Across sports, postseason stats and records for teams from seasons past are used by many to try and predict the fate of the present team in the playoffs. But, these trends aren’t always the best indicator of success. The Dodgers can attest to that.
Especially nowadays, where rosters change so much from year to year. While still a decent point of reference, I tend to take those historical trends with a grain of salt. The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers are nothing like past teams from the storied franchise, not even last season’s team that came within two games of reaching the World Series.
Drawing first blood. The importance of setting the tone and getting momentum on your side in a series is paramount. There is something about drawing first blood that instills more confidence in everyone on the team, from the players to the coaches.
Guys loosen up, breathe a little easier and most importantly have more fun. I have never heard anyone say their road to winning a championship was not fun.
All they do is win. The 2017 NL West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers boasted a record of (104-58), having played a total of 51 series during the regular season. In those 51 matchups, the Dodgers went (32-12-7): they won 32 of them, lost 12, and split 7. A winning percentage 0.627 for series on the year is outstanding.
A season of setting the tone. Winning the first game of each series was extremely important for the Dodgers in 2017. Here is why. They won Game 1 of the series 32 times and lost it 19 times.
Out of the 32 times they won the first game, they won the series 28 times. They only lost a series twice and split a series twice as well.
Going 28-2-2 when winning the first game, a winning percentage of 0.875, is terrific. The team rides high when things start off great and stay on a roll to finish strong.
Cannot go down first. Conversely, when they lost Game 1 of a series this season, out of the 19 times, they only won the set four times. They went (4-10-5) when dropping the first of the series. A paltry 0.211 winning percentage is super ugly.
The team has a hard time recovering after getting hit in the mouth first. Having their confidence shaken against a team like the Arizona Diamondbacks, who beat them 11 out of 19 times this season, won’t be that pretty.
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Yes, I know the playoffs are a different animal. Regular season success doesn’t always translate to triumph in the playoffs. There are essential guys like Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor who will be relied upon for stellar play but have no postseason experience.
With playoff veterans like Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Justin Turner and Chase Utley, the team will be just fine. They have been the hunted all season long and responded by posting the best record in the majors.
Arizona has had their number this season. The Diamondbacks have won more games head to head, and more series overall. The Dodgers have only won two out of the six series this season.
Arizona is coming off a huge slugfest win against the Rockies in the wild card play-in game Wednesday night. On the bump for them on Friday night for Game 1 is Taijuan Walker, who has pitched very well at Dodger Stadium this season, winning twice and posting a 1.64 ERA.
But we got Kershaw. Who better to get the Dodgers started the right way in the first game than the best pitcher on the planet? Ace Clayton Kershaw has owned the Diamondbacks this season, winning his two starts against them and allowing just one run in 15.1 innings while striking out 19 batters. It is crazy that Kershaw has only faced this division foe twice all season, lucky for them.
This has to be the year. It is going to be great series against the Diamondbacks, no doubts about that. Everything the team has done all season has been in preparation for the playoffs. Winning the first game of their 52nd series in this 2017 season will give them high chances to get to the next round, and the following and hopefully will culminate in winning the title.
The Dodgers are the most equipped team for a deep run in the playoffs, but it all starts with Friday night behind Kershaw and co., and they must win to set the tone.