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Urgent bulletin: The Los Angeles Dodgers, Saturday night’s results notwithstanding, are adept at winning baseball games.
This, of course, is a familiar condition, as the Dodgers have been the most dominant squadron in Major League Baseball over the last half-decade or so and are close to securing their 10th straight postseason appearance. Moreover, the 2022 season may occasion even loftier heights by those same recent Dodger standards. With the current model on pace for 113 wins and a .696 win percentage and boasting a sky-scraping run differential of plus-278, it’s time to ponder whether the 2022 Dodgers have an appointment with history.
Actually, let’s make that plural – appointments with history – and take a closer look at where this year’s Dodgers might wind up among the great teams in the modern annals of the sport. With a number of records perhaps in range for the Dodgers, let’s take a look at it benchmark by benchmark. Forthwith! (Note: All records are for the modern era only — i..e., since 1903.)
This of course speaks to that recent dominance under Dave Roberts mentioned above. The 2022 Dodgers, as you would expect given their current pace, have a very good shot at toppling this particular mark. Down the stretch, they’ll need to go 20-17 in order to get to 107 wins during the current regular season, which would set the record. That’ll probably happen.
Obviously, this one will be a heavier lift for L.A. The 1906 Cubs, who were upset by the crosstown White Sox in the World Series, were helmed by legendary moundsman Three Finger Brown and also featured the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance poetic muses afield. During the regular season they went 116-36-3, and they closed it out on a 48-6 magma-hot streak.
The last Mariners team to make the playoffs fell to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series in that 2001 season, but a lineup that featured Rookie of the Year and MVP Ichiro Suzuki along with the likes of Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, and Bret Boone ferried them to consistent excellence during the regular season. June and July tied for their “worst” month of the season, as they went 18-9 for each of those calendar pages.
In order to catch and pass the Cubs and Mariners with 117 wins, the Dodgers will need to go 30-7 the rest of the way. That means winning at a 0.811 clip over those 37 remaining games. That’s going to be exceedingly difficult, even for a great team like the 2022 Dodgers. On the other hand, prior to their loss on Saturday to Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins, the Dodgers had won 31 of their last 38. So, yes, they are factually capable of going 30-7.
Yes, that’s an asterisk. The 2020 season was of course whittled all the way down to 60 regular season games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which makes it a dubious source of rate-based records such as win percentage. If, however, you still recognize that as the franchise-record win percentage, then the Dodgers will need to get to 117 wins in order to break — the same figure they need to set the all-time wins mark.
On the other hand, if you think a standard full season is required in order to claim such a record, then the 2022 Dodgers are on pace to set it. Presently, the 1953 Dodgers with a win percentage of .682 (105-49) hold the record. In order to break that record, the Dodgers this season will need to go at least 24-13 over the rest of the regular season schedule.
The odds are very long for this one. In order to top the 1906 Cubs’ win percentage of .762, the Dodgers will need to win 124 games this season. That would require them to go … 37-0 the rest of the way.
The Dodgers right now are very close to a .700 win percentage, and if they pull it off then they’ll become just the 11th team in MLB history to do so. Here’s a list of the current .700ers:
Yes, there are those relentlessly inconvenient 2020 Dodgers again. If you wish to dismiss them, then the 2022 Dodgers could become the 10th team to boast a .700 or greater win percentage across a full season. To get there, they’ll need to finish with a record of at least 27-10 across their remaining games.
Now let’s shift gears and look at the best ever at out-scoring the opposition. The Dodgers are right now on pace to set the franchise record for run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed) with their aforementioned mark of plus-278. As long as they can muster a run differential of at least minus-4 the rest of the way, they’ll set the record. In other words, they’re going to set the record.
Right now, the average Dodger game in 2022 has them winning by a margin of 2.2 runs. If they’re able to maintain that over the rest of the season then they’ll have a run differential of plus-359. So they’re on pace to set the all-time National League record for run differential with a good bit of room to spare.
Yes, Joe DiMaggio and the Yankees of ’39 out-scored the opposition by 411 runs. What makes that figure even more absurd is that they did so in just 152 games (106-45-1). Had they maintained that level of dominance over the contemporary slate of 162 games, then they would’ve had a run differential of plus-438. Really, they could’ve been even better. DiMaggio, who that year would win the first of his three MVP awards, missed almost six weeks with a calf injury. As well, consider that the 1939 season marked the final eight games of Lou Gehrig’s legendary career. In an alternate reality in which he wasn’t afflicted by the fatal disease that would eventually bear his name, he would’ve been the Yankees’ first baseman and very like a productive one. Instead, Gehrig’s replacement, Babe Dahlgren, was probably the Yankees’ worst player that season.
In any event, the Dodgers have a titan’s burden ahead of them if they’re to surmount that plus-411 run differential. They’ll have to out-score their remaining 37 opponents by a total of 134 runs to set the record. That means besting them by a bit more than 3.6 runs per game on average, and that’s quite difficult.
As you’ve probably figured out, the Dodgers have a strong chance at joining the ranks of those teams who have out-scored the opposition by 300 or more runs in a season. Here’s that list:
With an eminently achievable run differential of plus-22 over those final 37 games, the Dodgers will become the ninth member of the 300 club. That will probably come to pass.
Now for some things that may influence which of these records the Dodgers threaten and or break down the stretch.
The schedule: The Dodgers have played a fairly weak docket to date, as their current opponents’ average win percentage of .492 is tied for 26th in MLB. The road ahead figures to be slightly tougher. Their remaining opponents have a combined win percentage of .500; however, the Dodgers will play the narrow majority of their remaining games at home. So, yes, call it slightly tougher with much emphasis on slightly. That may not be enough to make a significant difference.
The health of the pitching staff: L.A. is of course without ace Walker Buehler, who recently underwent Tommy John surgery. Somewhat offsetting that, however, is the recent return of Dustin May from his own TJ procedure. As well, stalwart lefty Clayton Kershaw (lower back) could return to the rotation in a matter of days.
Elsewhere, the bullpen has been hit hard by injuries this season, but it’s also been one of the most effective in baseball. The corps might also be about to get healthier. Blake Treinen could be activated when rosters expand on Thursday, and Tommy Kahnle could be back for the final two weeks of the regular season. That’s but a partial listing of the returning arms who figure to be returning to the bullpen mix in the coming days and weeks.
In other words, things are trending in the right direction when it comes to the Dodgers’ pitching injuries.
The early clinch: The Dodgers are a lock to win the National League West and secure a first-round bye in the NL postseason bracket. They also at this writing have a 6.5-game lead over the Mets for best record in baseball and the right to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Assuming the Dodgers clinch best overall record with a chunk of schedule left, Roberts will probably spot-rest his regulars and treat his starting pitchers more conservatively.
With any other team, you’d assume a notable decline in quality under such circumstances, but the Dodgers’ frankly absurd roster depth should soften that blow. That said, you might see the pace drop off a bit when the Dodgers almost inevitably shift to “rest and stay healthy” mode in advance of October.
Because this is how we do things in sports, the 2022 Dodgers will be judged by how they fare in the postseason, when the randomness native to baseball drives so many outcomes. Regardless of how that goes, though, it’s fair to call the 2022 Dodgers an example of baseball greatness. They may soon solidify that standing with one or more records that speak to that greatness.
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