The Dodgers added one of the best bats available in Freddie Freeman, the $162 million man adding an extra layer of certainty to an already potent lineup. But the question is just how good is the Dodgers lineup now?
Freeman’s credentials are impeccable. He’s a five-time All-Star who was the National League MVP in 2020. He hit .300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs home runs and a 135 wRC+ last year, and hasn’t posted a wRC+ below 132 since 2012.
“I would love to see Freddie Freeman in a Dodgers uniform. Who wouldn’t?” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last Friday, the day after the lockout ended. He wasn’t alone. Projections are understandably bullish on Freeman at age 32.
Freddie Freeman 2022 projections
Durability has also been a strong suit of Freeman, who played 99 percent of Atlanta’s games over the last four seasons. His 539 games played since the start of 2018 ranks second in the majors, just three games behind Whit Merrifield.
That will help, especially after a season that saw the Dodgers’ vaunted depth challenged unlike any recent year. AJ Pollock is 34, and hasn’t played more than 117 games since 2015. Justin Turner played in a career-best 151 games in 2021, but is now 37 and has played 79 percent of games over the last five years, a full season pace of 128 games. Max Muncy dislocated his elbow, suffered ligament damage in October, and missed the playoffs. Cody Bellinger is coming off a cursed year of injuries, breaking his leg and straining his hamstring in his first year recovering from shoulder surgery. Mookie Betts battled hip injuries for most of last year, though insists this spring those troubles are behind him. There’s risk here, which Freeman helps mitigate.
Freeman is the dynamic left-handed batter in the heart of the lineup that replaces Corey Seager, who left on a 10-year, $325 million deal in Texas. The Dodgers had a stacked lineup last year, too, especially after trading for Trea Turner. But the supergroup wasn’t able to put everything together for more than small stretches at a time.
It’s worth noting that the Dodgers led the National League in runs scored last year, the fourth year in a row they’ve done so. But during the playoffs, they were held to two or fewer runs six times in 12 games, with Steven Souza Jr., Andy Burns, Luke Raley, and Billy McKinney getting key October at-bats.
The Dodgers were eliminated by Freeman’s Braves in the NLCS, but now he’s on their side.
To put those Freeman projections into perspective, someone with a 125 wRC+ is roughly 30 percent better than a league-average batter. Among those with at least 400 plate appearances in 2021, only 49 players had a 125 wRC+ or higher.
The 2022 Dodgers have seven of those hitters — Trea Turner (142 wRC+ last year), Muncy (140), Pollock (137), Freeman (135), Betts (131), Will Smith (130), and Justin Turner (127). Oh yeah, they have Chris Taylor (113 wRC+ last year) too.
But how are the Dodgers expected to hit this year?
Dodgers 2022 lineup projections
|Player||Age||ZiPS wRC+||Steamer wRC+||PECOTA DRC+|
|Player||Age||ZiPS wRC+||Steamer wRC+||PECOTA DRC+|
With Freeman on board, the Dodgers now have nine regulars projected to be above average offensively. A lineup with no real holes is usually an unrealistic dream, but in 2022 the Dodgers could on most days field a lineup with nine legitimately good hitters.
That’s an ideal lineup, with Gavin Lux, Edwin Ríos, and Matt Beaty available to provide capable offense in their own right when needed.
In addition to loading up on competence in quantity, the Dodgers’ lineup has the ability to be dynamic, especially if the top hitters continue to produce. ZiPS has the Dodgers with five hitters with at least a 130 wRC+ this year, which is notable.
In franchise history, the Dodgers have had at least four regulars with a 130 wRC+ just five times — 1941, 1953 (five players), 1974, 2020 (six), and 2021 (six). Four of those five teams made the World Series, while last year’s Dodgers lost in the NLCS. The 2020 campaign was shortened to only 60 games, but still deserves mention because the National League had the designated hitter all season, which is the new standard going forward.
The Dodgers in 2020 had a 121 wRC+, the best mark in franchise history. The 1953 Brooklyn team, a 105-win juggernaut that was the usual go-to for Dodgers excellence before this current run, has the best wRC+ (115) in a full season in team history.
With a DH in place, allowing the Dodgers to cycle through various hitters to keep them reasonably fresh throughout the season, and with Freeman inserted into the heart of an already deep lineup, these Dodgers look poised to challenge the best offenses in team history.
PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus had the 2022 Dodgers projected at 99.5 wins and 836 runs, the latter 37 more runs than any other MLB team, before they signed Freeman. Now they are up to 102.8 wins and 873 runs, per BP editor-in-chief Craig Goldstein.
The Dodgers led the National League in runs scored in 2018, and did so again in 2019, 2020, and 2021. They are projected to do the same again in 2022, which feels like a pretty reasonable expectation. The addition of Freddie Freeman gives them a powerful presence in the middle of the order that will only increase those chances.