But the Dodgers are poised to win the NL West and make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and for the first time under manager Don Mattingly.
Clayton Kershaw is, if not the best pitcher in the National League, then at least in the top three this year. The difference between Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey is thin enough to be inconsequential.
And there is no sign that Kershaw will fade down the stretch. In fact, Kershaw and his 1.98 ERA could very well distance himself from the two.
Jon Weisman pointed out that Kershaw has been better (in ERA anyway) in the second half of each of his four seasons. In 2011, Kershaw had a 1.31 ERA in the second half.
In the last 365 days, Kershaw has a 2.08 ERA and opponents are hitting just .191 against him. These numbers could each drop by season's end, putting Kershaw in line as one of the best runs for a pitcher in years.
The Dodgers will definitely be buyers as the trade deadline looms. The Dodgers are looking for starting pitching, a reliever and perhaps a second baseman.
The Dodgers likely won't get their top target in Cliff Lee or top wish in Robinson Cano. Instead, the Dodgers are more likely to get something like Phil Hughes or Jeff Keppinger.
In other words, the move likely won't be blockbuster moves, but incremental increases.
As for relievers, it is always difficult to predict who will be traded or for what. But it seems that just about anything will be an increase in quality from what Brandon League gives the Dodgers or what Carlos Marmol, if he ever makes the big league squad, would give the Dodgers.
One thing that helps the Dodgers is their money situation -- they are able to eat a large portion of the contracts from other teams, meaning they can trade less in prospects.
While nothing huge will likely happen, small increases will help take a little pressure off Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.
The weak NL West
The Dodgers are lucky in that they are in the weakest division in baseball. In fact, the division's weakness is probably the No. 1 reason the Dodgers will win the division.
The Dodgers are at .500 but with no team able to get significantly over .500, the Dodgers are very much in the running.
The Dodgers have 26 games left against NL West opponents, including seven against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
When the Dodgers were at their nadir, a large part was because of their terrible record against division opponents. But when the Dodgers made their big run before the break, it came at the expense of the NL West -- catapulting the Dodgers up from the cellar to second place.
League banished, bullpen improved
League going from closer to mop-up duty will also help the Dodgers -- especially when his replacement is Kenley Jansen. Jansen is among the best relievers in the league, even if he doesn't get the recognition.
Paco Rodriguez has been another under-the-radar success, and has proved he isn't just a LOOGY. Ronald Belisario has had some rough outings, but he was very good in the weeks leading up to the break.
And flamethrowers Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez have been able to harness their wildness and thrive after being called up from Class AAA Albuquerque.
The Dodgers are on a hot streak. With Kershaw being Kershaw, the team getting slightly better through trades (and the outside chance of getting much better), the bullpen rounding into form, and the rest of the division not lighting the world on fire, they can ride that hot streak to the NL West title.
Matthew Reichbach is a freelance writer and lifelong follower of the Dodgers from their minor league affiliates to the major league club.
You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @3_2count.
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