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.

Roberts: The Dodgers micromanager

Common sense tells you there’s no such thing as magic, but there are times in life that we are willing to suspend our disbelief — a good show at The Magic Castle in Hollywood, or the pursuit of something historical in nature.

Consider what happened to end the seventh inning during Rich Hill’s bid for a perfect game at Marlins Park on Saturday. Yasiel Puig, derided for years over a perceived lack of hustle, made this supernatural catch of a Martin Prado drive. Hill threw his arms up in the air. The Dodgers bench erupted with joy, congratulated Puig and the team returned to the dugout. Because it was good fortune. Enchanted, perhaps.

They didn’t congratulate Hill, by the way, because baseball players are superstitious by nature. Who wants to jinx a perfect game? To do so, perhaps that would be the baseball equivalent of black magic.

Magic, humanity’s feeble attempt to comprehend moments in the joy we witness.

But as we’ve come to expect from the micromanagers running the Dodgers — who ironically enough are owned by a guy named Magic — there shall be no joy in Chavez Ravine. There shall only be strict adherence to the mathematical equation.

Manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill aside and told him his quest to pitch Major League Baseball’s 24th perfect game was over. Hill had some redness and heat on his finger, a blister could possibly form. Thanks for helping the team. Hit the showers. Make it a cold shower, while you’re at it.

I was at Marlins Park last night, Tweeting and posting live updates of this incredible effort from five rows behind the dugout. When the bottom of the eighth inning was about to start, I was looking up the history of Dodgers no-hitters and perfect games. They had two no-hitters in 2014. It was 51 years, one day from the only perfect game in Dodgers history, pitched by Sandy Koufax and documented by a man far classier than I.

What I couldn’t see in the dugout was how angry Hill was, as well he should. I realize it’s no consolation, but that anger was magnified by my fellow Dodgers fans that I could see.

What happened at Marlins Park last night was the latest in an ever-increasing list of Dodgers decisions that illustrate the shortcomings of analytics-exclusive front office decisions. To recap, analytics in sports — as popularized in the excellent Michael Lewis book “Moneyball” — is a tool to help teams without wealth and resources to stay competitive.

Only the Dodgers do have wealth and resources.

So the front office personnel consult the numbers and sign/trade for the affordable injury-prone: such as Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Bud Norris, Scott Kazmir, Mike Bolsinger, Brandon Beachy … are you starting to get the point? The otherwise durable Zack Greinke was let go in the process. No worry. We were told. We’ll make adjustments on defense for something called “run prevention.”

Pulling Hill from a historic quest was simply “asset protection,” for he, too, has a history of injuries. Wouldn’t want to risk another guy getting injured six outs away from a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

Had the Dodgers chosen to retain Greinke instead of acquire a stable of injury-prone pitchers, Hill would likely be a No. 3 starter, at best. As such, Roberts likely believed him to be the only reliable pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw.

This is how important baseball history actually is: Curt Schilling became a national hero for pitching a game where he eventually started to bleed through his sock. Hill? Maybe he has a blister. Maybe, but doggone it, can’t be too careful.

Of course, the front office wouldn’t have to worry about asset protection if it studied injury reports with the same vigor it does spreadsheets. 

You almost have to wonder what prior Dodgers managers would have decided. Actually, you don’t. Tommy Lasorda would have kept him in. Every Dodgers manager prior would have likely done the same. Don Mattingly, who leads the Marlins after the Dodgers cut him loose last year, I haven’t seen his comments. He probably didn’t make one.

As such, it was not Rich Hill who made history, it was Roberts and the Dodgers front office. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that no pitcher had been removed in the quest for a perfect game that late in the game, at least not since 1900.

After the game, Roberts told reporters that the decision actually made a 5-0 Dodgers victory feel like a loss.

That is ironic, because that is precisely what I was saying outside of Marlins Park while I cursed the Dodgers front office in the mist.

We’ve seen this act from the Dodgers before

Earlier in the season, when the Dodgers were under threat of getting buried by the San Francisco Giants — L.A. was behind by 7 1/2 games at one point — some dude kept trying to troll. According to him, I should be satisfied that the Dodgers have won the National West Division three years in a row. According to his words, I’m spoiled by success.

At risk of sounding like a brat — I’m not, I’m not, I’m not.

But seriously folks. Sports fans need a quick reminder of what the point is for all those tickets, caps, parking, hot dogs, beer, kids toys, nights in front of the flatscreen while your wife fumes over putting her shows on DVR. You want your team to win the championship, to hoist the trophy, to have that silly parade through your town.

