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The battle for the National League on-base percentage crown

Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Dodgers are locked into their playoff seeding, but the weekend in San Francisco is not without at least some measure of suspense. A few goals remain in play.

If the Dodgers win at least two of the three games at Oracle Park, they will win 100 games for a third straight season and a fourth consecutive full season. The only teams this century to win in triple digits in three straight years are the Yankees from 2002-04 and Astros from 2017-19.

From an individual standpoint, a few other milestones are within reach.

They already knocked out the first Dodgers quartet of players with 100 RBI, the final two members joining the last two days at Coors Field.

Mookie Betts’ 106 RBI this season are the most by any player in major league history out of the leadoff spot, but Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves is right behind him with 105. Acuña is going to win National League MVP, by the way — and don’t be surprised when the voting isn’t as close as you are I think it should be — but RBI is still one area in which Betts can surpass him.

If Betts hits one more home run, he’ll be the first Dodger ever with 40 home runs and 40 doubles in a season.

Freddie Freeman is not only two doubles away from the first 60-double season in 87 years, but is also two home runs away from 30. Getting them both would make him the first 30-60 player in major league history.

Freeman is having a better season than in 2022, when he led the majors in hits and doubles, and tied Betts for the National League lead in runs scored. He hit .325 and fell just shy of the batting title, narrowly behind the Mets’ Jeff McNeil (.326). Freeman had three hits in four at-bats on the season’s final day to narrow the gap. A 4-for-4 day would have won Freeman the batting title.

This year, Freeman enters Friday hitting .331, his highest career batting average outside of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (.341). But he’s far behind Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez, who is hitting .353. The gap is so wide that even if Arraez goes hitless in 14 at-bats to end his season — which may or may not include completing the ninth inning of a suspended game in New York in Monday — to fall to .3442, even Freeman collecting 14 hits in 17 at-bats would leave him just shy (.3441) of Arraez.

There’s also Acuña in between at .336, which brings us to the one truly tight statistical race heading into the weekend.

Acuña leads the NL with a .414 on-base percentage, but a trio of suitors are within reach:

  1. Acuña .414
  2. Freeman .4100
  3. Betts .4097
  4. Juan Soto .4089

Freeman led the NL in on-base percentage last season at .407. This year, he’s already reached base 294 times — with his 207 hits, 72 walks, and 15 times hit by pitch — which is the most by a Los Angeles Dodger in a season. The only Brooklyn Dodger to reach base 300 times was Babe Herman in 1930 (311 times)

Let’s say, hypothetically, that Freeman reaches base seven times in 14 plate appearances against the Giants. That would leave him at .41176. He’d need Acuña to reach base four times out of 14 to end at .41161 (three out of 12 would also get Acuña below Freeman in this scenario).

Betts and Freeman are so close in OBP that they could end up exactly tied despite Freeman’s current 36-plate-appearance advantage. Here’s one scenario: Freeman reaches seven times in 14 PA, and Betts reaches eight times in 16 PA, though that would require either Freeman leaving a game earlier than Betts or Betts making the final out on offense in two of the three games this weekend.

We’re kind of in the weeds with such a scenario here, but the main point is that the NL on-base percentage crown is up for grabs, and it’s going to take a strong weekend for a Dodger to take it.

Only eight times has a Dodger led the National League in on-base percentage, four each in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Nobody’s ever done it twice, which would put Freeman in a class of his own if he’s able to track down Acuña and hold off the others this weekend.