Los Angeles Dodgers: 2017 Season Review and Offseason Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Clayton Kershaw /
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Los Angeles Dodgers
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 01: Justin Turner /

What Went Right

The Dodgers had five players get some consideration in NL MVP voting but their highest finisher was Justin Turner, at eighth. Statistically, Corey Seager was as deserving as Turner but finished 17th out of the 22 players who got at least one point in the voting. It’s surprising a 104-win team didn’t have its players finish higher on the voters’ ballots.

Corey Seager and Justin Turner led Dodgers position players in Wins Above Replacement. Turner did it with a terrific bat, hitting .322/.415/.530 with 21 home runs. He was one of just five players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title to strike out less often than he walked. The other four were Joey Votto, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Anthony Rizzo. That’s impressive company.

Seager wasn’t quite as good this year as he was last year, but he was still very good. He led all NL shortstops in WAR despite missing some time down the stretch with an elbow injury. He also dealt with back and ankle issues in the postseason.

There was talk that he would need surgery in the offseason, but it appears they are going with the rest and rehab approach. He’s a vital member of this team, so the Dodgers will want him to come back fully healthy next spring.

Cody Bellinger didn’t join the Dodgers until April 25, but still set the NL rookie record for home runs, with 39.

He also scored 87 runs, drove in 97, and stole 10 bases. It was one of the 10 best seasons ever for a Dodgers rookie and earned Bellinger the NL Rookie of the Year Award in a unanimous vote. He’s the 18th Los Angeles Dodgers rookie to take home that trophy, which is more than twice as many as any other team has.

Probably the most surprising player on the Los Angeles Dodgers this year was Chris Taylor. He was acquired in a nondescript trade with the Mariners in June of 2016 (for starting pitcher Zach Lee, who the Mariners ended up putting on waivers).

During three major league seasons before this year, Taylor hit .234/.289/.309 in 318 plate appearances. He changed his approach this year and had a terrific season, hitting .288/.354/.496, with 85 runs, 21 homers, 72 RBI, and 17 steals. He also started ten or more games at shortstop, second base, left field, and center field.

Yasiel Puig had his best year since 2014. He didn’t get back to the level he played at in his first two big league seasons, but he was still better than he’d been the last two years. He set career highs in home runs (28) and steals (15).

He also put more effort into his defense than he ever had before and graded out as the best right fielder in the NL according to UZR. He was a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award but ultimately lost to Jason Heyward, who won it for the fourth consecutive year.

The Dodgers’ catching tandem of Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes combined to be worth 4.8 WAR, which was third in baseball. Only the Cubs (mainly Willson Contreras) and Braves (Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki) were better. Grandal hit 22 home runs and was one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. Barnes had an impressive .408 on-base percentage and .486 slugging percentage.

On the pitching side, Clayton Kershaw missed out on winning his fourth NL Cy Young Award by finishing second to Max Scherzer, but he had another Kershaw-esque season. He was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 175 innings and his win total and ERA led the league. His breaking ball is a thing of beauty.

Fellow lefties Alex Wood and Rich Hill weren’t exactly workhorses, but they were effective when they got on the mound. Wood was 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 152.3 innings. Hill was 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in 135.7 innings. Kershaw, Wood, Hill, and the team’s other starting pitchers combined for a 3.39 ERA, best in baseball.

The bullpen was also very good, finishing fourth in baseball ERA and third in Fangraphs WAR. Kenley Jansen was the best in the business at closing. He had the lowest ERA of any reliever with 50 or more innings and the second-most saves. Only Craig Kimbrel had a higher strikeout rate.

Setting up for Jansen was Brandon Morrow, who had a 2.06 ERA and 1.55 FIP in 43.7 innings. Morrow has struggled with injuries for years. He was a starter for a few seasons with the Blue Jays, but has pitched solely in relief the last two seasons and has a 1.96 ERA in 59.7 innings during that stretch.