Dodgers – Unstoppable Force – Hitters

Thirty games into the abbreviated regular season and the Dodger record is very much what everyone expected. The best in baseball. How they got there however is not quite what I expected.

Mookie Betts is everything he’s always been. He is simply one of the best players in baseball because he does everything exceptionally well. Mookie has a very good chance to be the next Frank Robinson, the last/only player to win an MVP in both leagues. He currently leads the NL in fWAR but he does have a competitor in the young beast down South, Tatis Junior. For those unfamiliar with Frank Robinson, he was traded in the winter of 1965 from the Cincinati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of his HOF career. The GM of the Reds famously said that Robinson was an old 30. Frank would win the 1966 Triple Crown and MVP and lead the Orioles to the 1966 World Championship defeating the Dodgers in four straight games. Baseball likes to repeat itself just never in the exact same way, but Mookie was traded to the Dodgers in the winter of 2019 because the Red Sox wouldn’t pay him what he was worth, and it is very possible that Mookie will deliver for the Dodgers as Frank Robinson delivered for the Orioles.

Just a quick heads up on the fWAR NL Leaderboard:

The stats below were provided by www.fangraphs.com. I’m a member, every baseball fan should be. Support the writers.

NameWARwRC+OffDef
Mike Yastrzemski2.218416.11.5
Fernando Tatis Jr.2.118315.31.6
Mookie Betts1.817412.42
Trent Grisham1.41405.73.8
Bryce Harper1.419112.2-0.7
Ian Happ1.41619.3-0.1
Trevor Story1.31377.91.1
Charlie Blackmon1.21569.6-2.1
J.T. Realmuto1.11526.22.6
Jesse Winker1.11819-1.9
Starling Marte1.11295.21.3

Corey Seager was off to his own MVP start before he was injured and has yet to regain the same stroke. It isn’t like he dropped off a cliff but on Aug 7th he had an OPS .989 and in the games since he returned his OPS is at .851 for a combined OPS of .925. Corey only missed a week but a week in a 60 game season is a substantial number of games missed. I know his hard hit rate was one of the highest before he got hurt but you didn’t need a stat sheet to see that, you simply had to watch the games and see line drive after line drive.

While MVP candidates Betts and Seager were driving the offense the other MVP cylinder was missing more than sparking. Current MVP Cody Bellinger just couldn’t get it going until last week and it is a testament to the offense that they still clicked while Cody was figuring things out. Has he figured it out? As recently as Aug 18th, Cody had an OPS of only .565 and an article was written saying his performance in 2020 was worst season of any MVP coming off an MVP season. That seemed like a very shortsighted story given he had played in only 24 games or basically one month of a normal season. Of course as soon as that article was published Cody started hitting and now that writer has to live with a story that was going to be dead in the water as soon as his publisher agreed to publish it. In his last five games Cody has bombed four home runs and moved his OPS from .565 to .739. I expect him to have an OPS over .900 by the end of the year but he might get there in just another week.

The Dodgers have three legit MVP candidates. Two have already won an MVP and are both still 27 and under. The 3rd was Corey Seager who showed his bat is MVP quality when he’s completely healthy. The fourth might be the most underrated hitter in baseball. Justin Turner. Since 2014 Justin Turner has the 11th highest bWAR in baseball, but it is even more impressive than that. He did that with an average of about almost 900 less plate appearances and since bWAR is a cumulative stat you could make a case that Justin Turner has been one of the top 10 players in baseball since he showed up with the Dodgers and yet he has never had one single top five MVP vote in any single season. Everyone else above him on this list has had at least one top five MVP season.

                                                   
Player               HR OPS+ WAR/pos From   To   PA
Mike Trout          233  179    53.4 2014 2020 3901
Mookie Betts        150  135    44.2 2014 2020 3751
Nolan Arenado       224  126    35.5 2014 2020 3959
Paul Goldschmidt    182  142    34.0 2014 2020 3989
Jose Altuve         117  137    32.9 2014 2020 4053
Josh Donaldson      186  139    32.4 2014 2020 3507
Anthony Rendon      135  130    30.4 2014 2020 3650
Manny Machado       194  124    30.1 2014 2020 3954
Christian Yelich    142  138    30.1 2014 2020 3884
Anthony Rizzo       184  138    29.8 2014 2020 4079
Justin Turner       114  138    28.0 2014 2020 3022
Freddie Freeman     163  143    27.6 2014 2020 3912
Nelson Cruz         255  150    27.3 2014 2020 3876
Joey Votto          130  143    27.1 2014 2020 3684
Giancarlo Stanton   194  149    25.9 2014 2020 2949
George Springer     164  130    25.6 2014 2020 3450
J.D. Martinez       210  150    25.3 2014 2020 3564
Carlos Correa       105  129    25.3 2015 2020 2480
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2020.

