Down Season!!!! Not so fast

The Dodgers won 111 games in 2022, yet most folks had the Dodgers between 88 – 94 wins headed into the 2023 season. As recently as last week Fangraphs pegged the Dodgers with 84 wins just one month into the season. At that point the Dodgers were 13 – 13 and had just been embarrassed by the Pirates. The lineup the Dodgers put up on April 26th did look embarrassing.

Freeman, F1B4121000.289
Vargas, M2B3000110.221
Taylor, ChSS3010021.173

Heyward was batting 3rd with a .159 average, the 6 – 9 hitters couldn’t break the .200 average mark, and Miguel Vargas batting 5th had yet to hit a home run. The team was without Max Muncy on paternity leave, Will Smith recovering from a concussion, and JD Martinez was about to hit the injured list. Mookie wasn’t doing much, Freddie had yet to hit his stride. The only player who was really holding his weight in that lineup was James Outman who was having his first struggles of his major league career. Things were looking bleak, and entitled Dodger fans were outraged that the front office had failed miserably to keep up with the Padres.

Justin Heyward was considered a joke signing to appease his best friend Freddie Freeman, Vargas wasn’t ready. Peralta was done, Chris Taylor was done, Syndergaard was done, Urias was feeling the heat of pitching for a contract for the first time in his career, and oh my, the bullpen was a disaster.

The only good news was Clayton Kershaw, Max Muncy, and James Outman

Fast forward one week and six games you have a completely different outlook as evidenced by the box score from 5/3/23 which showed a remarkable improvement from the game just one week before. Mookie got hot, Freeman got hot, Will Smith returned, Max Muncy returned, Justin Heyward stopped being a joke and has pushed himself into the most improved player of 2023, Outman made a mechanical tweek and ended his first slump, Miguel Vargas found his power stroke, Peralta and Taylor climbed above .200.

Freeman, F1B3111102.310
Smith, W.D.C4100114.297
a-Rojas, MPH-SS1010000.184
Vargas, M2B4212012.237
b-Barnes, APH1012000.104
Taylor, ChSS-LF3220011.205

The game on Wednesday culminated a dominant stretch of six games in which the Dodgers swept the Cardinals and Phillies. With that six game winning streak the Dodgers turned a 13 – 13 record and a projected 81 – 81 season into 19 – 13 and 95 – 67 projected season. While a far cry from 111 wins it is more in line with what a Dodger team with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin should be expected to accomplish.

A healthy Dodger team can still be a dominant force in 2023. The Lux injury was a hearty blow but as I look at the team headed into an epic weekend series with the Padres, you can’t help but see so many positive signs.

Clayton Kershaw won Pitcher of the Month in April

James Outman won Rookie of the Month in April beating out the favorite Corbin Carroll. More importantly, Outman had a late slump in April but they said he made a tweek and has bounced back nicely in early May

Mookie and Freddie are both healthy

Mookie showed he can play a quality major league shortstop if the Dodgers need to go that way which they might do more of against right hand pitching with Peralta/Outman/Heyward handling the outfield.

Miguel Vargas played a respectable 2nd base, and as April turned to May, he started hitting like the Dodgers expect him to. He hit his first home run on Monday, and followed that up with three doubles on Tuesday, and another home run on Wednesday.

MAX FRIGGING MUNCY – wow, I expected a bounce back and predicted he’d lead the Dodgers with 35 home runs this year but I certainly didn’t expect this. I have to look harder but I think Max Muncy may have had the greatest offensive month of any Dodger 3rd baseman ever.

Will Smith before going on concussion watch, was once again establishing himself as one of the best hitting catchers in the game

Is Chris Taylor finding his stroke? The last 14 days, he has an .914 OPS. The strikeouts are still an issue but when he makes contact, he’s making hard contact.

Even though Thor has yet to establish any consistency, the original rotation is actually healthy and with four of the five expected to give a quality start 90% of the time, you have a rotation that is hard to match.

Gavin Stone started off slow in AAA but righted himself and pitched decently in his major league debut. Bobby Miller is back in the OKC rotation, Pepiot is throwing again, so it won’t be long before the Dodgers have three prospect options should any injuries hit the rotation.

The beleaguered bullpen in most of April, seems to have turned a corner with the return of Victor Gonzalez. Everyone who was struggling is all of the sudden pitching like 2022.

The minor leagues have the best winning percentage in baseball, but that is another story.

Not everything is rosy

Trayce Thompson hit three home runs in one game and that has been about his only contribution so far in 2022. With Outman able to hit left hand pitching, Trayce has found little runway in 2023. The worried fanbase feel that the Dodgers need another right handed hitting outfielder to replace Trayce but really, he’s kind of the perfect complement if Chris Taylor is back. Against RHP, you have Outman, Heyward, Peralta with Mookie playing SS, and against LHP, you have Mookie/Outman/Taylor with Rojas handling SS. Not ideal, and it would be great if Trayce could start helping the team, but it isn’t a cataosphic problem given the few at – bats that Trayce would be handling. All of this could change, if injuries hit and change the landscape.

Thor has been awful. Can’t sugarcoat his starts so far. He looks as hittable as any pitcher the Dodgers have put on the bump in recent memory. They are going to work on some things and Thor will be skipped in the Padre series, but it is possible this signing does not pan out. If it doesn’t the Dodgers do have Stone, Miller, and Pepiot in their hip pocket.

Not having a real closer may end up being problematic. I just don’t think Grateral is up for the gig. Evan Philips might be, but Dave seems to need him before the 9th. This isn’t the Kimbrel issue of 2022, but it is something to keep an eye on.

The complete bullpen has had one great week, but for the most part has been shaky. Going forward, is the bullpen finding their legs, or did they just have nice stretch. I prefer to think they are finding their legs, but time will tell.

Headed into this season before Lux went down I pegged the team for 102 wins. Based on what I’ve seen so far it still looks like a 98 – 102 win team as long as Mookie/Freddie stay healthy and the rotation stays moderately healthy. That win total is not exactly based on what we have right now on the 25 man roster but on the fact that this organization is in better shape than any organization to make a deal this summer to strengthen the team as they see fit. They simply have to many prospects to hoard and while they won’t be bringing in superstars like Darvish/Machado/Scherzer/Turner they can bring back complementary pieces. They don’t even need to be free agents, they can be young players who match up better with our organization then the current organization they are on. Teams that fit those needs would be the Orioles or Indians.

Anyway, those who counted the Dodgers out in 2023, are probably rewriting their columns as I write this.



  1. 68elcamino427

    Goood stuff

    I like Deluca, waiting in the wings.


    • One of Pages or DeLuca is going to be trade bait, it will be interesting to see which one it is and if it happens this summer.


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