With all of the changes that were made to the game, including the pitch clock, larger bases, etc., I think the 2023 season was a lot more fun than prior seasons.
Unfortunately, if you are a Dodger fan like me, we faced a disappointing end to yet another season.
While the Dodgers never officially say when they are in a rebuilding season, based on last year’s offseason I doubt that management expected to win 100 games. The massive injuries allowed the team to showcase its up-and-coming future stars, making the regular season thrilling and entertaining to watch.
As great as the regular season was, the postseason was my biggest disappointment since the Dodgers were swept by the Orioles in the 1966 World Series.
Back in June, I told friends that I thought the Dodgers would make the playoffs, but would exit early because the team cannot hit playoff-caliber pitching and did not have the pitching depth to go far in the playoffs.
I changed my mind after seeing Booby Miller, et al, pitch and watching their incredible performance from the All-Star game to Labor Day. In September I was confident that this Dodger team was similar to the 1988 underdogs who won it all. The reason why they didn’t goes beyond not having Kirk Gibson.
Before 1969, the best teams in each league played in the World Series to determine baseball’s champion. Consequently, there was a high correlation between being the both best team in baseball and also being World Series champion. In 1969, each league split into divisions and added an extra round of playoffs.
Since 1969, as additional teams were admitted to both leagues, extra playoff rounds were added as well. This was good for baseball because more teams were still in the hunt for playoff spots in August and September.
However, doing so diminished the importance of the regular season. Today the regular season is nothing more than the process by which postseason playoffs are seeded, thereby significantly reducing the correlation between being the best team and winning the World Series.
Last year I wrote a column explaining why the team with the best record has only a 22% chance of winning the World Series.
The baseball gods (aka the owners) think this is good for business because more teams have a chance of winning, which increases the valuation of expansion franchises. (Major League Baseball will likely add two teams in the future whose owners will pay as much as $2 billion for franchise rights.) In the old days, it took decades for expansion teams to become competitive, but with expanded playoffs, that time frame is compressed.
The regular season determines who the truly great teams are. Analytics accurately predict performance over 162 games, which means well-run teams will generally be more successful. But in a short series, anything can happen.
If a player who gets a hit 30% of the time comes to the plate 500 times during the regular season, there is a good chance that he will have a .300 batting average. But if he has only 10 plate appearances in a given series, his performance can deviate substantially from the predicted performance during that series.
I recall watching the 1984 Olympics at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. team featured many future Hall of Fame players and was the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal. Yet after the final game, we listened to the Japanese national anthem instead of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Looking back at this season, in August the Dodgers were unbeatable and played at a level that likely would have carried them to a World Series victory. In October, it is the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Astros and Rangers who are playing at that level.
Many people (probably mostly Giants fans) think that the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series Championship is diminished because they only played a 60-game regular season. While playing a shortened season may have prevented injuries and fatigue, the Dodgers had to play in a neutral ball park and had no home field advantage.
Furthermore, the 2020 Dodger team had to win one more game than did the 2021 Braves or the 2022 Astros. So the fact that playoff seeding was determined by 60 games instead of 162 games is largely irrelevant.
Despite this season’s unhappy ending for Dodger fans, in my book, the Dodgers still had a pretty good season. As the Brooklyn fans used to say, “Wait until next year!”
Jim de Bree, a Valencia resident, has been a Dodger fan since 1961.