Justin Turner hasn’t really turned it on yet in 2020. He’s done alright, but there is more, and it is kind of scary that the Dodgers already have the best team in baseball and Cody is just getting going, and Justin hasn’t really turned on his jets yet.

Did we forget another under-performing MVP candidate? I think we did, and his name is Max Muncy. Max has really struggled, his walk rate is the only thing keeping his OPS respectable at this point. Max has never gotten full credit for what he did in 2018/2019. He was clearly one of the top ten players in all of baseball and yet couldn’t crack a top ten MVP in either season. Again every other player on this list got top ten MVP votes in 2018 or 2019 except Max Muncy. I should have the same faith that Max will turn it around as I did for Cody but to be honest I don’t. It took me three years before I trusted that Justin Turner was for real, and I need that third year from Max. I expect he will, but I’m not certain he will.

                                                 
Player             HR OPS+ WAR/pos From   To   PA
Mike Trout         94  187    19.0 2018 2020 1326
Nelson Cruz        89  156     8.7 2018 2020 1231
Christian Yelich   87  167    14.1 2018 2020 1345
J.D. Martinez      82  151     9.6 2018 2020 1421
Cody Bellinger     80  141    13.8 2018 2020 1420
Max Muncy          77  140    10.2 2018 2020 1194
Alex Bregman       76  156    17.0 2018 2020 1502
Mookie Betts       72  160    20.0 2018 2020 1442
Anthony Rendon     64  148    12.9 2018 2020 1360
Aaron Judge        63  150    12.6 2018 2020 1013
Juan Soto          63  146     8.4 2018 2020 1229
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2020.

Speaking of underrated players, does Chris Taylor come to mind? He should but I’ll do a specific column on that because this is getting long. Anyway below are the Dodgers numbers so far this season:

Mookie leads the team in hits (33), doubles (7), home runs (11), runs scored (25), RBI (24), batting avg (.300), slug% (664), OPS (1.032), OPS+ (176), and Total Bases (73). Oh, and stolen bases with 5 and zero caught stealing.

AJ Pollock has also hit 7 doubles, and I’m sure we are all surprised that Corey Seager is only 3rd on the team with doubles with six.

Chris Taylor leads the team in OBP at .376 with Justin Turner 2nd at .372 so so suck it Mookie. You aren’t the best at everything, just almost the best at everything.

Hat tip to Austin Barnes for having a brief spell where it looked like 2017 again, and making his stat line respectable for the season after looking like his career had morphed into Jeff Mathis.

Hat tip to Edwin Rios who makes power look as easy as anyone in baseball.

Hat tip to Keibert Ruiz who hit a home run on his very first major league swing. Not first at-bat, but first swing. That was extra cool.

Final hat tip to AJ Pollock who I thought was redundant on this team and has proven that he is very much needed since Joc / Enrique have joined Max as the offensive disappointments of 2020.

Will Smith hit the ball hard and made a lot of outs. That is all.

PosNameAgePARH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSO
CAustin Barnes3062715101710417
1BMax Muncy*29124152020713001630
2BEnrique Hernandez288314194131100318
SSCorey Seager*2610016286072000512
3BJustin Turner35121142861218001320
LFJoc Pederson*28841413104810918
CFCody Bellinger*24127212430817201321
RFMookie Betts271222533701124501119
DHAJ Pollock329813257051521621
PosNameAgePARH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSO
UTChris Taylor2910613234129321626
CWill Smith25456710390095
UTMatt Beaty*27407910250025
CIEdwin Rios* (10-day IL)26315830360009
CKeibert Ruiz# (40-man)2181200110003

To sum up the Dodgers have the best team in baseball right now even with the current MVP struggling 90% of the season, Max Muncy not finding any groove, and Joc looking lost. Three huge components to the success of 2019, and yet they haven’t missed a beat. This team has proven once again that with their depth they are a regular season beast.

There is only one thing left to prove. Can they beast in October?

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