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.

Dodgers winter theme: Make it complicated!

The ironic thing about baseball’s winter meetings being held next week in Washington, D.C. is that it’s symbolic of Dodgers fans to their team.

Sports fans are like the electorate: Win for me. And in doing so, keep it simple because I’m a little drunk.

The Dodgers front office is like Hillary Clinton’s campaign: Making things so much about process they get lapped by a guy with a catchy slogan.

Which is why you shouldn’t expect much from the Dodgers other than directionless complex rumors that will involve dozens of names, multiteam deals and discussions of mind-blowing salaries. It will be a week of sound and fury. It will signify nothing.

It’s highly unlikely they will get the stars you’ve heard about online: Ian Kinsler? Nope. Chris Sale? Chris Archer? Ryan Braun? Hell, even Brian Dozier? Naw.

Here is what the Dodgers need: a second baseman, a third baseman, better starting pitching, a closer. Hopefully, the incoming infielders can hit left-handed pitching better.

You, the fan, shrug and say, “OK, resign Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen and try to upgrade at second base. Simple.”

But the Dodgers have six former general managers in the front office. Much like last season, too many cooks will complicate this broth. Consider the first offseason with team president Andrew Friedman two years ago. One of his first “moves” was a three-team deal that involved eight players. The Marlins got a leadoff hitter in Dee Gordon. The Angels got a starting pitching in Andrew Heaney (who admittedly got injured in Anaheim, but he’s only 24). 

The Dodgers? All they have left on the roster from that deal is backup outfielder in Keke Hernandez and situational relief pitcher Chris Hatcher. Sound. Fury. Nothing.

The Cubs are still the world champs and there’s no reason to believe the Dodgers will close the gap despite having a vault of money that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous and a farm system that is the envy of the rest of professional baseball.

The Dodgers front office is everything that makes people break relationships: Sure, they’ve got sweet digs up in the hills. They’re also processors, addicted to admiring their own intellect, micro-managers and even worse, hoarders.

The Dodgers new philosophy for starting pitching was summed up by … Which of their six GMs said it?… Farhan Zaidi. You know how most teams want five guys they can rely on in the rotation? Well…

“We always talk about building a 162-game rotation, not necessarily a five-man rotation,” Zaidi said. “I think we have the guys to get through 162 games. Now it’s just a question of whether we can improve the quality and target some high-end guys that would really change the configuration of where guys slot in.”

Fascinating. Here’s the problem. To win the world championship, you have to play more than 162 games and that’s why the Dodgers got their asses kicked by Chicago in the National League Championship Series. 

Because Chicago kept it simple while the Dodgers patted themselves on the back marching out 31 pitchers.

Sound and fury to earn a playoff berth. Nothing in the playoffs.

Sure, the Dodgers will likely make some deal happen. But after hearing a flurry of big-time stars that will give you hope that the team will break its 29-year World Series drought, you’re going to be left with a trade for more injury-prone pitching and a hack reserve minor-leaguer who will make Trayce Thompson look like Andrew McCutcheon.

They are more likely to lose Hill, Jansen and Turner than to upgrade.

But hey, six GMs think they’re stronger together.

The Dodgers season goes up in flames, but we knew this

The Dodgers, as I type, are about to set a dubious mark. Should the current score stand, Los Angeles will be eliminated in the 2016 NLCS in Chicago. In the process, they will have set a record for most consecutive seasons of qualifying for the playoffs without reaching the World Series.

In other words, they’re going nowhere. Even worse, they will continue to go nowhere. Here’s why:

1) The most bloated front office in the history of baseball will continue to purge salary. Closer Kenley Jansen? He’s gone. Analytics experts such as the Dodgers “smart guys” don’t value closers. Jansen, meanwhile, is apparently looking forward to getting paid.

Third baseman Justin Turner is due for a raise. Buh-bye. The “smart guys” resist position players older than 30.

It should be the same for Rich Hill. The feeling here is the smart guys are betting Clayton Kershaw will be backed up by much of what you saw before trading for Hill — Scott Kazmir, Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda and whatever noodle-armed injury-prone dreck with a low WHIP they can cull.

You see, analytics drones only think in terms of buying low/selling high. Hill was bought low. He’s in line to get paid. The smart guys will pass.

Matter of fact, the Dodgers have 14 free agents this offseason and the only one that I am confident they will retain is situational relief pitcher Joe Blanton. Maybe they make a run at keeping Josh Reddick, but that’s only if they luck out and find a suitor for Andre Ethier and/or Yasiel Puig.

Hmm… Jansen’s in the game, auditioning for a job next year.

2) Take a peek at the list of MLB free agents next year. The top guys are in their early 30s. The Dodgers will pass.

In their defense, the list is not particularly inviting, either. 

3) Let’s assume something possible: That Urias blossoms quickly into a No.2 behind Kershaw. It might happen. Kid has major capability. And perhaps that stabilizes an utterly chaotic rotation.

Fine… But who hits other than Corey Seager?

The Dodgers reliance on home runs made them one-dimensional. Keep the ball in the yard, and they lose. It’s that simple, because they just can’t hit. Puig was supposed to be a cornerstone with Seager, only the Cuban was sent to the minors this year. Joc Pedersen might follow him with that abyss in his swing.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers ballyhooed farm system is loaded — with pitchers. There are no offensive threats due to arrive next year.

It also is worth noting that the great Adrian Gonzalez — who just filed out in the eighth inning — might be slowing down.

4) The Dodgers are incapable of making impactful moves because, as previously mentioned, they have the most bloated front office in baseball. They have six general managers on the payroll — Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes, Ned Colletti, Alex Anthopoulous and Tommy Lasorda.

How in the hell do you get anything accomplished with such micromanagement?

Earlier, I had mentioned that people obsessed with analytics are into buying low and selling high. It would make sense to have that mentality when you are forced to squeeze what you can out of limited resources.

Only the fatal flaw is this: The Dodgers don’t have limited resources. Because they’re the freaking Dodgers.

That is why the Chicago Cubs, who rebuilt themselves from scratch, have a future and the Dodgers do not. The Cubs did, in fact, take risks this offseason. The Cubs were the ones to sign Jon Lester, whereas the Dodgers let Zack Greinke go. The Cubs remembered offense by signing second baseman Ben Zobrist and outfielder Dexter Fowler. 

The Dodgers? Last offseason with numerous possibilities to improve, they added Trayce Thompson.

Analytics is “a tool” used by the Cubs. Analytics is “the only tool” the Dodgers recognized.

Which means the Cubs played to win. You can’t be mad at them for that.

While the Dodgers merely play to qualify. You should be mad as hell about that.