With the Dodgers on the precipice of their first National League West division crown since 2009, here are 15 predictions for you to ponder during your Thursday pregame.
1. Matt Kemp is coming back. He'll be in the dugout for the Dodgers series in Arizona beginning Monday, September 16, and make an appearance in a game no later than Saturday, September 21 in San Diego.
2. Barring injury — and everything that follows gets the “barring injury” caveat, if you don't mind –Kemp will be on the postseason roster. I'll go out on a limb and predict that Kemp won't tweak a hamstring or a shoulder or an ankle or an eyelash. He'll get his cleats wet the final 10 days of the season and do enough to impress the club that he's worth a roll of the dice.
3. There is zero chance of Dee Gordon making the postseason roster.
A Gordon inclusion as a pinch runner extraordinaire is a luxury the Dodgers can afford only at the expense of someone like Jerry Hairston, Jr., or perhaps even Kemp, and that's assuming Gordon would actually make for an extraordinary pinch runner.
He's got a 77% success rate lifetime, which is not nearly good enough for a manager who prefers the bunt to the stolen base by a wide margin. If and when Don Mattingly needs legs off the bench — to run for Adrian Gonzalez or A.J. Ellis with a game on the line, for example — he'll go with Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto or Zack Greinke. Or Carl Crawford, if for whatever reason, the left fielder isn't in the lineup on a particular day.
4. The Dodgers finish with a 2013 regular season record of 95-67.
5. The postseason rotation will shake out this way: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco, in that order.
6: Ryu will be fine. So he wasn't exactly razor-sharp early last night. That's often the case with Ryu, and 12 days between outings will do that to you. He's healthy, he's rested, he'll be more rested come October and be absolutely fine.
As pointed out by Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, “[Ryu] has thrown only 173 innings this season, and he threw more than that five times in South Korea — twice going over the 200-inning mark.”
7: The Dodgers clinch the National League West Monday, September 16 in Phoenix, with Ryu getting the win.
8. The postseason bullpen will look like this: Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, Chris Withrow, Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell, Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol, with a slight chance of Chris Capuano replacing Marmol. No Brandon League, no way.
9. The postseason bench will be comprised of Tim Federowicz, Hairston, Kemp, Punto, Schumaker and Michael Young. In case of injury to Hairston, Kemp, Schu or Young, Scott Van Slyke gets the nod.
10: Mattingly commits to his four-man rotation for the first round, Kershaw starts Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium October 3, and Game 5 if necessary. It won't be necessary.
11: Mattingly doesn't commit to a four-man rotation — at least not in advance — and Kershaw opens the National League Championship Series October 11 in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers winning home field either by virtue of their NL-best regular season record or because Atlanta's Braves lost in the first round, as is their custom, or both.
12: Mattingly doesn't commit to a rotation, Kershaw opens the World Series versus someone or other in the city of the American League Champion, Wednesday, October 23.
13: Kershaw wins the deciding Game 5 of the World Series at Chavez Ravine on October 28 and is named World Series Most Valuable Player within 10 minutes of the final pitch, thrown by Jansen.
14: Eric Garcetti hosts his first championship parade as mayor of Los Angeles, Friday, October 28, 2013. Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe steal the show.
15. Partial World Series shares awarded to Luis Cruz, Dee Gordon, Matt Guerrier, Ramon Hernandez, Ted Lilly and Justin Sellers. Full shares for Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley.