Entering the season with higher expectations than any team in recent years, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been even better than projected. A hot start could mean that the defending World Series champs are on their way to a historic regular season.

The Dodgers are 14-4 after 18 games, already starting to create separation between themselves and the best teams in baseball. With 11% of the schedule complete, Los Angeles is on pace to finish with a 126-36 record. That would easily make for the best regular-season baseball has ever seen.

The 1906 Chicago Cubs have the all-time best record, 116-36.

In the early 1960s, Major League Baseball extended the regular season to 162 games. The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the 1906 Cubs' mark of 116 wins.

Neither the Cubs nor the Mariners won the World Series in their 116-win seasons.

Continuing on their 126-win pace could be unrealistic. But winning 116 games over the course of a 162-game schedule appears to be in play for the Dodgers.

A closer look at the Dodgers’ start makes their first three weeks seem all the more impressive. L.A. has held a lead in 17 of its 18 games. In the only contest that the Dodgers never led, they lost by just one run.

Los Angeles has outscored its opponents by 38 runs, putting the team on pace to finish with a plus-342 run differential. The 2001 Mariners outscored their opponents by 300 runs.

The Dodgers are winning despite not being completely healthy. Mookie Betts, the 2020 NL MVP runner-up, has missed five games with what aren’t serious injuries. Cody Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, has only played four games because of a leg injury that could keep him sidelined for another two weeks. Tony Gonsolin, Joe Kelly and Gavin Lux are also on the injured list.

Dave Roberts' squad has managed just fine with bench players. Los Angeles’ extensive depth has allowed the team to remain largely unbeatable.

Five Dodgers have at least three home runs. Corey Seager is putting up typical numbers that make him one of MLB’s top shortstops. Justin Turner has been one of the league’s most productive hitters with a 1.175 OPS. Rookie Zach McKinstry has been among baseball’s biggest surprises with an .883 OPS in 17 games.

L.A. has MLB’s second-best ERA. Starters Trevor Bauer, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have all pitched to a sub-2.82 ERA for what might be one of the greatest rotations ever put together.

During their run of eight straight NL West titles, the Dodgers have gotten increasingly better over the last few seasons. Los Angeles won a franchise-record 106 games in 2019. In the 60-game 2020 season, the Dodgers went 43-17, which translates to 116 victories in a normal year.

While the San Diego Padres might be improved, Los Angeles can take advantage of its relatively weak divisional schedule. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are both on pace to lose over 100 games, giving the Dodgers 36 matchups with two of the league’s worst teams. The San Francisco Giants are off to a hot start, though it's unclear if the depth is available for a sustained run.

The Dodgers are favored to win the World Series with 13/4 betting odds. The New York Yankees have the next-best odds at 6/1.

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series for the first time since 1988
The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the World Series for the first time since 1988 GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / TOM PENNINGTON