As the Dodgers head into the off-season they do it as the World Series champions. Last year I wrote one of these articles after the 2019 season and the early playoff exit. Even with the crowning achievement of a championship, there will be player movement and the continued evolution of players that will remain with the team.
We Don’t Know When The Next Championship Will Come
When the Dodgers won it all in 1988, there was no way you could have convinced me the Dodgers (and fans) would wait 32 years to win it again. I encourage you to enjoy this as much as you can. Please don’t let the naysayers get you down. Do what you can to ignore them. This Dodgers team, with the best record in baseball, had the same basic path to the World Series as a team below .500. The Dodgers were amazing and we can all celebrate it.
Dave Roberts Will Be The Manager As Long As He Wants
With the World Series win, Dave Roberts has guaranteed himself the manager’s job for as long as he wants it. Yes, he will still make decisions we will disagree with but he showed a lot of growth in the way he managed the bullpen. Particularly in the last two games of the World Series. He was burned in game 4 with some of his decisions and he did not repeat them in the next two games. Using Austin Barnes as the catcher for all pitchers was also an important show of flexibility. It looks like he found a nice blend of analytics and the actual flow of the game and the series.
The Closer Role Will Continue To Evolve
It is clear that the Dodgers had better success in closing out games when the closer role wasn’t just automatically one pitcher. The Dodgers played the matchups and the hot hand quite well in games 5 and 6 of the World Series. The end result was relatively stress-free later innings. In the playoffs the Dodgers had five different pitchers get a save. The only times when things got stressful in the late innings was when the Dodgers went with pitchers that weren’t the best option.
Walker Buehler Is A Playoff Stud
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 24, 2020
Many of us were worried about his blisters for good reason but those became less of an issue as the playoffs moved forward.
A quick look at Buehler’s career playoff statistics:
- Games started – 11
- Innings Pitched – 61.1
- ERA – 2.35
- Hits – 39
- Strikeouts – 83
Oh, and Clayton Kershaw was very good in the 2020 postseason! Dave Roberts mentioned the fact that Kershaw was given a more traditional starting role this October over short rest starts and relief appearances, and he thrived.
According to FanGraphs, here’s how the Dodgers infielders ranked at their position with a minimum of 200 innings played:
- C – Austin Barnes – 14th out of 35
- C – Will Smith – 30th out of 35
- 1B – Max Muncy – 24th out of 32
- 2B – Kiké Hernandez – 30th out of 33
- SS – Corey Seager – 30th out of 31
- 3B – Justin Turner – 19th out of 28
- LF – AJ Pollock (198 innings) – 22nd out of 26
- CF – Cody Bellinger – 11th out of 28
- RF – Mookie Betts – 2nd out of 26
For a team that values being efficient in getting outs, these numbers are unacceptable. Just like 2019 this team is mediocre defensively. If the eye test wasn’t enough during the season then these numbers should not shock you. The defense did seem to step it up in most cases in the 2020 playoffs but for a full 162 game season, there needs to be an improvement. The better the defense the less stress on the pitching staff.
Corey Seager Is A Free Agent After 2021
The Dodgers need to decide on how Corey Seager fits into the long-term plans. What we saw from Seager throughout 2020 is a franchise-type player. When healthy, Seager is an MVP candidate who is the best overall hitter on the team.
COREY SEAGER OWNS OCTOBER. pic.twitter.com/MM8JSLkMxx
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 25, 2020
There are questions about his long-term position and he has had health issues. His agent is Scott Boras which makes everything a bit more difficult. Let’s hope the Dodgers can sign the 2020 World Series MVP to a long-term contract.
There Will Be Changes
The Dodgers have seven free agents who were on the World Series roster:
Each of those players contributed to winning the World Series. Some have been with the Dodgers for at least six years and have become fan favorites. If the Dodgers lose any of these players then the Dodgers need to figure out how to replace them. The Dodgers do have players in their farm system who do need an opportunity to play. I have a feeling that some fan favorites will be with new teams in 2021. At least they were able to win a World Series with the Dodgers which could make it a little easier for them to leave.
The Dodgers Are Loaded At Catcher
Will Smith had an excellent 2020 and is the established number one catcher. He does have some work to do on defense, but a full Spring Training should help. One of the biggest surprises was the re-emergence of the offense of Austin Barnes. When it came to the playoffs it was essential to have Barnes catch those games. He was great with all the pitchers, framed well, and kept runners from advancing on balls in the dirt.
Their number two prospect is Keibert Ruiz who hit a home run in his first big league at-bat. He is ready for the major leagues. Diego Cartaya is their number five prospect but he is probably 2-3 years away. With an abundance of riches at catcher don’t be surprised if there is a trade with one of them or maybe a position change. I could see Will Smith getting some time at third base in the future.
We Have No Idea What The Budget Will Be In 2021
The Dodgers have not spoken about what they might do regarding spending in 2021. There are so many unknowns with the biggest one being the question of fans in the stands. We’ve already heard teams complaining about losing money in 2020, including Stan Kasten and LA. Who knows what will happen in 2021.
Keep Trusting The Kids
So many of the young pitchers stepped it up in the playoffs. The only ones that really struggles were Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. I blame some of their issues on how they were used. How about those performances by Julio Urías, Brusdar Graterol, and Victor Gonzalez. I hope that Gavin Lux is given a full shot again at second base. Players such as Zach McKinstry, Mitchell White, and Josiah Gray are all about ready to make an impact.
A Six Man Rotation Makes Sense
Hopefully, the 2021 season will be 162 games. With David Price returning in 2021 the Dodgers have six major league ready starting pitchers. The club also has top prospect Josiah Gray and Mitchell White close to ready. This is how the rotation would look:
- Walker Buehler
- Clayton Kershaw
- David Price
- Julio Urías
- Dustin May
- Tony Gonsolin
This allows the Dodgers to limit the wear and tear on the arms while allowing all the young pitchers to have a well-deserved spot in the rotation. Remember, Walker Buehler has trouble getting started during the season so an extra days rest would probably help him. Both Kershaw and Price are not getting any younger either.
What Do You Think?
What might the 2021 team look like? Drop your thoughts in the comments below! Some of these thoughts started more than a month ago and even when things got rough during the postseason. Despite some weaknesses that we all saw they were the best baseball team throughout the 2020 season. There is no reason for them not to continue to dominate and even get better.