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Dodgers Dugout: Here’s why the Dodgers will win the World Series this year

Justin Turner
Justin Turner
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and the playoffs are here.

The strange 2020 MLB postseason is here. Sixteen teams (eight from each league) qualified and were seeded 1-8 in the AL and NL. Let’s break down the rounds.

Wild-card round
Best of three

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LDS
Best of five

LCS
Best of seven

World Series
Best of seven

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And here are the wild-card matchups in each league:

NL
No. 1 Dodgers (43-17) vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Brewers (29-31)
No. 2 Atlanta Braves (35-25) vs. No. 7 Cincinnati Reds (31-29)
No. 3 Chicago Cubs (34-26) vs. No. 6 Miami Marlins (31-29)
No. 4 San Diego Padres (37-23) vs. No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals (30-28)

AL

No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays (32-28)
No. 2 Oakland A’s (36-24) vs. No. 7 Chicago White Sox (35-25)
No. 3 Minnesota Twins (36-24) vs. No. 6 Houston Astros (29-31)
No. 4 Cleveland Indians (35-25) vs. No. 5 New York Yankees (33-27)

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The scary thing here is: You could take the worst team in baseball this season, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they could defeat any team in a best-of-three. There’s a reason most major sports leagues don’t use a best-of-three format for the playoffs: It lends itself to a fluke result. That’s why the NBA dropped it after the 1983 playoffs. Too many of the better teams were losing in the best-of-three, including the defending NBA champion Lakers in 1981.

Case in point: All four AL series began play Tuesday. The worse-seeded team won three of the four games.

But this is what we have, so why bother complaining?

My prediction to win it all this year: The Dodgers. Now, before you newcomers just call me a homer, longtime readers of Dodgers Dugout will tell you I have never made this prediction before the playoffs started. But I think the addition of Mookie Betts this year puts the Dodgers over the top.

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Do the Dodgers have holes on their team? Of course. Max Muncy isn’t hitting. Cody Bellinger wasn’t hitting, but in his last 13 games he hit .349/.481/.605. Production at second base could be an issue. Kenley Jansen makes everyone nervous. And, while the team had the best offense and one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, the truth is it all came against a weak NL West and AL West. The second-place team in the AL West finished under .500, and the rest of the NL West other than the Dodgers and Padres weren’t exactly world beaters. So is the Dodgers offense really that good, or is some of it because of the teams they played?

But then I look at all the other teams in the postseason, and see all the holes they have. The tendency among many fans is to just focus on the weaknesses of their own teams, and to pay no attention to the gaping holes on the opponent. There’s never been a perfect team, but if you look at all the potential opponents, I think the Dodgers are either a lot or a bit better this season.

As for the playoff roster, well, that will be announced after this newsletter gets sent to readers. I made my choices and prediction last week. Most of the spots are set, and the team will look at the best matchups against the Brewers to decide the final couple of spots.

Their wild-card opponent, the Milwaukee Brewers, certainly have their share of holes. Christian Yelich, who finished second to Bellinger in last season’s MVP voting, had a worse season than Bellinger this year, hitting .205/.356/.430. And he was one of the better offensive players on the team. Former Dodger Jedd Gyorko was arguably their best hitter, batting .248/.333/.504. And keep an eye on Daniel Vogelbach, who in 19 games hit .328/.418/.569 with four homers. The Brewers used 21 position players and only seven finished with an OPS+ of above 100 (meaning they were better than league average): Yelich, Gyorko, Vogelbach, Ryan Braun, Jace Peterson, Tyrone Taylor and Lorenzo Cain. Cain opted out of the season on Aug. 1 because of coronavirus concerns and had only 18 at-bats.

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Pitching wise, one of the Brewers’ best starters this season has been Brandon Woodruff, who finished with a 3.05 ERA (3.20 FIP). He limited the Cardinals to two hits in eight innings while striking out 10 in a must-win game for the Brewers on Sept. 26. You could also make a case that Corbin Burnes was their best pitcher, but he strained an oblique muscle in his last start and will miss the postseason. After that, you have Adrian Houser (5.30 ERA), and two former Dodgers: Brett Anderson (4.21) and Josh Lindblom (5.16).

In the bullpen, the Brewers still have Josh Hader as their closer. Hader had a poor season for him though, finishing with a 3.79 ERA. He walked 10 and gave up three homers in 19 innings. However, most of the runs he gave up came as a result of two bad outings. He was solid otherwise (much like Jansen). Their best reliever is Devin Williams, who had an 0.33 ERA in 27 innings, giving up only eight hits and striking out 53 in 27 innings.

