It’s hard to believe that the season is over. It’s was just March, and now here we are once again on the cusp of the playoffs. In that time, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave us a regular season for the record books. Record homers, record rookies, and record wins.
With a sweep of the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers finished with a record of 106-56. They did it by not going 18-1 or 17-2 against a particularly bad team, either, as those teams over in the AL did, either. Those 106 wins are best ever for a Dodgers team, besting both the 2017 Los Angeles record of 104, and the Brooklyn Dodgers record of 105.
The longest losing streak of the season was six, in early April, and the longest winning streak was seven games to close out the season. They won 34 series, a +273 run differential, and 21 games ahead of the second place Arizona Diamondbacks. A far cry from just last season when they had to play a game 163 to determine who would win the NL West.
The Dodgers most likely have the NL MVP on their team. Cody Bellinger finished the regular season with 47 homers, .305 batting average, 1.035 OPS and 115 RBI. He started the season in another world, batting .416 with 10 homers runs through the end of April. While his production declined throughout the season, he never dipped below .300 and shows signs of turning it back on as the regular season ended.
Before the season started, writers and fans alike thought Max Muncy should be traded while his value was high. Many thought he would not sustain his 2018 success. All he did was make the All-Star team, play two positions in first and second, and hit 35 homers. One of those home runs will forever go down in Dodgers lore, when he hit a bomb off Madison Bumgarner of the Giants who of course took exception to it. After some jarring, Max told Bumgarner to “go get it out of the ocean!”, giving Dodger fans everywhere delight and another reason to buy a t-shirt.
In addition to Muncy and Bellinger, Joc Pederson had 36 home runs on the season, giving the Dodgers three players over the 35 home run mark. They also had 11 players with 10 home runs or more.
On the pitching side, the Dodgers also did very well, leading the majors in team ERA at 3.37, and WHIP of 1.10. They allowed the second fewest home runs in a year that everyone hit homers, issued the least amount of walks, and allowed the least amount of hits and runs.
Individually, Hyun-Jin Ryu finished the season with the lowest ERA in all of baseball, 2.32. Overall he finished at 14-5, with a 1.01 WHIP. He was unstoppable to start the year, and faltered a bit in the later part of the season. He has looked great in the last few outings, and ready for October. Ryu didn’t do it with insane fastballs and strikeouts, but rather by missing bats and inducing weak hits. He also saved his best bit of the season for last, hitting a home run in his final start, causing everyone from fans to the Dodgers broadcast team to literary jump for joy.
Clayton Kershaw also enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in 2019. Another player written off as past his time and not the ace of the staff anymore, Kershaw ended the regular season 16-5, with an ERA of 3.03. While that ERA is the second highest of his career, it was good enough for 10th overall in the majors.
But truly, the Pitcher of the Year for the Dodgers pitching staff was Russell Martin. Usually behind home plate, Martin was called upon to pitch in a few blowout games to save some relief pitchers’ arms. He appeared in four games, for a total of 4.0 innings, and only allowed two hits, and finished the season with a 0.00 ERA. Not too shabby for an aging catcher.
But when most of us look back at the Dodgers’ 2019 regular season, it will be remembered as the Year of the Rookie. Alex Verdugo, Will Smith, Dustin May, Gavin Lux, Tony Gonsolin, and Matt Beaty all made huge impacts on the team this season, even though none of the them were with the team for the whole season.
Verdugo forced the Dodgers to include him on the roster to begin the year, by his hot spring training and impressive start to the season. He is currently derailed by injury, however and is unlikely to be back for the playoffs. Thanks to starting catcher Austin Barnes having a terrible year at the plate, Will Smith became the full time starting catcher and never relinquished the spot. He had 15 homers in only 170 at-bats, batting .253 for the year. Once again, he regressed towards the end of the season but has now made the right adjustments to being in the majors.
Gavin Lux started the season at Double-A Tulsa, and has most likely found himself on the postseason roster. Pitchers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin also both have a really good chance at pitching for the Dodgers in the postseason out of the bullpen. And while Matt Beaty isn’t producing quite as well as he was when he was brought up, he had quite a few timely hits to win multiple games for the Boys in Blue.
Who could forget when the Dodgers played the Colorado Rockies in June and every game was won by a different Rookie who walked it off. Matt Beaty started it off with a winning two run homer, Verdugo followed the next night with a homer to win it in 11 innings, and Smith finished off the weekend and the Rockies with a three-run winner of his own. No team had ever won a series like that until the Dodgers did.
So many highlights from the season, and we didn’t even touch on the game where the Dodgers won on five consecutive walks, or Corey Seager looking so much like his old self, and tying the NL lead for doubles even after missing a big chunk of the season to injury.
I didn’t think we’d see another team like the 2017 team, because that team seemed truly special. But there is also something incredibly special about this one. The players have all bought into the “doesn’t matter who it is, so long as it gets done” mentality. Many players have talked about how the rookies feel welcomed, and free to be themselves, and that comfortability is transparent on field. Over the last two seasons the Dodgers have gathered all they need to know about winning a World Championship, and bring the heartache of losing the last two with them to this quest to finally win it all.
It could be easy to fall victim to the tiring nature of two long postseasons back to back, be affected by so many changes to the roster and new faces in the dugout. But this team seems nonplussed, having their greatest regular season ever and hopefully, one of their greatest postseasons ever.