There is no such thing as a division champion, no matter what that T-shirt says. That’s MLBshop.com trying to pull another $25 out of your credit card. Winning the division three consecutive years doesn’t constitute a dynasty.

There is no such thing as a league champ. You win a pennant for winning the league. Your team is not a champion for reaching the World Series.

The only championship comes from winning the World Series. The Dodgers haven’t won it, or for that matter been in one, since 1988.

The Giants have won three championships since the Dodgers last went to the Series. Arizona won one. The Padres and Rockies have been to one since. Only six teams have not reached the World Series since L.A. last went.

The Dodgers get ready for six uncomfortable hours flying across the continent — through that hurricane-generator known as the Gulf of Mexico — for a series in Miami this weekend. They’re in a good place, otherwise. They’re five games up on San Francisco, with a magic number of 19 to qualify for the playoffs. Number crunchers a fivethirtyeight.com estimate the Dodgers have a better than 99 percent chance to reach the playoffs. (Although they are the same guys who give Donald Trump a 20 percent chance to win the presidential election and current polls don’t seem to indicate that to me.)

As to the Dodgers reaching the playoffs, so what? We’ve seen this before.

Can anyone give me a rationale that the Dodgers will win the World Series that doesn’t involve blind hope? From where I see it, the current roster is the weakest of the last four Dodgers seasons. The last three included Zack Grienke, who they let go in a cost-cutting move. This is the year L.A. finally put its foot down on an immature Yasiel Puig, because his production slipped drastically. We still have no idea if Clayton Kershaw can pitch again.

The only position where anyone can argue the Dodgers have upgraded significantly is at shortstop. Corey Seager is that good.

But the way I see the NL West, the Dodgers good fortune stems primarily from a fantastic Giants collapse. San Francisco had the best record in baseball going into the All-Star break. For reasons I do not know, since then the Giants are the worst team in baseball at 16-33.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a tad skeptical about L.A. Oh, I’m watching. I’m even going to Miami to watch the Dodgers play.

But my skepticism will end when the Dodgers finally stop settling for mediocrity and win the World Series.

Then I’ll consider myself spoiled.

The week in L.A. sports (7/29/16-8/4/16)

I would have had this earlier, but I was called in to work. So be it. I like talking sports. I love getting paid. There’s a clear difference…

Dodgers: Very little respect to the front office for finally getting a trade done before the non-waiver deadline on Monday. The primary swap was three minor leaguers for the top two players the Oakland A’s had to offer. Before we break down the trade, know that the Dodgers haven’t won a game since making the deal.

As for the trade, well … They brought in yet another injured starting pitcher (Rich Hill), because with Andrew Friedman’s way of thinking you can never have enough people under contract who are physically unable to compete. They also acquired a jolly good outfielder named Josh Reddick, in the process acknowledging that the deal is like the chemotherapy to rid themselves of their Puignoma.

Bottom line: yes, the rotation is in tatters, but it wouldn’t be in such a mess if Friedman hadn’t acquired so many injury-prone players in the first place.

Lakers: Earlier today, the team’s pursuit of guard Russell Westbrook for next offseason ended. Yeah, Westbrook figured why wait 11 months to give Jim Buss the finger when he could do so today. Westbrook re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. A bench jockey for OKC took to Twitter to laugh at the Lakers, to which I would reply “You realize you’re no longer a title contender either, right? … Do you really want Kevin Durant to tweet what he thinks about you?”

Larry Nance Jr. apparently injured something and I don’t care much.

Clippers: The Los Angeles Times reports Paul Pierce spent $2.23 million on a residence in the area, which means he’s renting a closet in the back of a Whole Foods Market. Wakka wakka!

Galaxy: In securing a 1-1 result in Seattle on Sunday, the Galaxy pulled a remarkable little feat by not losing road games throughout Cascadia — Seattle (win and a draw), Portland (win) and Vancouver (win). For the uninitiated, it doesn’t sound like much. Portland is the defending league champs and the other two did reach the playoffs last year. Teams tend to mail their effort in when they travel in MLS. The Galaxy didn’t. Credit where it’s due.

Rams: I’m still genuinely thrilled that the Rams returned home. I honestly am. And then I recall they’re playing their first few seasons hereSigh.

Here’s an item to slide into your “no sh-t” file: ESPN wrote that in “position battles to watch for all 32 NFL teams,” it’s quarterback Case Keenum vs. No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff.

By the way, if you’re wondering why I’m in such a foul mood, I get that way every time I see some asshat with “lipstick” tattooed on his neck. Sure, playa.

Kings: They sold one of their minor-league teams to a group of trust fund babies in Boston and the sooner I finish typing that, the better.