The Los Angeles Dodgers alarmed many fans with their 17-16 start to the 2021 season.
The sluggish start included a stretch in which the team lost 14 of 18 games, and a World Series hangover was looking like a real possibility.
That narrative is out the window now.
Since the 17-16 start, the Dodgers have won 13 of their last 16 games to get to 30-19 on the year.
Los Angeles is in a battle with the San Diego Padres in the National League West.
Those clubs are arguably the two best in baseball.
As of Thursday morning, the Padres hold a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for first place.
Needless to say, the Dodgers’ slow start is in the rearview mirror, and here is why it no longer matters.
Rotation Is Too Good For This Team To Ever Stay Bad For Long
There’s really no need to worry about a similar stretch happening again.
Every good team has a “stopper” in the rotation—an ace who stops the bleeding when things get tough.
This Dodgers team has four of them.
Some pitchers on LA’s staff got off to slow starts which allowed the poor first month to happen, but the rotation is now firing on all cylinders.
The entire #Dodgers starting rotation could be in the All-Star Game
Bauer: 5-2, 1.98 ERA, 88 SO, 0.77 WHIP
Kershaw: 6-3, 3.18 ERA, 65 SO, 0.95 WHIP
Buehler: 3-0, 2.78 ERA, 59 SO, 0.89 WHIP
Urias: 7-1, 3.05 ERA, 70 SO, 0.82 WHIP
Best rotation in baseball and it's not close
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) May 23, 2021
It’s hard to imagine anyone putting together, say, three consecutive wins against a rotation of that caliber.
In the playoffs, that’s going to become especially relevant.
All Teams Go Through Poor Stretches In A Full Season
Even the best MLB teams go through stretches where they just can’t seem to string two wins together.
In the Dodgers’ case, it just happened to occur at the beginning of the season.
San Diego will likely go through a similar stretch at some point.
The baseball season is just too long to avoid it.
The Dodgers and Padres may very well end up fighting for the division title up until the final day of the regular season, and that’s just the nature of the NL West this season.
Let’s not forget about the San Francisco Giants, either, who are firmly in the mix right now.
The top 3 records in MLB are all from the NL West: Padres, Dodgers, Giants.
— Joe Davis (@Joe_Davis) May 26, 2021
It remains to be seen how long that will last, but for now, the Giants are actually tied with the Dodgers for second place in the division.
Slow Start Gave The Team Something To Prove
Any time a team comes off of a World Series title, or a championship in any sport, for that matter, motivation is a perfectly reasonable thing to question.
Once you’ve accomplished the ultimate goal, where does a team go from there?
Championship hangovers are a very real thing.
By starting this season poorly, the Dodgers likely felt some unexpected pressure in the early-going.
No team wants to hear that they’ve regressed.
If that was what the Dodgers needed to hear in order to capture some necessary motivation, then so be it.
It’s been quite the run for this squad since the 17-16 start, and there’s no reason to believe that this year’s team is any different from last year’s.