After this season got off to a rocky start in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have been baseball's best team. They were 9.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West entering play on June 22, but the Dodgers have gone 58-23 since then and celebrated a division title at Arizona's Chase Field on Thursday with a 7-6 win over the Diamondbacks.
Los Angeles still trails the Atlanta Braves by 2.5 games for home-field advantage in the postseason and the Dodgers also are behind the St. Louis Cardinals by one game for the No. 2 NL seed. St. Louis continues to be pushed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, so the Cardinals will have more pressure than the Dodgers to keep on winning.
Grabbing home-field advantage is important, but the Dodgers can focus on staying fresh now that the NL West is wrapped up. Even if they don't open their NL Division Series at Dodger Stadium, they will be fine. The Dodgers lead the NL with 42 road wins, tied for the second-most in baseball.
The Dodgers don't even have the best record in the NL, so why are they the favorites to win the World Series?
Your Los Angeles #Dodgers are the 2013 National League West Champions.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 19, 2013
Simply because Los Angeles is the most balanced team in baseball, and it starts with great pitching.
The Dodgers' 3.34 ERA ranks third in baseball and their starting rotation's 3.18 ERA is by far the best in the majors. Cincinnati's rotation is the next-closest with an ERA of 3.33.
Hello October: pic.twitter.com/3JyZHcfW8S— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 19, 2013
Clayton Kershaw leads the Los Angeles staff at 14-9 and \a 1.94 ERA. The southpaw made his third consecutive NL All-Star team this year and is a lock to win his second NL Cy Young Award. It will be the third consecutive season in which he led the league in ERA and he also leads the NL in strikeouts. With the division locked up, the Dodgers will make sure that Kershaw is on schedule to start Game 1 of the NLDS.
While Kershaw is the ace, Los Angeles has another NL Cy Young Award winner right behind him. Zack Greinke gives the Dodgers a second stud pitcher at 15-3 and with a 2.75 ERA this year. The right-hander has won seven straight decisions and hasn't lost since July.
Hyun-Jin Ryu is 13-7 with a 3.03 ERA in his first season in the majors for Los Angeles.
Those three starters give the Dodgers arguably the best front of the rotation in baseball and the numbers back that up.
Going up against Kershaw and/or Greinke twice in a series is unfair. Those two aces are atop their games right now and will be tough to beat even once in a postseason series.
The Dodgers are just as loaded on offense.
Yasiel Puig sparked the club when he was called up in June. He has hit .332 with 17 home runs since he arrived and has a cannon for an arm. Runners have learned not to run on Puig, who has played both right and center field.
While the phenom has grabbed the headlines, Puig is just one of many hitters who have been productive this season in Los Angeles.
Who is the favorite to represent the NL in the World Series?
Hanley Ramirez has been overlooked since returning from the disabled list around the time that Puig was called up. The 29-year-old Ramirez is batting .351 with 20 home runs.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is around .300 and has 21 homers with 98 RBI. Carl Crawford has gotten back on track with a .281 average and Andre Ethier is at .272 with some pop in his bat. Infielder Michael Young has hit .371 since joining the team right before September.
If Matt Kemp can be productive, this is going to be a tough LA lineup to face in October. However, it would create an interesting situation with Puig, Crawford, Ethier and Kemp all battling for time in the outfield.
The Dodgers have had mixed success against other NL contenders, going 2-5 against the Braves, 3-4 against the Reds, 4-3 against the Cardinals and 4-2 against the Pirates. Their record against the Braves is a bit misleading, however. All seven of their meetings came before June 10, which is about two weeks before the Dodgers took off.
Los Angeles has one of baseball's highest payrolls and it has put the Dodgers in great position to make a run at their first World Series title since 1988.
With so much talent on offense and on the mound, the Dodgers are the favorites to win the 2013 World Series.
*All information is courtesy of MLB.com