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# The 2022 Dodgers’ hard mode problem revisited

Or “It was not just you, the 2022 Dodgers were scoring in ways we have not really seen before.”

In a previous essay, I wrote:

The 2022 Dodgers were exceptional in many ways. However, they have been less than exceptional in the following areas:

The Dodgers with fastballs down the middle of the plate (explained more here with charts as of the middle of the season, which has actually gotten worse for Trea Turner and Justin Turner, but better for Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger - that Fangraphs essay needs a revisiting in the next couple of days.)

And thus, we now revisit the interesting Fangraphs essay regarding the unusual hitting patterns of the 2022 Dodgers. In our corresponding essay, I made the following argument: “the math currently indicates that you have a better chance of beating the Dodgers if you let them load the bases and then throw it down Broadway,” which was a summary of the argument presented in the Fangraphs article. While I covered the Dodgers with the bases loaded in a prior essay, where they have improved, this essay focuses on revisiting the Fangraphs essay from July.

Fangraphs relied on Baseball Savant, where there is a tool called swing/take runs. This metric shows the run value players accrue on pitches, by assigning a numerical value, to each zone, as shown here:

• The Heart of the Plate is what the batter is waiting for and the pitcher is avoiding. Pitchers throw about 25 percent of their pitches here. Batters will generally swing at these pitches almost 75 percent of the time. And if they don’t swing, it’s a called strike.
• The Shadow Zone is the area that straddles the strike zone on both sides: called pitches here are basically 50/50 ball/strikes. Swings generally result in below-average results (notably swings and misses). Pitchers are really targeting this region, with over 40 percent of their pitches coming here, and batters swinging just over 50% of the time.
• The Chase Region is where pitchers are trying to get batters to chase. Almost 25 percent of their pitches are here, and batters swing almost 25 percent of those pitches, almost always with poor results. But when they take it, it’s a called ball.
• The Waste Region is for pitches that are well off the plate, into the batters' boxes. Less than 10 percent of pitches are thrown here, with a bit over five percent of batters still swinging. Virtually no pitcher is actively targeting the Waste Area. And no batter at all ever wants to swing at such a pitch.

Therefore, under this metric, a batter can generate a run value for swinging at pitches they are supposed to be swinging at, usually the “Heart” and occasionally the “Shadow” zone, and for taking pitches that should not be swinging at, usually the “Chase” and “Waste” regions. And conversely, a negative value is generated for doing the opposite. By combining all the net numbers together you get a complete picture of the offensive production of a given player under this metric.

When the Fangraphs article was published around the All-Star Break, looking at the nine Dodger batters with enough qualifying at-bats who were on the team both this year and last year for comparison: Mookie Betts, Gavin Lux, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, Trea Turner, and Max Muncy. The Fangraphs article only looked at “Heart” and “Shadow” values from the 2021 season and the then-half completed 2022 season.

I thought it would be interesting to compare the values that the Fangraphs article looked at with the final results of Freddie Freeman in 2021 to act as controls. As Fangraphs did not look at Freeman in its original article and as far as I can tell, there is no way to check what the statistics were under this metric on July 10th, I have left the comparison section for Freeman in the corresponding table blank.

As you can see, the main differences back when the original essay was published were Max Muncy’s relative ineffectiveness at the time, the Dodgers being a lot more effective with Shadow runs, and the Dodgers being a lot less effective with Heart runs.

### The Swing/Take Values that Fangraphs looked at in July 2022

Player 2021 Heart Runs 2022 Heart Runs Net Change 2021 Shadow Runs 2022 Shadow Runs Net Change
Player 2021 Heart Runs 2022 Heart Runs Net Change 2021 Shadow Runs 2022 Shadow Runs Net Change
Mookie Betts -8 -1 7 -26 -3 23
Gavin Lux -5 -3 2 -16 3 19
Will Smith -14 -12 2 -12 5 17
Justin Turner -4 -2 2 -12 3 15
Cody Bellinger -14 -15 -1 -10 2 12
Austin Barnes -7 -13 -6 -13 -5 8
Chris Taylor 3 -5 -8 -14 -11 3
Trea Turner 8 -4 -12 -10 -9 1
Max Muncy 11 -15 -26 -10 -10 0
Freddie Freeman -7 N/A N/A 6 N/A N/A
The Fangraphs Values plus Freddie Freeman in 2021. Statistics from Baseballsavant.mlb.com by way of Fangraphs.com / Chart made by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

The 2022 season is over, so it is worth looking again to see if the trend continued or if it was a statistical anomaly. The results from the just-completed season were quite interesting.

