Freddie Freeman Feels Dodgers Are Still Team to Beat in NL West
The Dodgers have won the National League West nine of the last ten years, with just one blip in 2021 when their 106 wins weren’t quite enough to edge out the 107-win Giants. Los Angeles bounced back in a big way in 2022, winning a franchise-record 111 games before flaming out in the NLDS against the Padres.
San Diego has made some big moves this offseason, most notably the addition of four-time All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and they’ll have a full season of Juan Soto and (theoretically) most of a season from Fernando Tatis Jr. (assuming he doesn’t show up to spring training having accidentally lost a limb in a freak cliff-diving accident or something). Between those Padres improvements and LA’s relative inactivity this offseason — not to mention San Diego eliminating Los Angeles from the postseason last year — a lot of people are picking the Padres to knock the Dodgers off their perch in 2023.
Not so fast, says LA first baseman Freddie Freeman.
It’s true — until someone else wins the division, the Dodgers are the division champs. Of course, that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people, because Los Angeles is past the point where a division title excites people. Still, the first step to winning a World Series (which the Dodgers did just two years ago) is making the postseason, so winning the division is an important step each year.
The other thing Freeman is right about is that the Dodgers have a really good team. They won 111 games in 2022, and while they lost Trea Turner and Justin Turner, the guys they’re replacing them with are no slouches. Last year, things didn’t even go extremely well for the team, with Walker Buehler struggling and then going down with Tommy John surgery, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger having terrible seasons, and Max Muncy struggling mightily the first half of the season.
It would be silly to predict 111 wins again, but JD Martinez and Miguel Vargas will fill some of the gap left by JT and Trea, James Outman will likely perform better than Bellinger did the last two years, and fully healthy Muncy and Taylor should have better years than they did last year. On the pitching side, they’re replacing Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney with Noah Syndergaard and Dustin May, and you don’t have to squint too hard to see that ending in at least a wash.
The bottom line is that the Dodgers consistently put out talented, successful teams, and while the Padres may have won the offseason, they’ve done that before. Just as LA being 22 games better in the regular season last year ended up being meaningless in the NLDS, San Diego being better in the offseason won’t mean anything unless and until they back it up on the field.
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