Baseball is, fortunately, nothing like arm wrestling. It’s not a easy measure of brute energy. The identical two rivals can sq. off time and again, and so they must be sharp every time in the event that they hope to prevail. It’s a brand new recreation, with sufficient complexity to repeatedly current new calls for and new contours, each time two groups step onto a diamond.
By story of the tape, by no matter hypothetical model of baseball that’s like arm wrestling, the 2023 Los Angeles Dodgers would beat the 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks. They gained 100 video games to the D-backs’ 84. They make use of two of the 5 greatest gamers within the Nationwide League in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Even amid a wave of pitching accidents, the Dodgers prevented runs extra successfully than Arizona down the stretch, within the second half, at any time when. They beat these Diamondbacks within the season collection 8-5, together with in all 5 video games performed after April. Throughout the 162 video games of MLB’s rigorous common season, the Dodgers had been higher.
Within the present playoff format, that energy wins the Dodgers a bye spherical — the D-backs needed to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers simply to achieve this matchup — and favorable circumstances, together with extra video games performed on their dwelling discipline. It doesn’t, and actually can’t, win them something as soon as the primary pitch of the collection is thrown.
The Diamondbacks earned their shock journey to the NLCS
To advance past the NLDS, to keep up the hope of gilding an period of dominance with a second World Collection crown so as to add to the 2020 championship, the Dodgers knew the task: Manifest their demonstrated superiority thrice in as much as 5 possibilities.
They couldn’t do it. On this collection, they couldn’t do it for 3 innings, a lot much less three video games.
Quick, aggressive and opportunistic, the Diamondbacks totally whipped the Dodgers, each exploiting their weak point (lack of surefire beginning pitching) and neutralizing their energy (the 2 MVP contenders). Arizona scored 13 runs on Los Angeles starters Clayton Kershaw, Bobby Miller and Lance Lynn within the span of 14 outs. Diamondbacks pitchers held Betts and Freeman to 3 walks and one measly infield hit.
Arizona’s greatest participant, rookie outfielder Corbin Carroll, was on base nearly always. The highest of the order supplied thump in an setting that calls for it, most memorably whacking an MLB-record 4 homers in a single decisive inning in Wednesday’s Recreation 3. The Diamondbacks’ beginning pitchers — Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen and Brandon Pfaadt — lined 16 innings and allowed solely two runs. Their bullpen arms and function gamers got here via on a giant stage.
Torey Lovullo’s burgeoning workforce left little question this week. They deserved to win this collection, a fact Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts readily acknowledged after the sweep.
“They outplayed us,” Roberts stated, “and there isn’t any different spin to it.”
The D-backs deserve the prospect to attempt to shock the subsequent workforce that, by all indications, ought to overpower them. And they’ll get to try this beginning Monday within the NLCS.
And the Dodgers’ loss isn’t on the MLB postseason format
What the Dodgers deserve — or deserved — from this season is a thornier topic.
Actually, they deserved to lose to the Diamondbacks. This kind of complete workforce no-show in all probability would’ve produced equally swift defeat in opposition to the Brewers, the Phillies or, frankly, a 64-win workforce, if that had been an choice.
Hand-wringing about MLB’s postseason format started earlier than the Dodgers even misplaced Recreation 2. Essentially the most important existential friction — now that we are able to’t bathroom down conversations by fretting over gradual video games and a scarcity of stolen bases — facilities on the layoff that high seeds get between Recreation 162 and the Division Collection. Within the 12-team format that took impact final season, the 2 greatest division winners in every league get a bye via the wild-card collection and 5 days off between video games. The concern, briefly, is that the very best groups are being deprived by this.
I perceive the priority, the disorientation that comes with wiping 100-win groups off the board after obsessing over them for six months. All else being equal, I’d want to see the common season as a linear, helpful prelude to the postseason, as an alternative of a long-winded setup for a cube recreation. However scouring the iffy outcomes from obvious juggernauts over the previous two seasons offers these newest October flops a good thing about the doubt borne solely out of proximity to alter.
In actuality, the race from last standings to immortalized champion has been a helter-skelter affair ever for the reason that ALCS and NLCS sprang forth in 1969. Including extra groups since then has added extra possibilities for surprises and seeming injustices, however the idea hasn’t modified. The World Collection isn’t essentially gained by the easiest baseball workforce. It’s gained by the baseball workforce that’s adequate to make the event after which emerge from the compelling, dramatic scrum. This entire procession of challenges has by no means been a secret.
So the Dodgers are out. Once more. It’s their second straight unceremonious exit by the hands of supposedly lesser division rivals. And the report books will let you know it’s their third straight yr bowing out to a workforce they bested by 16 regular-season wins or extra, together with the 2021 Braves, an 88-win workforce. But I doubt anybody is nervous at the moment about that loss to an Atlanta workforce that has been elite ever since. If the Diamondbacks win 90-plus video games for the subsequent 4 years and routinely compete in October, will this NLDS loss change into acceptable?
Reconciling the thrust of a protracted season with the brief, chaotic dash of the playoffs may be jarring, however dreaming up methods to legislate that out of the sport just isn’t very productive (or sensible, given the chilly, exhausting money related to having extra groups within the playoffs). Apart from, give it a couple of extra years, and this seemingly sparse, brutal setting will fill itself in with the greenery of context and historical past.
The Dodgers have now made the playoffs in 11 straight seasons, the third-longest streak in MLB historical past. You don’t want a doctorate in baseball historical past to recall that the membership with the longest streak — the 1991-2005 Braves — gained solely a single World Collection, in a shortened season, very like these present Dodgers. From 2000 to 2005, the Bobby Cox-era Braves misplaced within the NLDS, then the postseason’s first spherical, in 5 of six tries.
Undoubtedly, Dodgers followers are additionally conscious that the Houston Astros, over within the American League, have now reached each the playoffs and a minimum of the ALCS in seven straight seasons, regardless of a couple of extra worrying journeys to make the dance.
Attending to the playoffs is one recreation. Successful within the playoffs is a special — and admittedly flightier — recreation. The Dodgers are masters of the primary recreation, however their stumbles within the second recreation don’t discredit it or dim its long-running enchantment.