The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Is the 2020 LA Dodgers roster the best in franchise history?

The website asserted last week that the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers roster might be the best in the franchise’s history.  With the addition of megastar Mookie Betts, as well as former Cy Young Award winner David Price to a lesser degree, to a team that won its seventh consecutive division title last year, a plausible case can be made.  However, we need to look back almost 70 years ago to find the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers roster that can hold its own, not just within Dodgers history, but across all major-league organizations.


Betts is currently one of the top five players in the majors, and he certainly makes a very good Dodgers team even better.  They had an impressive 106-56 record last year and pretty much return the same roster as last season.  Teaming Betts with Cody Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, creates one of the best-hitting combos in all of baseball.  But the existing cast around Bellinger was pretty good too, as he was one of four Dodgers players to collect 30 or more home runs last year.  The team led the National League in home runs.


Gavin Lux, who was called up late last season, may wind up being the next in a long line of Dodgers players who have won Rookie of the Year honors.  He was the Minor League Player of the Year last season, and the Dodgers took great care not to surrender to offers from other teams in trades.


The Dodgers had a whopping Run Differential of 273 in 2019.  This meant Dodgers pitching was pretty good, too.  They led the league in ERA, WHIP and SO/W.  Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw will headline the starting rotation again.  Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished second in the Cy Young Award voting, is gone this year, but that’s where Price fits in.  If 34-year-old Price returns to his performance level of a few years ago, the Dodgers won’t miss Ryu.


Another valuable, but less publicized, feature of the current Dodgers is their corps of utility players who provide a lot of flexibility on their roster.  Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Matt Beatty can play multiple positions and bat anywhere in the lineup when called on.


The Brooklyn Dodgers organization from 1947 to 1956 had an analogous run of winning teams as the current era of Dodgers.  During that timeframe, Brooklyn won six pennants (when there were only eight teams in the National League) and had three second-place finishes. 


The 1953 team had a 105-49 record, the best in franchise history until the 2019 season.  It is one of the top 15 MLB season records of all time, when the schedules consisted of 154 games.  There were four Hall of Famers on that squad:  Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, and Duke Snider.  Furthermore, many people believe first baseman Gil Hodges should be in the Hall.  Outfielder Carl Furillo was the sixth all-star on the roster that season.


The 1953 Dodgers scored 69 more runs than the 2019 Dodgers, while playing eight fewer games.  Their Run Differential (266) was equally as impressive.  The 1953 team’s slash line was .285/.366/.474, slightly better than the 2019 Dodgers’ .257/.338/.472.


On the pitching side, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher staff didn’t have the type of league-leading stats as the 2019 team, but the combination of Carl Erskine, Preacher Roe, Russ Meyer, Billy Loes, and Johnny Podres was still formidable.


The question for the 2020 season is whether newcomers Betts, Lux, and Price can put together seasons that will make the dominant 2019 team even better.  That’s a pretty tall order, even for this group of talented players.  This year’s version of the Dodgers is desperate to win a World Series title that has eluded the franchise since 1988.  If they succeed, they’ll outdo the 1953 team which wound up losing the World Series to the New York Yankees.


The Dodgers are betting on Betts.  He already had one World Series ring with the Red Sox.  He’ll be due a contract extension after this season.  Another ring with the Dodgers would put him in a position to get the largest contract ever, whether it’s with the Dodgers or someone else.

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