Monday, September 28, 2020
Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2020
Sunday was the last day of the unusual 60-game regular season, and the Dodgers completed the season with a three-game sweep of the Angels. The Dodgers lost only one series during the 2020 regular season as they earned the best record (43-17) in the Major Leagues.
The Dodgers led the National League in ERA, runs scored, and home runs. In 2020, they were the only team not to be shutout. At no time during this season, the Dodgers looked overwhelmed. While Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson never hit for a batting average as the Dodgers expected, the addition to Mookie Betts and the re-emergence of AJ Pollock, Corey Seager, and Chris Taylor helped the offensive production.
When Dodger President Andrew Friedman obtained Betts from the Boston Red Sox, I did not understand what the whoopla was about. I liked watching outfielder Alex Verdugo play, and he brought an enthusiasm to the Dodgers needed. I still think Verdugo is destined to be a star and an American League batting champion someday.
As usual when I am a cautious about a Dodger, I am wrong. I have watched the Dodgers for forty-three years, and I have not had the privilege to watch a player that possessed as much talent as Betts has demonstrated on a daily basis. Betts throws like Yasiel Puig, but he always hits the cutoff man. He runs like Brett Butler, and he has baseball instincts. He can hit for a high batting average and has a knack of delivering under pressure. His sixteen home runs are tied with Pollock for the team’s lead. Betts brought a seriousness that the Dodgers needed to take them to next level.
During the 2019-2020 off-season, most Dodger fans wanted the Dodgers to trade AJ Pollock after having a poor 2019 season, including striking out all his at-bats during the NLDS. He dealt with a life-threatening elbow infection during the 2019 season. This caused Pollock to lose a step in the outfield and bat speed to slow.
Even during spring training, Pollock struggled. He went through a difficult time during the hiatus. Besides having COVID-19, Pollock had to deal with the premature birth of his first daughter. The media speculated Pollock would opt out of the 2020 season. It was not the option for Pollock.
Pollock’s defense drastically improved. At first, manager Dave Roberts platooned Pollock and Joc Pederson in left field. When Pederson’s offensive struggles became obvious, Pollock received more playing time. His batting average was .276 and tied for the team’s lead in home runs.
For the first 1½ seasons in his career, Corey Seager was poised to be one of the best players in the Major Leagues. Then, he had serious physical problems. Seager missed the 2017 NLCS with elbow problems. Seager attempted to play in April 2018, but while in San Francisco, he felt a ligament in his right elbow. Undergoing Tommy John and hip surgeries, Seager missed the 2018 season. Although he returned in the 2019 season, he had a good season, but it was not a Seager-like season.
From the beginning of 2020 spring training, Seager appeared to be a different player from he was in 2019. During the summer camp, Seager hit every ball hard. In 2020, Seager had a .307 batting average and 15 home runs. Although many people, who follow the Dodgers on a daily basis, think Taylor is a better defensive shortstop than Seager, Seager gave the Dodgers a solid shortstop. Seager had been overshadowed by his teammate Betts, but Seager does not care.
Since Taylor is an outstanding utility man, the national media frequently overlooks him. He has a quiet serious personality so that he does not call attention to himself. Taylor can win a Gold Glove anywhere on the diamond. During his tenure with the Dodgers, Taylor has played everywhere. This year Taylor has a .368 batting average with runners on base and two outs. In September, he has had 23 RBI.
The Dodger pitching staff performed admirably. Clayton Kershaw, who had not dominated baseball since 2017, has regained the velocity that made his curveball and slider better. Walker Buehler missed a month with a blister, but in his outing against the Oakland Athletics, Buehler looked ready for the playoffs.
Julio Urias had struggled for most of the season with fastball command, but in his three outings, he looked fantastic. The emergence of Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May has helped the Dodgers to dominate baseball.
While Pedro Báez and Joe Kelly missed the bulk of the season, the Dodger bullpen was a strength of its team. The addition of Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, and Victor González had helped to make the bullpen a strength.
Most baseball “experts” think the Dodgers will end their 32-year World Series drought. If the starting rotation does not falter and the offense does not slump, the Dodgers will have some kind of parade to celebrate a world championship.