Reliving the 2017 Season: Los Angeles Dodgers Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: Los Angeles Dodgers Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.





Coming into the season it was no secret that the Los Angeles Dodgers would have a good club. They had stars, they had depth, and they had a plan on how to effectively use not only their 25-man roster, but the entire 40-man, as well. The team ran so well all season that it didn’t even matter that they coasted down the stretch to get key players rest. The bats showed a little volatility with most of the season showing above average to great production outside of a dip around the first third of the season. They came down fairly gently from their peak to close the season, but with little to play for it made sense for them to downshift.

The pitching showed as a much more consistent unit, and was staggeringly effective for much of the season until they, too, focused on other priorities to close out the season. Fans that went into panic mode in September, but the team had a plan. One that would give sports writers plenty of rust versus rest narrative depending on how the postseason played out, but a World Series appearance is more than most can ask for in a given year.

The pitching was in a class by itself running the best walk and strikeout rates in the National League, and allowing absurdly weak production when batters did manage to put it in play. There was some overperformance on those balls in play, but after looking at the chart you can see the bulk of the residue came late in the season when the team was not firing on all cylinders. The batters saw an exact match on their balls in play with both observed and expected production a good bit above league average. They walked a ton, and with that came a strikeout rate a little worse than average, but it hardly detracted from a stellar offense.

Much like the Astros, the team saw nine different players boast above average production over something resembling a meaningful sample. Justin Turner and Corey Seager were the stars at the dish, but they were backed by Cody Bellinger’s outstanding rookie campaign and Yasiel Puig getting back on the horse after years of tumult. Chris Taylor arrived virtually out of nowhere after showing a bit of promise with the Mariners in years past. Platoon players like Joc Pederson, Logan Forsythe and even import Curtis Granderson filled their role admirably even if they gave some back when asked to do too much. You can probably throw the ageless Chase Utley in there, too, as he was essentially a league average hitter in a smallish role.

The weaker performers included Adrian Gonzalez playing his way out of town. Kiké Hernandez brings enough defensive flexibility that his sub-average bat is probably fine, but probably an area they would like to see a little bit more from. Veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal was the worst hitting positional player, but saw dramatically better results. Until he didn’t. The team hardly used him down the stretch, which may have been a performance or health issue. The former should raise concerns, but being a catcher the latter is more likely. With the emergence of Austin Barnes he should see more rest next year, which may allow him to be a little better.

It was surprising to see Justin Turner met with a lukewarm market this past offseason, which made a reup with the Dodgers a virtual no brainer. If you’re not going to get the massive contract, take the one that puts you on a great team that pays similarly to what the rest of the league thinks. The deal paid off in spades, but you can see a depressed second half following an incredible first. Even during those relative downtimes he was still an above average to good bat so when you factor in the peak period where he went off and the slightly higher start to the season you’re looking at one of the better hitters in the game.

Wunderkind shortstop, and Kyle’s brother, Corey Seager got off to a blazing start even if actual results weren’t quite to that high level, but did show some volatility from there. In a season where he battled back injuries this sort of shape should probably be expected. When he was running well you see the outlandish production for any position, let alone shortstop, but there were also periods where he wasn’t himself. He closed the season on a particularly sour note, but to focus on that misses the strong production seen throughout much of the middle of the season. With Taylor’s emergence it might make sense for the team to give Seager more rest in-season to avoid any sort of more serious injury, though it isn’t something they have publicly stated.

Bellinger’s sweet stroke produces plenty of loft, but without his solid walk rate he would be a lot like other batters that hit the ball hard and strike out with aplomb. Here we can also see some volatility and quite a bit of overperformance throughout the season. He was able to sustain strong production for a couple of stretches, but also settled in to the above average range for a similar amount of time. With the peaks degrading as the season went on you can get a feel that the league might have been starting to figure him out a bit. Something the Astros showcased magnificently when they decided to flip him breaking ball after breaking ball that was met with all the ferocity of a windmill cutting air. Something to keep an eye on going into next year as a swing this hard is going to have some exploitable holes. Just don’t miss.

