3 reasons the Dodgers can catch the Diamondbacks and 2 they may not

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages
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Despite issues in their rotation and bullpen, the Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten contributions from guys like Bobby Miller to keep things afloat there while the offense has remained one of the best in the league with certifiable MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts.

Sure, they aren’t quite on the pace that we have come to expect from them in recent years. However, considering the injuries/setbacks in 2023, remaining one of the scarier opponents on any team’s schedule is a pretty good spot to be. It certainly also has to feel good that the San Diego Padres -- initially believed to be the Dodgers' biggest threat in the NL West -- are off to a rough start with an offense that has really under-performed to start the season.

That brings us to ...

Can the Dodgers catch the Diamondbacks?

The problem this year is that LA has some very tough competition from an unlikely source in the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs finished 14 games below .500 last year and while many thought they would be better than that disaster, no one thought that they would be among the best teams in the National League through most of the first half in 2023. But here we are.

The Dodgers are currently looking up at the Diamondbacks, who are not showing much of any signs of slowing down, while LA is wondering, given everything we know up until now, if there's a chance Arizona can be chased down in the standings.

Here are a few reasons why the Dodgers can indeed catch their rivals ... and also other factors we'll acknowledge that might make it unlikely.

Can: The Dodgers are still, at least on paper, a better team than Arizona …for now

Despite the fact that the standings are the ultimate arbiter of which team has the better season, there are a lot of reasons to suggest the Dodgers are still the better team right now and that SHOULD average out over the season. The offense has remained one of the best in the entire league and, more importantly, a tier above what Arizona has done so far this season. 

The pitching staffs for each team have both been middle of the pack, but there's reason to believe the Dodgers have more upside coming with Miller continuing his ascension as well as Julio Urias eventually returning from his hamstring injury.

There's more than that, though. The Dodgers have been strictly better in terms of run differential and, while that is far from a perfect metric, scoring a lot more runs than one’s opponents is a winning formula. Neither team’s bullpens are particularly imposing, so there's an opportunity for both teams to make an impact at the trade deadline.

One area that Arizona seems to have a big advantage, however, is defense. The D-backs have been one of the better defensive teams in baseball in 2023 while the Dodgers are in the middle of the pack for Outs Above Average and actively bad per Fangraphs’ overall defensive rankings overall.

Can't: Zac Gallen and Corbin Carroll are monsters and that could be a problem for the Dodgers

The Dodgers have a ton of stars on their roster, but Arizona has some studs of their own, including Zac Gallen and Corbin Carroll. We’ll start with Gallen who has been criminally under-appreciated for a couple of years now. He posted a 4.3 fWAR season last season with a 2.53 ERA in 2022 and, while he has looked a bit more human very recently, he's still one of the favorites to win the Cy Young in the National League in 2023.

Corbin Carroll is even more troubling for the Dodgers as he impacts games in so many ways (in addition to his advanced metrics being all-around amazing). He hits the ball hard a lot; he's one of the faster players in the league; he draws walks and doesn’t strike out a ton despite being a rookie; and he's a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field. 

While the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. rightly gets a lot of attention for his chances at getting a 40/40 season this year, Carroll has a non-zero chance of making a run at it, too. These sorts of players can carry a team single-handedly, even if the roster isn’t deep because they're that good and their skillset makes the guys around them better.