Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2021
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers ended their season when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. While every member of the Dodger organization and Dodger fan are disappointed the team could not repeat as world champions, the Dodgers had a miraculous season.
While their string of eight National League Western Division titles of eight ended since the San Francisco Giants had a phenomenal season with 107 victories, the Dodgers constantly battled with injuries. Both Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger missed more than two months. Their fifth starter Dustin May had a Tommy John surgery in May. Tony Gonsolin missed over half of the 2021 season with shoulder inflammation and could not pitch the same level as he did the 2020 season. Clayton Kershaw missed essentially the second half of the 2021 season, including the postseason. For a large portion of the 2021 season, the Dodgers had only two healthy starters – Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. Both Buehler and Urías ran out of gas during the postseason.
A sore hip hampered Mookie Betts until he had two cortisone shots, and the Dodgers do not know what Betts will need during the offseason to remain productive for the remaining ten years on his contract. On the last Sunday of the regular season, Max Muncy dislocated his elbow, which prevented him from participating in the postseason. The Dodgers missed Muncy’s 36 home runs and patient approach at the plate. During the NLCS, the Dodgers suffered injuries to Justin Turner and Joe Kelly. Max Scherzer with a tired arm could not start Game 6. No one knows if the Dodgers were healthy that the Braves could have beaten them, and I would have loved to see that series.
The elephant in the Dodger dugout is Trevor Bauer, and with Bauer, the Dodgers might have repeated as world champions. I will never criticize an athlete for having an injury, which occurs on the field or off, but Bauer did not have an injury that made him unable to compete on the Major-League field. Bauer reportedly likes rough sexual relations with women, and one of them decided to press charges. Major League Baseball has a domestic violence policy, and Bauer did not obey the policy. Therefore, the Major Leagues suspended Bauer. By watching his YouTube videos, Bauer does not respect the rules of the Major Leagues.
Before winning the 2020 National League Cy Young Award, Bauer was an ordinary starter, but he had been durable. This is what the Dodgers needed in 2021, and if they had him during the 2021 playoffs, the outcome might have been different. Both the Dodgers and Bauer have a mutual option for 2022, and many Dodgers do not want Bauer back.
Although the Dodgers led the National league in runs scored, their offense was inconsistent through the NLCS. They had the eleventh highest batting average in the National League. Because of this, they must resign Seager and Taylor, who have the highest batting averages on the team. A healthy Bellinger will hit higher than .167. The Dodgers were too home run reliant, and they needed to utilize their speed. During the postseason, the team stole 16 bases. Using their speed more would have helped the Dodgers to manufacture runs.
While Trea Turner won a batting championship, which was the first Dodger to do so since Tommy Davis in 1963, Turner choked during the postseason. The Dodgers were relying on him to contribute greatly to the offense, particularly in Muncy’s absence.
The 2021 Dodgers were not a good defensive team, causing many unearned runs and extra work for pitchers. The opposing teams ran on both Will Smith and pitchers. Gavin Lux made errors anywhere he played. While Justin Turner and Seager had limited range, they were usually surehanded. Muncy has become an excellent first baseman. Not having Bellinger in center field hurt the defense.
The strength of the Dodgers was their bullpen. While Dodger fans love to criticize Kenley Jansen, he had a remarkable 2021 season, and he is a free agent. The Dodgers must re-sign Jansen, a future Hall of Famer. Blake Treinen was marvelous through the season. The emergence of Phil Bickford, Alex Vesia, and Justin Bruihl helped the Dodgers could hold onto most late-inning leads. Mostly, Brusdar Graterol struggled, but after he found a reliable devastating slider, both the San Francisco Giants and the Braves found him to be unhittable. Although Joe Kelly, a free agent, was incredibly effective, he has proven to fragile. The Dodgers should not re-sign Kelly.