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Dodgers in September: The Big 3 (pitchers), a deep bullpen & Freddie Freeman

A look at the season’s final month-plus

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Dodgers closed out the 2022 season with another stellar month, or month-plus considering September spilled into October for five more days. Los Angeles won at a 103-win pace since the beginning of September, but compared to historic months in July and August it might have seemed pedestrian.

In baseball parlance, regular season games in March get tacked onto April as part of one “month,” and the same happens with October games getting tacked onto September. Please know that any references to September within are referring to the period from September 1 to October 5, the last 33 games of the 2022 season.

September results

21-12 record
156 runs scored (4.73 per game, 4th in MLB)
108 runs allowed (3.27 per game, 4th in MLB)
.662 pythagorean win percentage (22-11)

Year-end numbers

111-51 record
847 runs scored (5.23 per game, 1st in MLB)
513 runs allowed (3.17 per game, 1st in MLB)
.715 pythagorean win percentage (116-46)

The other Big 3

Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman have garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so, as stalwarts atop the Dodgers lineup, driving the sport’s best offense. But in September, the ballasts that kept the pitching staff going were on their game.

Julio Urías was wonderful, going 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in six starts, continuing his second-half surge that will earn him Cy Young Award votes and captured the National League ERA title for the left-hander. Clayton Kershaw came back from missing a month with back soreness to be as good as he’s been all year, going 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA in seven starts, a huge turnaround from where he stood heading into last year’s playoffs.

It’s no wonder both will start the first two games of the NLDS, even if the Dodgers haven’t yet been willing to reveal the order.

But Tyler Anderson, as he has all season, was incredibly effective as well. The team innings leader on the season had a 2.03 ERA in five starts in September. This starting trio combined for 103 strikeouts and 22 walks during the month.

Leading hitters

Freddie Freeman couldn’t quite complete his batting title quest, but did end up leading the majors in hits and doubles, and led the National League in runs scored (tied with Mookie Betts) and on-base percentage. He did so with a strong finishing kick, hitting .324/.450/.505 with a 167 wRC+, scoring 25 runs, driving in 19, and walking more (25) than he struck out (18).

Justin Turner was a notch behind, hitting .322/.394/.552 with a 166 wRC+, eight doubles, and four home runs. It was a great final three and a half months for Turner, who was hitting just .206/.276/.335 with a 74 wRC+ on June 17. But after that, he hit .340/.412/.528, a 165 wRC+.

Trayce Thompson also had a strong finish, leading the Dodgers with six home runs during the final month, hitting .208/.322/.486 with a 126 wRC+, earning more playing time as he heads toward his first postseason at age 31.

They helped pick up the slack for relative ordinary months from Mookie Betts (.292 on-base percentage, .703 OPS) and Trea Turner (.713 OPS).

September saw the lowest percentage of starts by “the usual nine,” the term I coined for the Dodgers opening day lineup. The bulk of time missed was by Gavin Lux, who was sidelined for two weeks with a neck issue at the beginning of the month, plus nagging injuries for Justin Turner (shin) and Chris Taylor (neck) costing each a stretch of games. The Dodgers clinching also opened the dam for actual days off for Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner for the first time all year.

The Dodgers ‘usual nine’

Month Games Starts Pct
Month Games Starts Pct
April 180 165 91.7%
May 261 224 85.8%
June 234 202 86.3%
July 234 184 78.6%
August 252 204 81.0%
Sept/Oct 297 228 76.8%
Totals 1,458 1,207 82.8%
Starts made by the nine players in the Dodgers’ opening day lineup on April 8, 2022

What a relief

Craig Kimbrel was deposed as closer, but the Dodgers’ bullpen depth was on full display, with a 2.26 ERA that ranked second in the majors during the month and a 20.2-percent strikeout-minus-walk rate that ranked fourth.

Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia, and Tommy Kahnle each allowed one run during September. Chris Martin allowed two, coupled with 20 strikeouts against only one walk. This quartet combined for a 1.02 ERA in 44⅓ innings in 46 appearances with a 39.5-percent strikeout rate. Yency Almonte and Brusdar Graterol both returned later in the month after missing several weeks. Almonte pitched four scoreless innings, allowing no hits and no walks, a hit batsman his lone blemish.

Andre Jackson, who struggled most of the season in the Triple-A, was able to turn things around in his sporadic major league appearances in September, with a 1.86 ERA in 9⅔ innings, including reaching baseball nirvana with a three-inning save.

The Dodgers recorded seven saves during the month, one each by seven different pitchers. That might not seem like a lot of saves for a team that wins so often, but the Dodgers also won twelve games during the month by at least four runs. I’m starting to think this team is pretty good.