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Dodgers lineup with Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts & Freddie Freeman

Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman are three of the best hitters in MLB, and now they are all in the same Dodgers lineup.
Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman are three of the best hitters in MLB, and now they are all in the same Dodgers lineup.
Photo mashup: Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani isn’t expected to pitch until 2025, coming off elbow surgery, but that gives us more time to focus on his hitting prowess. The Dodgers last year scored 900 runs for the first time in 70 years, and they added one of the best hitters in baseball to an already potent lineup.

No matter the order that Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman are placed in the lineup, the Dodgers offense will have incredible firepower at the top of the order.

Ohtani won the American League MVP unanimously in 2023, his second such award. Previous MVPs Betts and Freeman finished second and third, respectively, in National League MVP voting. Now they are in the same Dodgers lineup.

Ohtani led the majors in OPS (1.066), slugging percentage (.654), OPS+ (184), and wRC+ (180). He was second in on-base percentage (.412), with Freeman (.410) fifth and Betts (.408) sixth.

Only nine qualified batters had a batting average of at least .300 in 2023, and the Dodgers now have a third of them in Freeman (.331), Betts (.307), and Ohtani (.304). Freeman led the majors with 90 extra-base hits, with Betts (80) tied for third and Ohtani (78) fifth.

Betts was fourth in the majors in wRC+ (167), and Freeman (163) sixth. The trio had the same placements in OPS+ ranks in MLB, with Ohtani (184) first, Betts (163) fourth, and Freeman (161) sixth.

In major league history, the last team to have three qualified batters all with at least a 160 OPS+ was in 1963, when the Giants had Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda in the same lineup. Of the 17 major league teams with three 160-OPS+ players, 11 were Negro League teams, and four others were 19th century teams. The 1929 Yankees also turned the trick, with the formidable trio of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri in the heart of the order.

Steamer projections are out for 2024, with Ohtani, Betts, and Freeman all expected to be in the top 12 in wRC+, between 141-145. Steamer projects that trio to combine for 102 doubles, 98 home runs, and 48 stolen bases, among other things, next season.

2024 Steamer projections

Shohei Ohtani .273/.377/.549 145 28 39 20 92
Mookie Betts .279/.373/.513 143 36 26 13 82
Freddie Freeman .302/.389/.508 141 38 33 15 76
Source: FanGraphs

If we lower expectations to a 140 OPS+, only four Dodgers teams have had at least three qualified players pull this off. The 1953 Brooklyn team was the usual gold standard for excellence in franchise history for years, and was the last Dodgers team to score 900 runs before 2023. That 1953 team had four players with at least a 140 OPS+ — Duke Snider (165), Roy Campanella (153), Carl Furillo (147), and Gil Hodges (140). Jackie Robinson just missed with a 138 OPS+. That was a truly great team.

The only Los Angeles Dodgers team with three players with a 140 OPS+ was in 2001, in Gary Sheffield (164), Shawn Green (154), and catcher Paul Lo Duca (142).

Whatever order Dave Roberts picks for his magnificent trio is yet to be decided, but there shouldn’t be much of an issue if left-handers Freeman and Ohtani bat back-to-back, even if a left-handed pitcher is brought in. Freeman had a 174 wRC+ against southpaws in 2023, and has a 120 career wRC+ against them. Ohtani was at 135 last year and has a 123 wRC+ against lefties over his career. They’ll be just fine.

I know what you might be thinking. The Dodgers already had a great offense, leading the National League in runs scored for five straight seasons before finishing second to Atlanta last year. But all that regular season offense disappeared in the NLDS. Freeman and Betts combined for one hit in 21 at-bats against the Diamondbacks. Ohtani did not play in the postseason in his first six years in the majors with the Angels.

But the best way for Betts and Freeman, and the Dodgers to wash that rancid NLDS taste out of their mouths is to keep giving themselves more chances, and hope that the great players will play greatly, like they’ve shown throughout their careers.

At the winter meetings in Nashville on Tuesday, Roberts said of Ohtani, “For us, you’re making a bet on the person, and the player as well.”

That sentiment applies just as much to Betts and Freeman as well. We can worry about October when the Dodgers get there, for a 12th consecutive postseason appearance. But for now, just revel in Ohtani taking the offense to a new level.