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If you've been a Dodgers fan since the last time the Dodgers won the World Series, you've been through a lot. You've seen Hershiser's career ruined by injuries, you've seen Jamie McCourt drive the team into financial ruin, and you've seen Manny Ramirez be, well, Manny. You've also had only three losing seasons in the past 25 years, so things haven't been all doom and gloom. But, in spite of eight postseason appearances since 1988, you've never seen the Dodgers win a pennant. And I can assure you, Dodgers fans — that long-promised World Series title is coming this year, too.*
*Okay, I'm trying to be edgy and declare that the most likely scenario will happen. No, an MLB championship is not guaranteed for the Boys in Blue. But, the odds are undeniably stacked in the Dodgers' favor, and one of the most important postseason factors is squarely in the Dodgers' corner: scheduling.
The Cubs were a much better team than the Dodgers made them out to be. Sure, the Dodgers trampled all over the Cubs en route to the World Series, dismantling the reigning World Champs with a 4-1 series victory, outscoring them 28-8, and doing all this despite going into this series without All-Star shortstop Corey Seager. No, the Cubs were much better than that. So, why were the Cubs so anemic? They just finished an absolutely brutal NLDS against the Nationals, which went to a full five games. The fifth game was the longest nine-inning NLDS game ever. And it completely exhausted the Cubbies' resources, including their most important asset — their bullpen.
39 percent of innings thrown in the NLDS for the Cubbies came out of the bullpen, and in the last two games, the Cubs' pen was forced to combine for ten innings. In Game 5, Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards, Jose Quintana, and Wade Davis all made relief appearances. Davis, one of the best closers in the game, was in for two innings, and despite being badly gassed, managed to hold on for the save.
Two days later, that bullpen was asked to face the best team in the National League.
Everyone on the Cubs was gassed from the NLDS. Entering Thursday night, the Cubs were hitting .163/.202/.317 as a team in 123 AB (from 2016 to 2017; Jake Arrieta hit .198/.229/.317 in 126 AB). Only one starter recorded an out past the fifth inning. The bullpen posted a 5.66 ERA in the NLCS. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who had just finished with a 3-0 sweep of the Diamondbacks (who themselves were fatigued from the NL Wildcard Game), feasted upon Arizona, while keeping quite a few of their regulars well-rested.
The story will be the same come next week as the World Series begins. Regardless of the outcome of the ALCS, be it the Yankees or Astros winning the pennant, the Dodgers will still have a huge rest advantage entering Game 1 of the World Series.
Yankees/Astros is now going to seven games. That means either team will have to spend three more games' worth of resources than the Dodgers to get to the World Series in the first place. More starting pitchers will be burned, more relievers will be worked, and a long season will get even longer.
Luis Severino and Justin Verlander, both teams' best pitchers, will be taking the mound Friday — meaning that either one would have to pitch in the first game of the World Series on short rest against Clayton Kershaw, the consensus best pitcher in the MLB (who himself will have four days of rest), or the Yankees or Astros will need to trot out someone lesser to kick off the Series. With the ALCS going to seven games, that fatigue factor is amplified even more — while the Dodgers get to sit at home and recuperate.
The Dodgers, the best team in baseball, have had an easy road to the pennant, and their path to the commissioners' trophy looks no more difficult, regardless of who emerges victorious from the ALCS. The drought might finally be over for the Boys of Summer... but only a week or two will tell.