If Dodgers keep winning, their 2017 season could get historic in a hurry
LOS ANGELES — Imagine going to spring training to watch the Dodgers, coming home, then going into a slumber for four months. You open your eyes in the middle of August and the Dodgers lead the National League West by 18½ games. They can clinch their fifth straight division title before September and, by winning 32 of their final 43 games, break the all-time record for most wins in a season.
Rob Segedin is not Rip Van Winkle, but his circumstances are illustrative. When injuries to his foot and wrist sent Segedin to the disabled list on April 19, the Dodgers were 8-8. They were 9-11 by April 24, the day before Cody Bellinger was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Since then they’ve gone 76-23; the Houston Astros have baseball’s second-best record during that time at 61-40.
Segedin said he spent many a late night awake in Arizona, on rehab, watching the drama play out on TV.
“I would’ve believed it,” Segedin said of the Dodgers’ record.
Less believable, he said, “is more of the way everything worked out.”
Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox was the 10th game the Dodgers have won in their final at-bat this season. The 10 game-winning RBIs have come from nine different players. (Trivia answer: Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Adrian Gonzalez.)
The Dodgers have yet to lose a game they trailed after eight innings this season, but they have won eight times when trailing after eight.
“It’s been a wild couple months, that’s for sure,” Bellinger said.
What lies ahead could get historic in a hurry. The implications of an 85-34 record with six weeks left on the schedule are staggering.
The websites FanGraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com both project the Dodgers to finish the season 111-51. The franchise record for wins is 105, set in 1953 in Brooklyn. The Dodgers can go 21-22 to end the regular season and still break that record.
This is the franchise’s 134th year of existence. Consider that the Dodgers have played more than 20,000 games since Year 1 – 1884 – and raised their winning percentage from .526 to .527 in less than five months.
But how do the 2017 Dodgers compare to all major league teams, ever?
The 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners share the all-time record of 116 regular-season wins. To equal that mark, the Dodgers must finish the season 31-12, a .721 clip that would require they slow down a bit. The Dodgers are 30-5 (.857) since July 4. The post-World War I record for highest winning percentage in a season (.721 by the 1954 Cleveland Indians) is also within reach.
A team’s “magic number” is the minimum number of games that must be played in order to clinch a berth. The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 19. The Dodgers could seal their fate as early as Aug. 27, a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the National League West is 24. The earliest they could clinch a division title is Aug. 30, a road game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The New York Yankees established a modern record by clinching a playoff berth on Aug. 30, 1998. The Cincinnati Reds became the NL West champions on Sept. 7, 1975, the earliest a team has ever clinched a division title.
For all the attention the Chicago Cubs garnered while ending their World Series drought last year, they did not clinch a playoff berth until Sept. 14. They won the NL Central the following day.
Already, the Dodgers have a target on their backs, Manager Dave Roberts said.
“When you’re an elite team and you look at what we’ve done, certainly every time they see us on the schedule they’re going to bring their best,” he said after Wednesday’s win. “Absolutely. I think our guys have set the bar for the league, and rightfully so.”
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