The Dodgers hopes rest on Joc Pederson

The reviews from computer simulators matched the forecast from the number crunchers in the Dodgers front office. Both think the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Why, our algorithms match your algorithms! Let’s watch “Big Bang Theory” and imagine Mayim Bialik in a purple teddy!

They’re not the best team in baseball. Oh, the Dodgers are a pretty darn good baseball team, but they’re not the best.

The defending champion Chicago Cubs are better. They didn’t lose talent during the offseason with a young roster that only figures to improve. The Cubs knocked out the Dodgers 4-2 in the National League Championship Series and that divide was larger than two baseball games if you watched it. The Cubs exposed the holes in the Dodgers roster, so it was incumbent on LA to upgrade.

Which the Dodgers did — albeit incrementally by improving their infield. The Dodgers traded for second baseman Logan Forsythe in what could be a genius move. LA has an elite infield to go along with the best starting pitcher in the game, possibly its best closer and depth that is the envy of virtually every front office in baseball.

But its outfield is suspect at best, which is why the Dodgers hopes for ending a World Series drought at 29 years fall on center fielder Joc Pederson.

The Dodgers relied on the depth of their roster to plug outfield holes throughout 2016. Andre Ethier was injured at the start of that season. Ethier was by no means a superior talent but the drop off in performance — from Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson, Will Venable, Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke — was stark. A midseason trade for Josh Reddick wasn’t fruitful, and he’s gone.

It’s also time for even the most ardent Yasiel Puig supporter to admit he’s not the Cuban Mike Trout. Relying on Puig to figure out breaking pitches, baserunning and throwing to the right cutoff man is not a reliable wager.

Pederson improving is a bet with the odds more in your favor. Here’s why:

“Young Joc” arrived in Los Angeles two seasons ago with the fanfare befitting a can’t-miss prospect. Only after the All-Star Break of his rookie season, he missed a lot. He struck out 170 times in his rookie year and he average plummeted to a cringe-worthy .210.

Under the radar last season, Pederson’s performance spiked. Believe me, I recognize a .246 average with 130 strikeouts is no reason to crack open a bottle of champagne, but that’s 40 fewer strikeouts and an uptick of about 40 points in batting average. Anything approaching that level of improvement this year will put the 24-year-old on the fringes of being an All-Star because he slugged 51 home runs in his first two seasons. Consistent contact plus power is a frightening combination.

Simply put, Pederson is the only Dodgers outfielder with the potential to help close the gap on the Chicago Cubs. Ethier can’t do it. Puig won’t do it.

And that matters, because winning the National League West again simply won’t cut it.

Friedman isn’t wrong; Ellis had to go

There are distinct flaws with an all-analytics approach to building a baseball team. If you’ve read the book “Moneyball” — excellent read, by the way — the point of the book was to make a team that couldn’t afford so-called five-tool players competitive with the teams that can.

Hence, my primary problem with the Los Angeles Dodgers with Andrew Friedman. They can afford the five-tool guys, and yet they’ve overdosed on analytics and let elite players that could increase their chances at world titles slip away.

Analytics isn’t always wrong, though. As such, catcher A.J. Ellis was expendable. Absolutely.

Dodgers fans bemoaned the catcher’s departure for Philadelphia on Thursday, sent in a trade for catcher Carlos Ruiz.

As a side note, that move triggered other interesting little roster shuffles. The Dodgers couldn’t go a game without a backup catcher, so for one day Shawn Zarraga was promoted. In order to accommodate that move, outfielder Scott Van Slyke’s season was ended. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list.

Now, that’s a lot of lives impacted for bringing in a backup catcher to replace another backup catcher. And Ellis was also one of those “clubhouse guys” you read about. The guy who doesn’t put up great on-field results but man, his teammates love him to death and you want harmony over a long season. Heck, three days before the trade, Ellis joined teammate Rob Segedin to welcome  the outfielder’s child into the world. I challenge you not to smile after clicking that link.

But this move presented itself and it had to be made. I may not understand everything the Dodgers front office does, but they have committed themselves to roster depth over five-tool players. In the instance starting catcher Yasmani Grandal gets injured, Ruiz is a far better hitter than Ellis. Currently, Ellis isn’t even hitting .200.

And the Dodgers need all the hitters they can get. Their starting pitching is in tatters and last night they didn’t even land a single base hit until they were down to their final out. Scoring one run in two games is no way to hold onto first place.

Their has been some speculation that once-in-a-generation-elite pitcher Clayton Kershaw will miss his pal Ellis enough to opt out of his contract after the 2018 season due to Ellis leaving. That’s highly doubtful. If Kershaw leaves, it’s because the Dodgers front office has continued to bring in substandard players on this idiotic prideful quest to prove you can win titles with minimum-wage talent.

But they weren’t wrong on this one. Ellis is a feel-good story. Ruiz is an insurance policy.

And insurance makes you feel pretty damn good when you need it most.