Remember when the Los Angeles Dodgers subtracted their de facto captain, 2019 MVP and second-most dynamic player from a 111-win offense and replaced them with ... rookies, over-the-hill vets, misfit toys, and empty space?
Yeah. They might've gotten better on offense.
Or, at least, they've certainly maintained their intensity, buoyed by a resurgent performance from JD Martinez, a relentless Freddie Freeman streak, a leveling up from Will Smith, and some impressive contributions from rookies James Outman, Miguel Vargas, and the since-demoted Michael Busch.
The pitching? Yeah, the depth might be an issue. Bobby Miller looks special, but he can't plug every hole created by Julio Urías, Dustin May, Walker Buehler and (potentially) Noah Syndergaard. As for the offense, though, the never-say-die Dodgers appear to be covered, and their secret appears to have gotten out.
During an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this week, former Phillies closer Brad Lidge noted that, from where he's standing, not much has changed year-to-year in terms of how the Dodgers' offense is viewed. They still exude toughness, and might be the deepest unit in the National League.
Dodgers are NL's best lineup, per MLB's Brad Lidge
"Just thinking about the Atlanta Braves as the team we always want to pivot to as the best-hitting team, whatever, but I think the Dodgers probably are still the toughest lineup, night in and night out. Especially in LA," Lidge noted in his Wednesday appearance. "There's just magic for them when they hit there, and there has been for a decade, so don't expect that to go anywhere."
Lidge didn't just give credit to the big guns, though. He also noted that the Dodgers' supremacy bleeds all the way onto their bench, and that the experience of Martinez, David Peralta and Jason Heyward could prove invaluable as the season drags on (and as the team's rookies hit their inevitable skids).
As for the guys the Dodgers allowed to depart? Justin Turner's been fine; his 105 OPS+ pales in comparison to Martinez's 140 mark, but he's been fine. Trea Turner's been less than that, polishing off an 81 OPS+ in Year 1 of an 11-year deal. Cody Bellinger's pillow contract? He's outpaced Outman, but for $20 million more.
The more things change, the more the magic stays the same, and the NL's other contenders are on notice.