First, let us compare the Heart Runs value for Fastballs now compared to the timeframe looked at in the Fangraphs piece. I included Joey Gallo and Trayce Thompson in these figures as controls, as baseballsavant.mlb.com included them in the leaderboard for 2022 Dodger hitters. As a result, I have added Freeman, Joey Gallo, and Trayce Thompson to see if there is a team-wide approach or if the Dodgers’ collaborative efforts are spreading team-wide.

### The 2022 Dodgers Swing/Take Metric for Fastball Heart Runs as of the completed 2022 regular season compared to both the 2021 campaign and July 2022

Player 2021 Heart Runs 2022 Heart Runs July Net Change in July 2022 Heart Runs Now Net Change to 2021 Net Change from July to Now
Player 2021 Heart Runs 2022 Heart Runs July Net Change in July 2022 Heart Runs Now Net Change to 2021 Net Change from July to Now
Mookie Betts -8 -1 7 -4 4 -3
Gavin Lux -5 -3 2 -10 -5 -7
Will Smith -14 -12 2 5 19 17
Justin Turner -4 -2 2 -9 -5 -7
Cody Bellinger -14 -15 -1 -13 1 2
Austin Barnes -7 -13 -6 -11 -4 2
Chris Taylor 3 -5 -8 -5 -8 0
Trea Turner 8 -4 -12 -11 -19 -7
Max Muncy 11 -15 -26 -10 -21 5
Joey Gallo -2 N/A N/A -4 -2 N/A
Freddie Freeman -7 N/A N/A -8 -1 N/A
Trayce Thompson N/A N/A N/A 0 N/A N/A
Will Smith is having himself a season if you try to throw it past him. / Statistics current for the entire 2022 regular season Statistics from Baseballsavant.mlb.com / Chart made by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

For what it is worth, the statistics indicate that the current trend held. I bolded a couple of figures to point out that Will Smith was truly having himself a season and to show that Max Muncy’s reinvigorated swing was seeming to have an effect. Let us take a look at Shadow Runs as to Fastballs to see if the trends pointed out in Fangraphs' article continued.

### The 2022 Dodgers Swing/Take Metric for Fastball Shadow Runs for the completed 2022 regular season compared to both the 2021 campaign and July 2022

Player 2021 Shadow Runs 2022 Shadow Runs July Net Change in July 2022 Shadow Runs Now Net Change to 2021 Net Change from July to Now
Player 2021 Shadow Runs 2022 Shadow Runs July Net Change in July 2022 Shadow Runs Now Net Change to 2021 Net Change from July to Now
Mookie Betts -26 -3 23 5 31 8
Gavin Lux -16 3 19 -3 13 -6
Will Smith -12 5 17 1 13 -4
Justin Turner -12 3 15 -12 0 -15
Cody Bellinger -10 2 12 3 13 1
Austin Barnes -13 -5 8 2 15 7
Chris Taylor -14 -11 3 -6 8 5
Trea Turner -10 -9 1 6 16 15
Max Muncy -10 -10 0 -6 4 4
Joey Gallo -8 N/A N/A -13 -5 N/A
Freddie Freeman 6 N/A N/A 14 8 N/A
Trayce Thompson N/A N/A N/A -1 N/A N/A
The Dodgers are making their beds where pitchers try to roam / Statistics as of the completed 2022 regular season Statistics from Baseballsavant.mlb.com / Chart made by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

Overall, the Dodgers were kind of brutal when it came to borderline pitches in the Shadow Zone last year. To be fair, by definition, one would expect the pitcher to dominate in the Shadow Zone. Now though, the Dodgers as a whole are figuratively eating the pitchers’ lunch, probably at the expense of looking center-in. Based on the run differential, which bordered on historic, clearly, the Dodgers knew what they were doing in the 2022 regular season.

As such, if you wanted to beat these Dodgers, a pitcher either needed to be perfect on the corners or be counter-intuitive to challenge the hitters in the heart of the plate...or hope that the Dodgers go catatonic at the plate.

But what about velocity, you ask? You might have seen a tweet from Mike Petriello making the rounds, concerning velocity.

As you can see, the Dodgers were absolutely punishing velocity in the regular season. However, you might be asking how this figure squares with what we have just covered. Admittedly, it is a fair question. Then it occurred to me: remember, the above tweet covered just velocity NOT velocity and location. For one final use of the metrics of Baseballsavant.com, let us look at the thirteen major batters for the 2022 Dodgers in the regular season and take the net result from each zone to see if any overall trend emerges. This combined look covers all pitches, not just fastballs. You will notice that the 2022 Dodgers had a clear frontrunner for offensive MVP.

