Four years ago, the Dodgers won it all after years of falling just in 2017 and 2018. In 2023, Los Angeles will look to win the team’s second World Series title in four seasons and avenge a lackluster run in the playoffs last year. Here’s how the Dodgers stack up entering October and what the keys will be Los Angeles this year.
A Look at the Dodgers Offense
The Dodgers came into 2023 with two returning stars in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, but a number of questions. One, could the Dodgers make it work a lineup sans Justin Turner and Trea Turner gone? And two, would the Dodgers’ young bats be able to make up the difference?
On the first point, the Dodgers were absolutely able to make it work offensively. Both Betts and Freeman have put up MVP-caliber numbers, as the two rank in the top eight of the Majors in bWAR. Betts, in particular, has been the shining star for the Dodgers in 2023. The 30-year-old and MLB league leader in offensive bWAR hit .310 with 39 home runs, 103 RBI, and 121 runs scored, all while playing multiple positions for the Dodgers.
The supporting cast in Los Angeles has also been effective. Max Muncy belted 35 home runs through the middle of September, while newcomer from Boston J.D. Martinez hit 26 home runs and posted a .857 OPS en route to a 2023 NL All-Star selection.
The Dodgers have also received contributions from their youngsters, as James Outman hit .245 with 15 stolen bases and 20 home runs in his first full campaign in the Majors.
In total, the Dodgers offense proved to be quite formidable. Entering play on September 17, Los Angeles was second in the Majors in team OPS (.799) and home runs (229). The only team ahead of the Dodgers in both categories are the Braves, who could be a potential matchup in the NLCS.
A Look at the Dodgers Pitching
The Dodgers rotation looks quite different now, as compared to what Los Angeles was working with at the start of the season.
Right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are both on the IL and finished for 2023. The Dodgers shipped SP Noah Syndergaard to Cleveland for Amed Rosario after the former NL All-Star pitched to the tune of a 7.16 ERA in Los Angeles. Left-hander Julio Urias produced less-than-stellar numbers before he was arrested and placed on administrative leave after he committed a domestic battery felony in early September.
Still, the Dodgers have found a way. Hard-throwing right-hander Bobby Miller went 10-3 and put up pretty good numbers in his rookie season. Rookies Emmet Sheehan and Ryan Pepiot have also impressed, but the start of the show’s been Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw owns a 2.52 ERA through 121.1 IP, and the 35-year-old might be in the conversation for the NL Cy Young had he not missed a month on the IL. Kershaw doesn’t have the same jam on his fastball as he did in the early-2010s, but how he uses his stuff, including his stellar slider, has helped the lefty remain one of the best in the game.
As far as the Dodgers bullpen is concerned, Evan Phillips, Brusdar Graterol, and left-hander Caleb Ferguson have all been among the best relievers in baseball this season. Both Graterol (1.30) and Phillips (2.38) are in the top 21 in the league in ERA among relievers (min. 40 G)
The Dodgers entered play on September 17 eighth in the league in opponent’s batting average (.239) and fifth in WHIP (1.22), but 15th in ERA (4.17).
How the Dodgers Can Win it All
The Dodgers have the arms out of the bullpen to piece together games in the playoffs. Besides the three name we mentioned earlier, don’t sleep on Shelby Miller and two in-season acquisitions in Ryan Brasier and Ryan Yarbrough. All three have given the Dodgers sharp results thus far, and Dave Roberts will have plenty of options come the start of the postseason.
The key, rather, will be the rotation. We know this Dodgers team can hit, but the young starters and Clayton Kershaw’s health are going to be critical factors. Another question mark will be how the Dodgers make use of Lance Lynn, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline alongside Joe Kelly. Lynn’s 4.60 ERA is better than what he put up in Chicago, but the veteran has given up 13 home runs since his arrival in Los Angeles.
If Pepiot, Miller, or whomever will start come October gives the Dodgers four to five solid innings and hand it off to the bullpen, Los Angeles can do damage. But, it won’t be easy to climb out of the National League.
All stats as of September 17.