal defense. The Dodgers traded for Logan Forsythe who like Heyward has been underwhelming offensively but dazzled with the glove.
Those were the preseason moves. But the blockbuster moves that both teams made at the deadline were even more significant.
The Cubs acquired flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to close games out. The Dodgers made a move to get a second ace in Yu Darvish.
More than just improving the team, it proved that both GM’s knew that their team was special. Both are famous for acquiring under-the-radar superstars and developing them, but these risky moves of trading top prospects for a two-month rental showed how much Epstein and Friedman were/are in a win now frame of mind.
Something that is also very similar is the rotation.
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The bonafide ace: Jon Lester and Clayton Kershaw
Big-armed number 2: Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish
Fiery Vet: John Lackey and Rich Hill
Breakout year: Kyle Hendricks and Alex Wood
Another roster spot that is very similar is that swiss-army knife role. That would be Ben Zobrist for the Cubs and Chris Taylor for the Dodgers. Both these players are not just versatile on defense but also offensively. Being able to play anywhere on defense while also having the ability to hit anywhere in the line-up.
The similarities just keep on piling up. I can keep on going if you’d like. How about the managers handling a catching platoon? Or maybe shuffling players and lineups looking for a left fielder? But the one constant that each team has/had is the top 4 in the lineup.
Those four players on each team were/are the driving forces of the offense. They are the most important players on the field. The team goes as they go. Both teams have plenty of depth, so they shuffled lineups, but those core four players were locked in. The Cubs did not have success last year if their top four players got shut down; similar to the Dodgers if their four players get shut down.
These two teams have a plethora of similarities. They are not exactly the same, but they are close. One thing that I hope that they will have in common is hoisting the Commissioner’s trophy late in October as they celebrate a long-awaited World Series title.