In 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers won a franchise-record 106 games and took home their seventh consecutive NL West division title before falling to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS. The club's unexpectedly early exit in the 2019 postseason put more pressure on the 2020 Dodgers -- and that was before they added another superstar.
The Dodgers will enter the 2020 season -- once again -- as the best team on paper in the National League, but it's not about winning a pennant in a shortened campaign. The club is hungrier than ever for a ring, and their blockbuster offseason trade for former AL MVP Mookie Betts proves it. The Dodgers are still going to focus on winning a World Series, no matter the season's length.
Manager Dave Roberts doesn't think that the unique season shouldn't make a difference on how the 2020 World Series champions should be regarded.
"There will be no asterisk," Roberts said earlier this year. "When you look at all of the hurdles, keeping your team together emotionally, and what your players have to do differently to prepare for this season, you can argue it would mean more than going through the duration and grind of an eight-month season."
"I think if there's a championship to be won, we're going to do everything in our power to win that championship," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner added to the Los Angeles Times. "So, people are going to say whatever they're going to say but if there's an opportunity to win a championship, we're going to show up every day and work towards that goal and do everything we can to win it."
Over the last three seasons, the Dodgers have come close to getting that elusive title twice. The 2017 World Series was a seven-game loss to the Houston Astros; 2018 saw L.A. lose to the Boston Red Sox in five games. With this offseason's findings that both Houston and Boston participated in illegal sign-stealing schemes during their respective title seasons, the Dodgers' pain from the back-to-back World Series losses has shifted to anger.
Plenty of Dodgers players (Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger and others) shared their frustrations about the sign-stealing scandals and the league's subsequent investigations and punishments. They'll certainly be heading into the 2020 season with an ax to grind. Lucky for them, as part of the new geographically based schedule, the Dodgers will get to face the Astros four times during the 2020 regular season.
The Dodgers have all the right pieces to succeed in an abbreviated season, but will they finally break through and win it all in 2020? Let's preview the Dodgers.
Win total projection, odds
2020 Sportsline projection: 40-20
World Series odds (via William Hill Sportsbook): 13/4
2019 record: 106-56 (Lost to Nationals in NLDS)
|DATE||OPP||TIME / TV||VENUE|
|Jul 23, 2020||vs San Francisco||10:08 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 24, 2020||vs San Francisco||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 25, 2020||vs San Francisco||4:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 26, 2020||vs San Francisco||10:08 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Jul 28, 2020||@ Houston||9:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Jul 29, 2020||@ Houston||7:10 pm||Minute Maid Park|
|Jul 30, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Jul 31, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 1, 2020||@ Arizona||8:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 2, 2020||@ Arizona||4:10 pm||Chase Field|
|Aug 3, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 4, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 5, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Aug 7, 2020||vs San Francisco||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 8, 2020||vs San Francisco||9:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 9, 2020||vs San Francisco||4:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 10, 2020||vs San Diego||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 11, 2020||vs San Diego||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 12, 2020||vs San Diego||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 13, 2020||vs San Diego||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 14, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Aug 15, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Aug 16, 2020||@ L.A. Angels||4:10 pm||Angel Stadium of Anaheim|
|Aug 17, 2020||vs Seattle||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 18, 2020||vs Seattle||7:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 19, 2020||@ Seattle||9:40 pm||T-Mobile Park|
|Aug 20, 2020||@ Seattle||7:10 pm||T-Mobile Park|
|Aug 21, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 22, 2020||vs Colorado||9:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 23, 2020||vs Colorado||4:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Aug 25, 2020||@ San Francisco||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 26, 2020||@San Francisco||9:45 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 27, 2020||@ San Francisco||8:05 pm||Oracle Park|
|Aug 28, 2020||@ Texas||9:05 pm||Globe Life Field|
|Aug 29, 2020||@ Texas||7:05 pm||Globe Life Field|
|Aug 30, 2020||@ Texas||2:35 pm||Globe Life Field|
|Sep 1, 2020||vs Arizona||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 2, 2020||vs Arizona||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 3, 2020||vs Arizona||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 4, 2020||vs Colorado||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 5, 2020||vs Colorado||9:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 6, 2020||vs Colorado||10:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 8, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 9, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 10, 2020||@ Arizona||9:40 pm||Chase Field|
|Sep 12, 2020||vs Houston||8:07 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 13, 2020||vs Houston||TBA||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 14, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 15, 2020||@ San Diego||9:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 16, 2020||@ San Diego||4:10 pm||Petco Park|
|Sep 17, 2020||@ Colorado||8:40 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 18, 2020||@ Colorado||8:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 19, 2020||@ Colorado||8:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 20, 2020||@ Colorado||3:10 pm||Coors Field|
|Sep 22, 2020||vs Oakland||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 23, 2020||vs Oakland||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 24, 2020||vs Oakland||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 25, 2020||vs L.A. Angels||9:40 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 26, 2020||vs L.A. Angels||9:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
|Sep 27, 2020||vs L.A. Angels||3:10 pm||Dodger Stadium|
- RF Mookie Betts
- 1B Max Muncy
- 3B Justin Turner
- CF Cody Bellinger
- DH Joc Pederson
- LF A.J. Pollock
- SS Corey Seager
- C Will Smith
- 2B Gavin Lux
The Dodgers are built to be the best team in baseball. They don't really have a bad lineup option, and it's likely manager Dave Roberts is going to play around with it semi-frequently. In a 60-game schedule, the teams who will find the most success are those with versatile and flexible rosters.
