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Despite turnover, Dodgers position player stability continues

LA, for the most part, is bringing the band back together on offense

National League Championship Series Game 6: Atlanta Braves v. Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Cooper Neill/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Dodgers roster feels like it is different this year, but upon further inspection the position player turnover is really just par for the course.

Feelings of loss are totally understandable, since they are emotional in nature. Joc Pederson signed with the Cubs, and Kiké Hernández signed with the Red Sox, after both were integral parts of six seasons in Los Angeles. Those two rank second and (tied for) third, respectively, in postseason games played in Dodgers history, which on one hand is a product of the time and in another represents their immense contributions and standing on the team.

However, playing time for both was waning recently, ranking eighth and ninth on the 2020 Dodgers in plate appearances. With the return of Justin Turner, 14 of the 16 Dodgers who batted last season are back this year, which makes this one of the most relatively stable offseasons in recent memory.

We are entering the seventh season Andrew Friedman leading the Dodgers front office, and for position players I looked at players with at least 100 plate appearances in each of the previous six years, and who was back the next year. This offseason looks more like the norm.

Dodgers position player turnover

Year 100 PA returners the next year % of top PA returning
Year 100 PA returners the next year % of top PA returning
2020* 12 of 14 87.6%
2019 11 of 14 85.5%
2018 8 of 15 59.3%
2017 12 of 14 93.1%
2016 11 of 14 83.9%
2015 14 of 16 87.0%
% only counts players with at least 100 PA *2020 pro-rated to 37 PA

The percentage of returning plate appearances isn’t exact. I only counted the PA from players who batted at least 100 times (or, in the case of 2020, pro-rated to 37 times). Heading into 2021, the Dodgers have their second-highest percentage of returning position-player PA of Friedman’s tenure, though five of the six offseasons were similar.

The outlier was the 2018-19 offseason. That saw the Dodgers trade Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, and Chase Utley retired, in addition to Yasmani Grandal, Manny Machado, and Brian Dozier leaving in free agency (plus Logan Forsythe, who was traded in July for Dozier, accumulated 211 PA as a Dodger in 2018). Only eight of 15 players with 100 PA in 2018 were back in 2019, and just 59 percent of the previous year’s plate appearances returned.

That was the one Dodgers offseason of late with a ton of position-player turnover. This year is more normal, even if it doesn’t quite feel like it.