The Dodgers are more than halfway to the first perfect postseason of the modern era
After Tuesday night's win over the Cubs, the Dodgers are now 6-0 in the 2017 playoffs
CHICAGO -- On Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers, behind a strong start from Yu Darvish, smothered the Cubs by a score of 6-1 (box score). In doing so, they took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS.
Throw in the Dodgers' sweep of the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, and L.A. is now 6-0 in the 2017 postseason. Since under the current structure it takes 11 wins for a division winner to win the World Series, that means the Dodgers are more than halfway to a perfect postseason. That's never happened in the modern era.
Prior to 1969, the regular-season AL and NL champions went straight to the World Series, and 12 of those World Series were sweeps. That means 12 teams in the pre-divisional era had undefeated postseasons, but those spanned just four games. That's a far cry from clawing through three rounds of playoffs, which is what the Dodgers must do.
Move into the divisional era and you find that the 1976 Reds swept both the NLCS (best-of-five in those days) and World Series. That made for a 7-0 playoff run, which is certainly notable. Move into the current era of the three-tiered playoffs, and the 1999 Yankees and 2005 White Sox stand above all with 11-1 postseason records. If you want to make records out of it, then the '76 Reds have the most postseason wins without a loss, and the '99 Yankees and '05 White Sox share the record for highest postseason winning percentage in the three-round era (i.e. 1995-present). Therein lies the Dodgers' opportunity.
The first step is of course completing the sweep against the reigning-champion Cubs on Wednesday night. Fortunately for the Dodgers, history gives them a strong chance of doing just that. Throughout the very long history of best-of-seven playoff series in MLB, the team up 3-0 has gone on to win Game 4 more than 80 percent of the time. Teams up 3-0 and playing Game 4 on the road, as the Dodgers are, have swept 75 percent of the time. Part of that reflects the likelihood that the team in position to sweep is the superior squad of the two. A smaller part of that may be the "psychological diminishment" present on the other side, what with being down 3-0 and all of that. As for the particulars, Alex Wood will be starting for the Dodgers (on roughly three weeks' rest), and Jake Arrieta, who's struggled with his command lately, will be trying to keep the Cubs alive.
For the sake of looking forward, let's assume the Dodgers close out the Cubs on Wednesday night in Chicago. That of course would put them a World Series sweep away from the first perfect postseason of the three-round era. While predicting a four-game stretch of baseball is a fool's errand and then some, the Dodgers will be in as good position as possible to make it happen. Consider these numbers heading into Tuesday's action:
Coming into Tuesday, the Dodger pitchers had far and away logged the easiest playoff workload of any playoff team left standing. With all four teams in action on Tuesday, we can update those totals ...
|Team||Pitches thrown on Tuesday|
So the Dodgers stretched their "lead" in this category over all three teams. After the six-month slog of the regular season, this kind of edge can be a valuable thing.
There's also the rest factor. If the Dodgers snuff out the Cubs in Game 4, than that will mean another five days of rest for the Dodgers. Framed another way, if the Dodgers sweep the Cubs then they'll have played seven games since the end of the regular season while enjoying 15 days off over that same span.
Now consider their World Series opponent (before you get outraged, we already said if they win Game 4 against the Cubs). At the very least, the ALCS is heading back to Houston and going a minimum of six games. If it ends after six, then either the Astros or Yankees will rack up two more games' worth of pitches and get just three days off before the World Series starts all the way over there in Los Angeles. That's in addition to, unlike the Dodgers, having their rotation lined up in less than ideal fashion.
To repeat: Trying to peg a team's exact win-loss outcome over a four-game span in a sport like baseball is something you undertake at Great Internet Peril. However, the Dodgers thanks to their pitching efficiency this postseason and all those days off have a staff that's much better rested than anyone else they'll face the rest of the way.
The 2017 Dodgers are well positioned to become the first team in MLB history to go 11-0 in the postseason. As of late Wednesday night in Chicago, they're more than halfway there.
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