The best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have a nostalgic road trip starting this weekend, first going to South Florida to play the Marlins (146 miles from historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, the Dodgers’ spring home for six decades) and then went to New York to play the Mets at Citi Field (13 miles from the site of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, where the Dodgers played from 1913 until the franchise moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season) .
Sunday’s game against the Marlins can be streamed on the Peacock beginning at 12 p.m. How long did the Dodgers train in Vero Beach? Since 1948 (Jackie Robinson second season) until 2008 (Clayton Kershaw’s rookie season). Until the current Marlins manager Don Mattingly became manager of the Dodgers in 2011, the team trained in Arizona. But Mattingly played his entire career with the Yankees, who trained in Fort Lauderdale, so Mattingly played spring training games every year on the road in Vero.
2022 MLB schedule on Peacock: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online
It’s hard not to think of history when you talk about the Dodgers.
But first, I want to talk about today’s Dodgers. Will this team win it all in 2022?
How do the 2022 Dodgers fare?
Los Angeles gets away with their division and puts up historic numbers. Through their first 123 games, the Dodgers have outscored their opponents by 275 runs (over two runs per game). They score well north of five runs per game (5.4) and allow just over three (3.16).
Dave Roberts the team is likely to win two-thirds of its games, finishing about 108-54. And they could probably win more, but they’re unlikely to push it, preferring to combine and rest to better handle the expanded playoffs in October.
This is a team that ownership spared no expense in building. President and CEO Stan Kasten and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman they’ve built a roster with an estimated payroll of $261 million for 2022. The league-leading payroll won’t put the team in the World Series every year, but it gives the team a chance to win every year.
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In 2021, Los Angeles fell in the NLCS to the Braves and their first baseman Freddie Freeman. In 2020, the Dodgers won the World Series. In 2019, the Dodgers were eliminated in 10thu inning of the winner-take-all Game 5 of the NLDS at the Nationals and their shortstop Trea Turner. In 2018, the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Red Sox and their wonderful right fielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price (2-0, 1.98 ERA in 3 games, 2 starts vs. LA in World Series).
There’s no commandment not to want your opponent’s best players, is there?
Here’s my take on the 2022 Dodgers offense. Sure, the back of everyone’s baseball card looks great, but how many of them are having the best seasons of their careers?
Let’s discuss. But first, I have to point out a statistic:
The Dodgers lead Major League Baseball in runs scored.
And they drive a lot. The Dodgers – through Wednesday night – have scored 42 more runs than the next closest team in the majors (the Braves).
That 30-year-old first baseman, Freddie Freeman, has a .919 OPS. If you rank his career by OPS, you’ll find that 2022 — while a good year — is Freeman’s fifth-best season. In 2020 (his MVP year), his OPS was 1.102. He was .989 in 2017. He was .968 in 2016. He was .938 in 2019. This year, his .919 OPS is just ahead of 2013 (.897), when he was 23 years old.
29-year-old right fielder Mookie Betts has an OPS of .873. If you rank his career by OPS, you’ll find that 2022 — while a good year — is Mookie’s fifth-best season. In 2018 (his MVP year), his OPS was 1.078. In 2020 he had a .927 OPS. In 2019 it was 0.915. In 2016 it was .897. And this year’s .873 is better than his .854 OPS in 2021, Mookie’s first season with LA
Sure, 29-year-old shortstop Trea Turner is having a career year — right? Wrong. Trea’s .847 OPS puts him in the MVP conversation, but pales after the 2020 season, when he put up a .982 OPS. And his .937 OPS in his 2016 rookie campaign was much better than this year. Like 2021, when Trea had a .911 OPS for both Washington and LA (.950 with LA). And don’t forget the 2019 World Series season when Trea had an .850 OPS.
That makes 2022 Trea Turner’s fifth-best season.
Max Muncy agreed to a contract extension earlier this week, just before turning 32n.d birthday. Muncy was terrific in August (19 games, .294/.375/.676 with 7 HR, 17 RBI). He was outstanding in the 2020 World Series (.904 OPS in 18 playoff games). He did not play in the 2021 postseason due to a hand injury sustained in a late-season collision.
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That injury lingered and affected Muncy for the first few months of this season. But the facts remain: Muncy’s .699 OPS in 2022 comes after 2018 (.973) and 2021 (.895) and 2019 (.889) and 2020 (.720). This year is, yes, Muncy’s fifth-best season.
The central, 26-year-old Cody Bellinger, not close to his best two seasons. In 2017 he was the Rookie of the Year. In 2018, he was the MVP of the NLCS. In 2019, he was the National League MVP. His OPS+ over those first three seasons was 144, meaning he was 44% better than the average hitter.
2017-2019 OPS of .928 OPS+: 144
2020-2022 OPS of .654 OPS+: 76
Since the start of 2020, Bellinger is hitting .201. His OPS is .654 and his OPS+ is well below average. This year is a touch better than last year, so this is his fifth best season in a six-year career.
Chris Taylor, “CT-3”, he is the main left striker. He turns 32 on August 29. His OPS this year is .711, which represents his sixth best season. He topped 2017 at .850. In 2020 it was 0.842. In 2019, it was 0.794 and 0.782 in 2021. It has decreased to 0.711. His OPS+ is just 95, which means he’s five percent below average.
The rapist, 27 years old Will Smith, is in the prime of his career and one of the top backstops in the game. But his .825 OPS this season doesn’t match his 2020 season (.980) or his 2019 season (.907) or his 2021 season (.860). Congratulations, Will, on your fourth best season!
Only the second baseman, Gavin Lux, 24, is having the best season of his career. Of course, this is only his second full season. His OPS is .824 and his OPS+ is 124.
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As for the other guys on the bench, well, this is the 37-year-old’s ninth-best season Justin Turner. Backup Catcher Austin Barnes he’s hitting .189 with a .669 OPS and an OPS+ of 85 (and that’s post Wednesday night show 2-4 with a hostage). He had much better seasons. Newly acquired Joey Gallo he’s had much better seasons, though he’s much better now that he’s away from New York and playing for LA
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Los Angeles certainly has a lot of money spent on pitching. And the pitching staff leads all of baseball in ERA.
But the Dodgers’ rotation in October could include Dustin May (age 25, not yet arbitration eligible and just back from recovering from Tommy John surgery). It could include Tony Gonsolin (28, also not eligible for arbitration). It could include Julio Urias (making $8 million, with one more year of arbitration). And it could include Tyler Anderson (on a one-year, $8 million deal). Anderson is 13-2 with a 2.73 ERA and leads the team with 135.1 innings pitched. Urias is 13-7, with a 2.36 ERA. Gonsolin is 16-1, with a 2.10 ERA.
The fine china is cracked. Walker Buehler he’s out for the season — and a good chunk of 2023. Clayton Kershaw is currently on the injured list but hopes to return for the postseason. Kershaw has made just three starts since the All-Star break, a stat that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
To the bullpen, the franchise will go Craig Kimbrell? His strikes have dropped a lot. His WHIP is 1.523. In recent weeks, it has only gotten worse.
The Dodgers are paying Kimbrel $16 million this year and David Price twice that.
But the Dodgers have all of September to find a back-end of the rotation. And they have Brusdar Graterol and Blake Trainen and Evan Phillips supporting Kimbrel. Phillips has a 1.29 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and a .735 WHIP.
Maybe the Marlins can beat the Dodgers this weekend. Miami has a terrific starting pitcher named Sandy Alcantara. If the Dodgers falter this October, they can always target Alcantara. After all, Dodgers history calls for a top Sandy.
Notes Mr. Stats: Dodgers return to South Beach originally appeared on NBCSports.com