With the season set to begin in tomorrow, we’ve decided to finish out the Out of the Park 21 simulation of the Dodgers’ season.
When we left off (July 19), the Dodgers were 60-40 and in first place in the NL West. They were on a 97-win pace and staring an 8th consecutive division title in the face.
Then, the injuries hit. Hard.
First, Will Smith broke his foot and missed three weeks. The NL All-Star starting catcher was hitting .288/.366/.512 at the time.
Then, perhaps the biggest injury of the season hit. Clayton Kershaw — sporting a 14-0 record and a nifty 3.17 ERA and contending for the NL Cy Young Award — tore his rotator cuff. It ended his season, put his 2021 season in some jeopardy and, at this stage of his career, could alter the rest of his time as an MLB pitcher.
Then, in late August, Julio Urias came down with elbow tendinitis and was set to miss about six weeks of action. The hits to the rotation came after David Price‘s labrum opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season.
Fortunately, the Dodgers had Walker Buehler. He put the pitching staff on his shoulders and did his best to lead the Dodgers. He finished the season 19-5 with a 3.19 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 10.9 K/9 and a league-best 6.6 WAR. He also led the league in innings pitched (220) and strikeouts (266).
The Dodgers also, fortunately, acquired Lance Lynn from the Rangers a few days before the trade deadline (and about 10 days before Kershaw’s injury), so the rotation was in better shape than you might think. Still, this is the rag-tag group the Dodgers had going into the stretch run:
Yeah, not pretty. And Lynn wasn’t that great in his LA tenure. He had a 4.57 ERA, 4.64 FIP and forgot how to miss bats (6.6 K/9). Still, he provided the Dodgers’ starting rotation with much-needed innings.
To acquire Lynn, they had to trade Keibert Ruiz and Austin Barnes. It’s an odd trade on the surface, especially since they had just lost Smith for a few weeks, but the combination of Jose Lobaton and Rocky Gale, somehow, held the fort down until Smith returned.
They acquired Brandon Kintzler earlier in the season, but the bullpen additions weren’t done yet. The Dodgers sent Tyler White to Atlanta for Shane Greene and 80-grade name minor-leaguer Maverik Buffo.
Greene was good for the Dodgers. He posted a 1.83 ERA and 2.93 FIP in 19 2/3 innings. Kintzler’s acquisition didn’t work out quite as well (4.52 ERA in 63 2/3 IP), but he did have a sharp 2.80 FIP.
The Dodgers struggled through the rest of the summer, and the Padres ultimately passed them in the standings and won the NL West comfortably. The Dodgers once trailed SD by 12 games, as they limped to a 92-70 record to claim the first Wild Card spot, and they did so on the strength of their offense.
Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Gavin Lux and Corey Seager all hit .299 or better, and all hit at least 30 home runs. Here’s a more detailed look at their offensive prowess (as well as the other regulars):
The simulation leaned heavily on the Dodgers’ core players. Aside from injury, these guys were in the lineup most days, as evidenced by Turner’s 160 games played, which would never happen IRL (and neither would his 16 stolen bases!).
Bellinger led the league with 132 runs scored, while Seager’s 51 doubles and 120 RBIs both led the league.
So, despite injuries and some shoddy pitching, the Dodgers still made it to the postseason. They hosted the Cubs in the Wild Card game. Tune in tomorrow to see the results of their playoff run — no matter how short or long it may be.