In short, the Dodgers would be better off getting to the Brewers early.

The Brewers announced their Game 1 start late on Tuesday: Brent Suter, who pitched in 16 games and made four starts this season. He is left-handed and hasn’t gone more than four innings in any of his starts, so this seems like a bullpen game for the Brewers, who may be trying to take advantage of their strength there to take a quick series lead. Woodruff will go in Game 2. The Dodgers counter with Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Suter had a 3.13 ERA this season, with 38 strikeouts and 30 hits allowed in 31.2 innings.

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My prediction: Dodgers in two.

Playoff roster

Like I said, we won’t know the official roster until some time today, but Dave Roberts made an interesting comment on Monday. After Terrance Gore was spotted running the bases at Dodger Stadium, Roberts was asked if Gore was going to be on the wild-card round roster. His response: “There’s a good chance.”

Gore started the season on the main roster but was jettisoned after two games, never to be seen again. He would be used mainly as a pinch-runner. With a 28-man roster, you can afford to do something like that. That makes today’s roster announcement even more interesting.

Gore has had only 67 at-bats in his seven-season major league career, but has scored 32 runs to go with 40 stolen bases.

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“The Dodgers will never win as long as Dave Roberts is manager”

At least, that’s what a small, but vocal, group of Dodgers fans think. Roberts addressed that Monday, saying: “I really believe that the majority feels we’re doing the right thing. They’re supporting us through thick and thin. But there’s a small minority that just is very vocal and looks at everything cynically. Whether it’s true or not, I think the loudest voices are not the majority.

“But there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is continue to do what I believe is best for the Dodgers. I can’t make people trust me or like me, but I can gain the respect of the people in the clubhouse and the organization. The people that I’ve got to really answer to are the players.”

Jay Johnstone

Former Dodger Jay Johnstone died Monday at 74 because of COVID-19 complications. He has had dementia in recent years. He was one of my favorite Dodgers, and is probably best remembered for the many pranks he pulled, such as dragging the infield during the middle of a game. And while the pranks were great, they came to overshadow the fact that he was a solid hitter and fine pinch-hitter. He hit .307 with the 1980 Dodgers and had a key pinch-hit home run in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series.

Mike DiGiovanna wrote an obit about Johnstone that you can read here.

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As many of you know, former Dodgers left-hander Jerry Reuss was a co-conspirator with Johnstone on many pranks and has contributed to this newsletter in the past. He was kind enough to share this memory of Johnstone via email:

“The memories I shared with Jay passed through my mind like the spinning of a Rolodex. There were so many good times that it’s hard to stop the spin and pinpoint just one. But I’ll do it anyway.

“In spring training of 1981, Jay, who had just seen the movie ‘Private Benjamin,’ wanted to play a prank on Tom Lasorda. Jay, who stayed on base at Dodgertown, managed to secure a key to the manager’s room on campus that was shared by Tom and his wife, Jo. One morning, Jay approached me with a story that stopped me in my tracks.

“ ‘You’re not going to believe what I just did to our manager’s room. I put dye in the shower head [inspired, no doubt, by the movie], removed the carbon mouthpiece of the phone so he can’t call out, put a nail in his window so that it only open a few inches and tonight, I plan to tie a rope from his door knob to the palm tree in the front of his room so he can’t open it,’ he gleefully chuckled. Surprised, all I could do was laugh. But, a thought occurred to me.

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“ ‘Jay, I’m impressed with the plan. One thing, though,’ I mentioned. ‘What’s that?’ he replied. ‘Tom takes his after-workout showers in the bathroom of his office. His wife, Jo, I assume she showers in the room. Now, that might be a problem.’ Jay paused. ‘I didn’t think of that,’ he said as he ran from the field. Jay somehow managed to reenter the room and remove the dye from the shower head, undetected for the second time.

“His plan worked to perfection. Around 7 a.m., maintenance workers heard Lasorda’s screams and were able to liberate him from his makeshift prison. To this day, I’m not aware if Tom Lasorda knows the identity of the perpetrator.

“There was also another side to Jay. The side he chose to keep private. He spoke at Little League banquets, gave impromptu batting tips to kids, made other appearances when no one else was available and was there when a friend needed a helping hand. That’s also Jay Johnstone.”