### The 2022 Dodgers Net Results of all Zones for the just completed 2022 regular season

Player Heart Swing Heart Take Net Heart Shadow Swing Shadow Take Net Shadow Chase Swing Chase Take Net Chase Waste Swing Waste Take Net Waste Total
Player Heart Swing Heart Take Net Heart Shadow Swing Shadow Take Net Shadow Chase Swing Chase Take Net Chase Waste Swing Waste Take Net Waste Total
Mookie Betts 16 -11 5 -7 5 -2 -3 27 24 -2 13 11 38
Gavin Lux 2 -9 -7 -15 1 -14 -4 19 15 -1 9 8 2
Will Smith 5 -11 -6 -6 1 -5 -5 28 23 -1 12 11 23
Justin Turner 9 -7 2 -14 4 -10 -7 27 20 0 12 12 24
Cody Bellinger -13 -7 -20 -12 5 -7 -8 18 10 -1 10 9 -8
Austin Barnes -9 -4 -13 -4 2 -2 -2 11 9 0 4 4 -2
Chris Taylor -7 -5 -12 -21 5 -16 -6 19 13 -1 8 7 -8
Trea Turner 5 -9 -4 0 0 0 -9 25 16 -2 14 12 24
Max Muncy -5 -14 -19 -13 4 -9 -9 34 25 0 14 14 11
Joey Gallo 4 -8 -4 -30 1 -29 -9 23 14 0 10 10 -9
Freddie Freeman 5 -6 -1 16 6 22 -10 30 20 0 15 15 56
Trayce Thompson 7 -5 2 -9 1 -8 -3 14 11 -1 5 4 9
Hanser Alberto 0 -1 -1 -3 0 -3 -8 3 -5 0 2 2 -7
Oh, what could have been, just think if Bellinger, Taylor, and Gallo had got going / Statistics for the 2022 regular season Statistics from Baseballsavant.mlb.com / Chart made by Michael Elizondo / TrueBlueLA

As you can see, especially if you turn your mobile device to landscape mode, the main takeaway from the Dodgers’ combined chart is in the regular season, the 2022 Dodgers were a very patient team who powered their offense by living where the pitcher would most like to succeed (except Joey Gallo). That said, I cannot think of another team that has (either intentionally or not) created such a profile of offensive statistics. In any event, while interesting statistics can be had about Mookie Betts this past year, under this metric, Freddie Freeman was, if not the straw that stirred the drink, then certainly the cookie’s crumble.

Even on an anecdotal basis, my eyes agree with the math. I have not done a deep dive yet of #JuniorCircuit22 / #EliSaves games, but just by recollection, every time I turned around, Freeman was hitting the ball hard, and often over the wall. As a whole, Freeman hit .410 in the 18 games I attended this year (30 for 73).

The 2022 Dodger regulars were generating runs overall under this metric, with the exceptions of Bellinger, Taylor, Gallo, and Alberto. However, Bellinger and Taylor were more productive at the conclusion of the regular season. That development was quite encouraging, including the fact that Alberto was kept off the roster in favor of rookie Miguel Vargas...or so I thought.

For comparison’s sake, Aaron Judge, the likely AL MVP, had a combined score of 82 runs, and Paul Goldschmidt, the probable NL MVP, had a combined score of 63 runs. However, in yet another reminder of how cruel baseball can be, Goldy’s bat was silent during the Cardinals/Phillies wild card series, and Judge was on recess — 5-for-36 (.139/.184/.306) — during the playoffs.

As has been discussed, this approach utterly failed the Dodgers in the playoffs against the Padres. And by this metric, the true engine of the Dodgers’ offense was not Mookie Betts, but rather, Freddie Freeman by a healthy margin. During the regular season, we tended to think of the Dodgers as the Big 4, when in fact, under this metric, it was Freeman, then Betts, then Turner/Turner/Smith. And as we will discuss at a later date, Will Smith was the one Dodger that opposing teams did not want to face with center-cut heat or with the bases loaded, and time after time in the NLDS, sadly, he did not come through.

Truthfully, a major reason that the Dodgers did not advance is the lack of offense with runners in scoring position. Houston was even worse than the Dodgers with RISP for most of the postseason; the primary difference was that Houston’s pitching was stellar enough to compensate. While fine, the Dodgers’ pitching was not enough to compensate for the offense’s sabbatical.

Alas, in any case, it was not meant to be. But what if I told you that things were going according to plan in just about every respect, except the final result on the field? As we reach the finale of this series, there are two glaring issues left to be discussed: the culture of the Post-McCourt / modern Dodgers and examining what Dave Roberts said at the beginning of the year versus what he said prior to the Dodgers’ being eliminated. Each topic deserves its own essay and so I shall get to work.

Next time, The One-Win Team: All According to Plan - We Want to Win the World Series*.