Yasiel Puig puts the fun in fundamentals. Cutoffs are for show with an arm like this, until a throw sails into the stands or to the netting letting a runner move up or maybe one come in. From a fan perspective he is an absolute delight out there, though you can see why purists think lesser of him. Fieldplay aside we’re here to focus on the bat, and we see that his season started a lot like the past few years have went. Average or worse production greeted him in 2017, but after that initial poor stretch he really got it going. If three points of twOBA* equals 1 of xwRC+ you can see him running better than a .360 twOBA*, or 120 xwRC+, for much of the second half. He joined the brigade in coasting to the finish, but he was a fantastic hitter for much of the season, and someone you can probably still buy a little low on as his demeanor has notoriously been a turnoff for some.

Any rotation that starts with Clayton Kershaw is going to be a good one, but the team found countless others that were able to pitch well with or without their horse. Kenley Jansen served as the reliever version of Kershaw as he led his peers in relief xwRAA, as well. Free agent re-signee Rich Hill was quite good when he was able to get out there, and you can say the same of Alex Wood who shared injury concerns, albeit, of a more severe nature than your run of the mill blister issues. Kenta Maeda and Brandon McCarthy rounded out the rotation giving fine production, but mid-season acquisition Yu Darvish was lethal once he came over to the Senior Circuit. Jansen wasn’t the only relief ace as Brandon Morrow and lesser known Josh Fields also acquitted themselves well. There was less depth here than some of your other super bullpens around the league, but the team was able to keep the horses on their feet and plug in multiple useful guys who did well enough without getting overextended.

This looks like a fine season for Kershaw, but again he battled injury, and this time he wasn’t quite the revelation he had been in the past. You can see only a blip where he was worse than average, and often quite a bit better, but of the aces we have reviewed thus far it looks like the pack has caught up to him after years of being on an island. The injuries certainly took away from his incredible base, but those sorts of things tend to become more frequent as a pitcher ages. I wouldn’t want to pay last year or the year before price, but you would still be foolish to sell Kershaw short.

Around lingering blister issues Rich Hill gave the team everything they needed. His peak in the second quarter was to die for and he got most of the way back there over the last month plus of the season. Like Kershaw, worse than average was as bad as he got, and never for very long. He started the season on a relative slow note looking like an average starter for much of it, but once he was broken in there was so much to like. His (lack of) volume means he won’t be an ace in fantasy or real life, but he can be a fine mid-rotation or better guy when he is able to get out there.

The lefty with unorthodox motion flummoxed hitters to start the year making him look like one of the very best pitchers in the game. I have little doubt that many folks had to pay a pretty high cost if they were looking to trade for him in-season, and those that sealed the deal were probably left with a bad taste in their mouth. It got quite a bit worse as the season went on, but it also shows just how incredibly good he was to start the year. His worst stretches towards the end painted him as a backend guy. It’s fairly easy to chalk it up to the same shoulder concerns that put him on the disabled list this year as it has in many years past. Explaining the problem with that answer, though, shouldn’t give a ton of confidence going forward since shoulder injuries are so tough. Seeing this, and knowing how creative the Dodgers are, I would not be surprised to see him get some time in the bullpen over the final two-thirds of the season. He is just too good when healthy to risk that status.

Lost in the shuffle of a great team is just how good Kenta Maeda was last year. Similar to his moundmates, he didn’t rack up an exorbitant amount of volume, but when they needed him out there he performed very well. Again, his worst merely popped above the average, but he was very good throughout the year.


Here are your final leaderboards, which I have expanded out to the top and bottom 50 batters and pitchers. Below that you will find the team aggregate ranks, and then lastly, the team xwRAA totals where the Dodgers show themselves to be a cut above even the very best last year.


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