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The Dodgers failed to meet their own expectations

NLDS: Dodgers vs Padres Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Dodgers had the best regular season in franchise history, winning 111 games, setting themselves up with every possible advantage heading into the postseason. Yet they played only four games in the playoffs, bounced by a team they throttled for the last year and a half.

It’s easy to focus on manager Dave Roberts’ March claim on The Dan Patrick Show in March, when he said, “We are winning the World Series in 2022. I know where you’re going with that. We will win the World Series this year, put it on record.”

Roberts doubled down on that prediction multiple times throughout the season, which makes it easy to dunk on him after the Dodgers’ playoff exit on Saturday night in San Diego. But it’s not much different than any of his seven seasons at the helm in Los Angeles. They’ve been good enough to win the World Series every year since 2016, and in most of those years have been the favorites. This year was a rarity in that Roberts said it out loud.

“It’s crushing,” Roberts told reporters at Petco Park after Game 4. “We got beat in a series. Nothing I can say is going to make it feel any different, and obviously, we didn’t expect to be in this position.”

The overall hitting numbers for the series were similar, with the Dodgers hitting .227/.302/.402 as a team and the Padres .239/.299/.366. But after jumping out to a 5-0 lead after three innings of Game 1, the Dodgers scored just seven runs in 32 innings.

Los Angeles was 5-for-34 (.147) with runners in scoring position in the series. San Diego had four hits with runners in scoring position in the seventh inning of Game 4 to end the Dodgers’ season.

The Dodgers bullpen, among the best in baseball during the regular season, allowed eight runs in 17⅔ innings in the NLDS. Padres relievers allowed one run in 16 innings. Checkmate.

The graphic above shows how the Dodgers made history with their early exit from the postseason, but a few caveats are needed. First, that only six teams in major league history have won at least 110 games is an accomplishment in itself worth celebrating. Second, there were no League Championship Series until 1969.

Before divisional play, the only playoffs was the World Series, reserved for only the two teams with the best record in each league. From the advent of the World Series in 1903, through 1968, 44 National League or American League teams had a winning percentage of .650 or higher. Only two failed to win the pennant:

  • 1909 Cubs (104-49, .680), who finished behind the 110-win Pirates
  • 1942 Dodgers (104-50, .675), who finished behind the 106-win Cardinals

In the 25 years of divisional play before the wild card era (1969-93), only four teams had a .650+ winning percentage. All four won their LCS, and three won the World Series. Only the 1969 Orioles (109-53, .673) lost in the Fall Classic.

In the wild card era, ten teams have reached a .650 win percentage. Only three failed to win a playoff series, all coming in the last three full seasons — last year’s Giants, plus the 2019 and 2022 Dodgers. Oof.

Losing the NLDS did not invalidate the Dodgers’ 111-win season, the most wins and highest winning percentage over a full season in franchise history. There’s plenty to appreciate out of the six months that set up Los Angeles for a long playoff run. But that doesn’t mean losing in the first round wasn’t incredibly disappointing. Two things can be true.

The postseason is designed to determine one champion, but the grind along the way chews up and spits out the bones of eleven other teams who end otherwise successful seasons with a loss. The playoffs are always a gut punch for the vast majority, and in the case of the Dodgers, this year was a strong-legged kick, with a full windup from someone wearing steel-toed boots.