Thursday, September 25, 2014

How the NL West was won

It was all good in Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night, as Clayton Kershaw dominated, Yasiel Puig homered and showed off his amazing arm, and the Dodgers rolled right by the Giants 9-1.  The NL West once again belongs to the good guys.

Just how did the Dodgers get to be back-to-back division champs?  Here's how:

* Clayton Kershaw.  Unbelievable.  The guys has done it all this season.  After mowing right through the Giants in the clincher, he finished this season at 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 239 K's in 198 1/3 innings.  He even added an RBI triple last night.  There's simply nothing the guy can't do on the field, as he embraces putting the Dodgers on his back and carrying them.  That's what they'll need in October, too.

* The second half resurgence of Matt Kemp.  Before the All-Star break, he hit .269 with eight homers and 35 RBIs.  Decent numbers, but nothing special.  Plus, his defense in center was so bad, Don Mattingly pulled the plug in late May.  After the break?  A whole new player at .303, 16 homers, and 51 RBIs.  As for his defense, it was a whole heck of a lot better in right.  He's peaking at the right time, and is once again a true power threat in the cleanup spot.

* First-time All-Stars Dee Gordon and Puig.  Both guys took a step back in the second half, but still play major roles on this team.  Gordon has an MLB-leading 64 stolen bases, and has even outlasted the blazing fast Billy Hamilton.  He also is tops in triples with 12.  Puig is certainly an enigma at times, but there's no denying the high ceiling of talent he possesses.  He went through a huge power outage in the middle of season and finished with 16 home runs, but is still a big threat every time he steps up to the plate.  Oh ya, moving to center has been a great move, as he continues to gun down runners.

* Zack Greinke, baseball's best #2 starter.  How many other teams would he be the ace?  The All-Star has more than settled into his role with LA, and his eight-inning gem on Tuesday helped put the Dodgers on the brink of the division title.  Overall, he finished at 16-8 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 201 K's in 197 1/3 innings.

* Kenley Jansen and his 44 saves.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride at times in the first half of the year, as he seemed to be too reliant on throwing the same pitch (cutter) over and over.  Since the start of July, however, he's given up five earned runs in 29 appearances, lowering his ERA from 3.67 to 2.67.  He's as close to automatic as closers come.

* Justin Turner, the unsung hero.  What an end to the season he has had.  He cranked two home runs in support of Greinke on Tuesday, and finished the year by hitting .333 with seven homers and 41 RBIs in 106 games.  Clearly, he's a sparkplug when he's in the lineup, and has become a big weapon for Mattingly to deploy off the bench.  Plus, he's versatile enough to play all four infield positions, which is huge when making double switches in the playoffs.

* Last, but certainly not least, MLB's leading RBI man, Adrian Gonzalez.  Quite an accomplishment for a guy hitting .201 against left-handed pitchers.  After hitting the cover off the ball in April, it looked like it was going to be a lost season with a very rough May and June.  That all turned around with a big July, and he reached the 20 RBI plateau in each of the last three months.  The Dodgers would be lost without all the big at-bats he's had.

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