Was Dodgers’ 2022 problem a lack of fiery, emotional players?
Outside of Alex Vesia’s earth-shattering roars as he marched off the mound, did anybody on the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2022 strike you as fiery, passionate or emotional? (No, we’re not counting Hanser Alberto’s pepper-grinder celebration.)
Not really. The Dodgers are mostly a reserved team. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux … not the expressive types. Max Muncy, though? Absolutely … but not when he’s playing at a career-worst clip.
As for the pitching staff, Walker Buehler felt like the lone bulldog in the rotation whereas guys like Julio Urías, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin don’t exactly wear their emotions on their sleeve. We could do the same and go down the list in the bullpen. Sans Vesia, nobody here is what you’d call “imposing” on the personality front. Well, maybe Blake Treinen’s mere presence.
Nonetheless, it’s worth wondering if the Dodgers’ 111-win machine was incomplete thanks to the lack of a domineering emotional, charismatic presence. Maybe that’s why they were a machine?
More times than not, it’s felt like the Dodgers have failed to dig deep in October. Whether they needed a gutsy start or a timely hit, the best LA rosters in recent memory have fallen unacceptably short.
Did 2022 Dodgers lack emotional players with big clubhouse presence?
Then Dodgers fans think back to 2020 and remember the contributions from guys like Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernandez, both of whom continued their impressive runs in 2021 with the World Champion Atlanta Braves and ALCS darling Boston Red Sox.
Even Yasiel Puig offered a spark in 2017 and 2018 that many may not like to admit.
And this time around, looking at postseason track records … the proof was kind of in the pudding. The Dodgers had a historic regular-season team, but that doesn’t always translate to the playoffs.
- Freddie Freeman – 46 career postseason games in 13 MLB seasons
- Mookie Betts – .264 AVG, .741 OPS in 55 postseason games
- Trea Turner – .238 AVG, .614 OPS in 43 postseason games
- Will Smith – .204 AVG, .654 OPS, 39 strikeouts in 38 postseason games
- Gavin Lux – .216 AVG, .634 OPS in 18 career postseason games
JT, Muncy and Taylor are on the only ones with respectable numbers and ample playoff experience. For everyone else … on top of lacking either one or the other, there really aren’t any demonstrative characters.
For the sake of observation, perhaps that’s what Andrew Friedman needs to focus on in the offseason, in addition to the other potential vacancies (shortstop, center field, rotation, bullpen) on the roster. If there was a bit more fire on the 2022 squad, there’s an argument to be had the scales would’ve been tipped in their favor.
Once again, baseball fans are reminded of the all-important human element of the game that’s sometimes ignored by analytically-forward front offices.