After a long offseason, opening day is just around the corner for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As the days lead up, an intriguing experiment is projecting how many wins the Dodgers can accumulate this season. Last year they won a franchise record 106 games, with arguably less talent than they have now.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) March 4, 2020
To help answer this question, I employed the help of Out of the Park Baseball’s simulator engine with updated rosters. I simulated the 2020 season ten different times to gain a decent sample size, and the results were definitely notable. (Each simulation takes quite a bit of time, so sadly getting a truly large sample size such as 100 simulations, wasn’t viable).
|Trial Number||Wins||Playoff Outcome|
|1||92||Lose – NLCS|
|3||86||Lose – Wild Card|
|5||91||Lose – NLDS|
|6||100||Lose – World Series|
|7||88||Lose – NLDS|
|10||96||Lose- World Series|
Lots of things to break down here. For the non-mathmeticians out there, the average amount of wins is 95, and the median is 94. This may seem a little light to some, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, injuries. In a vast majority of the simulations, the Dodgers dealt with significant injuries ranging from Cody Bellinger missing three months with a fractured wrist, to Walker Buehler missing the entire year with arm soreness.
In addition, the Dodgers have some players OOTP isn’t exactly fond for. The game bases ratings mostly off of last year’s performance, which is bad news for Alex Wood, Blake Treinen, and others. In reality, bounce back years are widely expected for these guys, as well as others who are primed for improvement, such as Corey Seager, AJ Pollock, and Kenley Jansen.
As for the playoff outcomes, Dodger fans have a lot to be excited about. In 30% of the simulations, the Dodgers won it all, and in half they won the NL. 30% may seem low given the expectations for the team this year, but championship probabilities tend to be very low regardless of how the team looks on paper. Fangraphs has the Dodgers pegged at 20%, still more than any other team. Vegas has them at a little less than 4/1 odds, an implied probability in the 20-25% range.
Enter to Win a Gavin Lux Signed Ball!
The best year for LA was in trial 8, with 108 wins and a World Series victory. This is essentially a best-case scenario. Cody Bellinger won MVP in this virtual world, and Mookie Betts placed in second. Walker Buehler just fell a few votes shy of NL Cy Young, Justin Turner had a resurgent five-win season, and the Dodgers bullpen ranked first in the NL in ERA. This is what is referred to as a 99th percentile outcome.
On the other end of the spectrum is the first percentile outcome, which in this case was trial 3. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong in this simulation. Cody Bellinger missed extended time to injury, as did Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Joc Pederson, and Kenley Jansen. The remaining players struggled. Betts posted a three-win season, shabby for his standards. Justin Turner was hardly above replacement level. Will Smith was demoted midseason due to poor performance. Despite all this, the Dodgers finished second in the division and actually made it to the wild card game, but the season ended there.
In all the simulations except one the Dodgers won the division, which aligns with their odds to do so according to Fangraphs, 91%. Even the lone year they did not, as referred to above, they still made the wild card game, which counts as a playoff berth. The fact that even in the worst possible simulation they still made the playoffs is a comforting feeling.
While ten OOTP simulations is not nearly enough to make any bold statements, it is safe to say there is a lot to be excited for this year as a Dodgers fan. The team is as good on paper as its ever been, and seems to have the right mix of pieces to make a championship run. Here’s to a special 2020 season.