Your first Dodgers memory

I have thousands of responses, so if I don’t get to yours right away, don’t worry, I will eventually. If you haven’t already, I’d still love for you to send me your first Dodgers memory, and it may run in an upcoming Dodgers Dugout. Include your name. And don’t send only a sentence, tell why that memory sticks out in your mind. You can email me your memory at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. And remember, it’s first Dodgers memory, not favorite Dodgers memory. Thanks.

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Gary Coleman of Olympia, Wash.: My first vivid memory took place one morning, around 9:30-10. It was probably the late 70’s and my dad and I were off to get haircuts that day without my younger brother (which was rare). We had just started the car and the radio was already on 790 KABC (Dodgers home station at the time, as most of you probably already know). 10 to 15 seconds later, as my dad was starting to back out of the driveway, one of the Dodgers hit a home run and I was SO pumped up. Next thing I know, my dad switched the radio to an NPR classical station, saying that it was too early for sports.

I distinctly remember going from the heights of excitement to the depths of disappointment in just a matter of seconds. That memory has always stuck with me, and it gave me the desire to listen as often as I could, because I could never guarantee that I’d be able to finish the game. Nowadays, it’s not as difficult to watch or listen, living in Washington with an MLB.TV subscription, but it would have been really nice to have been able to listen for those 20 minutes it took to drive to the shop.

Scott Wasser of Maine: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, where my first Dodgers memory likely helped determine and shape my future. That memory goes back to 1955, when I was just 3 years old.

Despite my age at the time, the memory remains vivid. I was in the tiny kitchen of my grandparents’ apartment, where my grandfather and uncle were looking at a newspaper and visibly excited about the coverage of the Dodgers winning their first World Series championship.

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They were hovering over the paper, a tabloid, like vultures circling roadkill. I remember my uncle shaking his head and saying something like, “I never thought they would do it.” My grandfather replied, “Especially against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.”

I don’t remember anything else about their conversation except that they must have spent at least an hour poring over that newspaper as they churned through page after page of game coverage.

But it was then and there that I became a lifelong Dodgers fan. I turned 4 about the same time spring training began the next year, and I asked my father to read all the daily Dodgers coverage to me until I was able to begin reading it myself a year or two later.

By the time I got to high school, I was a huge fan of other sports, too. That’s why I decided it would be great to cover sports for a living. I was fortunate enough to become a sportswriter for several newspapers and eventually a sports editor and, ultimately, an executive editor.

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There’s no way of knowing for sure, of course, but I believe my first Dodgers memory helped set me on my career path. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to write a few columns about the Dodgers and even got invited during one pregame interview with Tommy Lasorda to share a meal with him. I’ve gone to Dodgers games as a spectator while in Los Angeles, and even took a stadium tour with my new bride while we were honeymooning in Redondo Beach.

I root for New York teams in all the other pro sports, but remain a Dodgers fan in baseball. And I’m proud to say that my 20-year-old son shares my sports allegiances, although he’s never even been to California. Because of my interest and career, his first Dodgers memory might even have come at a younger age than mine. Fortunately, he’s a lot smarter and more interested in making money than I was at 20: He’s studying for a career in finance, not sportswriting.

Lorenzo Tindal: My first Dodgers memory was as a 5-year-old kid in 1954 seeing them play at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. Seeing Phillies fans calling Jackie Robinson racially hatred names, I was traumatized and swore to be a Dodgers Fan for life.

Up next

Game 1: Wednesday, Milwaukee (Brent Suter*) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler), 7 p.m., ESPN, AM 570

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Game 2: Thursday, Milwaukee (Brandon Woodruff) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw*), TBD, ESPN or TBS, AM 570

Game 3**: Friday, Milwaukee (TBD) at Dodgers (TBD), TBD, ESPN or TBS, AM 570

*-Left-handed

**-if necessary

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In case you missed it

Mookie Betts’ postseason stats aren’t great, but his greatness infuses key moments

Why the Dodgers feel their catchers won’t let them down this postseason

‘The glue’ of the Dodgers, Justin Turner yearns to win a World Series title

And finally

Two for you today, both in honor of Jay Johnstone.

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Johnstone hits key two-run homer in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series. Watch it here.

Johnstone, Jerry Reuss, Steve Yeager and Rick Monday take the “Solid Gold” stage to sing “We Are the Champions.” Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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