Betts, Bellinger and Pollock (if he is and stays 100 percent healthy) could arguably be one of the strongest outfields in baseball. There's also flexibility with Hernandez, Taylor and Pederson all able to fill in at outfield spots.
It's also going to benefit the Dodgers to have the designated hitter the entire season; the universal DH was agreed upon as one of the rule changes for the 2020 season. Since the Dodgers depth is practically limitless, Roberts will be able to use Turner, Pederson, Muncy or Pollock at the DH spot. Roberts told MLB Network Radio last month that he does not expect to have a full-time DH this season. Instead, he's planning to use the spot as a partial day-off for regular players, depending on the handedness of the starting pitcher.
David Price, who was acquired in the Betts trade, announced that he would be opting out of the 2020 season. Price had been expected to be the Dodgers' No. 3 starter, behind Kershaw and Buehler. Hyun-jin Ryu is another key loss; the veteran southpaw left via free agency and signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Closer: RHP Kenley Jansen
- Setup: RHP Pedro Baez, RHP Joe Kelly
- Middle: RHP Blake Treinen, RHP Dylan Floro, LHP Caleb Ferguson, RHP Brusdar Graterol, LHP Adam Kolarek, LHP Scott Alexander
- Long: RHP Tony Gonsolin, RHP Dustin May
The Dodgers had their fair share of bullpen issues last season. But despite the underperformance in 2019, the club has the right pitchers to bounce back this year.
Can Mookie help deliver a title?
With this shortened season, Betts will have to play a bigger role in simply getting the Dodgers to the postseason. Dodgers fans are going to declare their Betts trade a success or failure based on whether or not they are able to bring home a championship.
The 27-year-old Betts will be a free agent this winter, and, given his age and performance, it was thought that he could command upward of $400 million. Due to the pandemic, that number might be suppressed, but L.A. would love to keep Betts in Dodger blue beyond 2020. It's worth noting that if the 2020 season is forced to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, players will receive a year of service time. (This was agreed upon in the MLB/MLBPA March agreement)
Betts says has no regrets about rejecting a reported 10-year, $300 million offer from the Red Sox last offseason.
The 2018 AL MVP is slated to occupy the Dodgers leadoff spot when the regular season gets underway. He'll also be the club's everyday right fielder. Betts has won four consecutive Gold Gloves and leads the league with 93 defensive runs saved in right field since 2016.
No Price, no problem?
Even after the loss of Price and Ryu (plus Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda), the Dodgers rotation still looks pretty solid on paper. Future Hall of Famer Kershaw and 2020 Cy Young candidate Buehler will look to lead the way on the club's rotation, while the 23-year-old Urias, lefty Wood and seasoned swingman Stripling will follow.
Manager Dave Roberts will also be able to turn to young right-handers Dustin May, Brusdar Graterol and Tony Gonsolin. But, the Dodgers will lose out out on veteran right-hander Jimmy Nelson this year due to back surgery. The procedure is expected to keep him out for the entirety of this season. The Dodgers signed Nelson as a low-risk, high-reward option this past January.
With some of the questions and uncertainties surrounding the rotation, the Dodgers are going to be hoping for some breakout performances from some of their top youngsters.
Can Jansen bounce back?
When you're playing just 60 regular-season games, keeping relievers healthy is going to be a huge key to success. While Kershaw and Buehler can go deep into games, it could always be a safe bet for the Dodgers to try the piggybacking method and take starters out earlier than usual. But, there are some other issues the Dodgers are facing, including the health of Dodgers closer Jansen after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Jansen told reporters at Dodgers camp that he never considered opting out of this season.
"I always wanted to play," Jansen said. "I love this game. I wanted to play for the fans. Not only Dodger fans, but baseball fans around the world to have something to watch on TV."
Although Jansen said that he expects to be ready by Opening Day, as of now, he is not cleared.
In 2019, Jansen posted a 3.71 ERA, 3.48 FIP and 1.06 WHIP with 80 strikeouts and 16 walks in 63 innings across 62 regular-season appearances while converting 33 of 41 save opportunities. Jansen has been in a decline for each of the last two seasons, but the Dodgers were hoping for a bounce back in 2020. The 32-year-old even spent time at the acclaimed pitching facility Driveline this offseason as he tried to recapture his cutter. The Dodgers later announced the hiring of Driveline's Rob Hill as a pitching coordinator. (He also worked with Kershaw, Wood, Kelly this offseason)
It's possible that Blake Treinen, an offseason signing, could take over the closer role, if necessary. Treinen, 32, has recorded 71 saves in his career, including 38 during the 2018 season, when he posted a dominant 0.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 across 80.1 innings. However, Treinen's 2019 season didn't see nearly the same impressive numbers as his 2018 marks. He threw 58 2/3 innings with a 4.91 ERA and was non-tendered by Oakland.