The Angels have the best player in baseball and the last man before Mike Trout to wear that unofficial crown in Albert Pujols. But they finished their season on Sunday with a 78-84 record, 18 games out of first place. The Dodgers had only one player hit more than 20 homes runs, but they went 92-70, won the National League West, and will open the playoffs on Thursday in Atlanta against the Braves. It just goes to show there is a lot that goes into a championship team. The Dodgers don't look like the best team in the National League playoffs, but they did reel off a 42-8 record and have shown they can get hot and romp.
The bad news Sunday is that they will have to do it without the hitter who was regarded before this season as their best player, Matt Kemp. He was shut down for the year after an MRI exam found the bone in his ankle had weakened and that he could hurt himself further if he tried to play. He played only 73 games this season and hit a pedestrian .270 with the lowest slugging percentage of his career. He will go into next season with a much different profile, at age 29 with two years of injuries behind him and questions ahead, and no longer the Dodgers' defining star.
But the Dodgers did go on their 42-8 tear without Kemp — their chances will rely on the pitching and hitters such as Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. With Andre Ethier also hurt, it looks as if the Dodgers will have to start either of two bench-level players, Skip Schumaker or Scott Van Slyke, in the outfield during the first round playoff series against Atlanta. The Braves ranked 4th in the league in runs scored during the season, the Dodgers 7th. The Braves were also the only NL team to have a lower team earned run average than the Dodgers. The Braves won 96 games to the Dodgers' 92. The Braves swept the Dodgers all three games they played in Atlanta. That was early on before LA got its act together, but this could be a tough series for the Dodgers. They play in Georgia on Thursday and Friday, then play the game three at home on Sunday.
Also on the last day of the baseball season:
Todd Helton retired after a career spent entirely with the Colorado Rockies. Helton went 1 for 4 and took a bow in front of the fans at Dodger Stadium. He finishes with 17 years, a .316 lifetime batting average, 2,519 hits, 369 home runs and a .953 career OPS. Helton was so good his career OPS is higher than Trout's. Hanley Ramirez is the only Dodger to have a higher OPS this season. They have been playing baseball a long time. Only 19 players have a higher career OPS than Todd Helton.
Former Dodgers manager Davey Johnson and former Angels pitcher Darrel Oliver also retired Sunday. Johnson played for 13 seasons and managed the Dodgers in 1999 and 2000. Oliver started with Texas in 1993 and pitched in 765 games in his 20 seasons. Ex-Dodger Paul Konerko might retire.
Todd Helton photo: LA Dodgers/Jon SooHoo