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Dave Roberts has guaranteed a Dodgers World Series in 2022: What do the projections say?

Dave Roberts has guaranteed a Dodgers World Series in 2022: What do the projections say?
Jun 5, 2021; Cumberland, Georgia, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger (35) steals second base behind Atlanta Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies (1) during the fourth inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Clint Manry

Everyone has had a few many to drink before, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his guarantee last Friday that his LA club would win the World Series. But c’mon… who does this?

I guess you gotta love the confidence in his team.

There was already a rivalry brewing between the Braves and Dodgers. The two teams have met in three of the last four postseasons, with Atlanta defeating LA in last year’s NLCS (4-2), before going on to beat the Astros in the Fall Classic. Then, of course, there’s the current offseason, in which the Dodgers wound up signing Atlanta’s former franchise player Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million contract — a deal that really wasn’t much better than the five-year pact GM Alex Anthopoulos offered him this past winter. And as sort of a counter by the Braves, Anthopoulos went out and signed the Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen, to a one-year, $16 million deal. These two clubs have essentially been trading blows for the last four years now, and with the way both teams are currently setup, it looks like 2022 is going to be another exciting and intense rivalry between LA and Atlanta.

But is Roberts any where close to being right? We know the Dodgers always spend more money than the Braves, and as a result, they too usually possess more talent on its roster. But is LA far and away better than Atlanta this year?

Let’s answer that question by breaking down the three main position groups (starting pitching, bullpen and hitting) and see which team is projected to be the best (using FanGraphs ZiPS).

Pitching

LAD STARTERS

PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR)
Walker Buehler4.9
Julio Urias4.4
Clayton Kershaw3.0
Andrew Heaney1.7
Tyler Anderson1.5
TOTAL15.5

ATL STARTERS

PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR
Max Fried4.6
Charlie Morton3.9
Ian Anderson3.3
Huascar Ynoa2.0
Kyle Wright1.6
TOTAL15.4

As you can see, the starting pitching is about as close as it can get, in terms of the projections. An 0.1 WAR difference is basically nothing. Although there’s a lot more to it than just the five-man rotation for each team as both clubs are missing very important pieces due to injury.

For the Braves starting rotation, you must account for Mike Soroka, who’s expected to return in the second-half of 2022. Getting 10-15 starts from the 24-year-old righty could definitely be a huge plus for this Atlanta starting staff. Remember, Soroka was an NL Cy Young contender in 2019. Other impactful pitchers to help add even more value to the Braves starting unit consist of Tucker Davidson and Kyle Muller. Even though I think Wright has the spot over him, Davidson is actually the preferred choice for the fifth rotation spot over Wright, according to FanGraphs’ Roster Resource page. And Muller, who pitched well in roughly two months of starts in 2021, could always help provide some innings in the majors as well.

The Dodgers also have a few other options, other than the guys listed in the table above, with both Dustin May and Jimmy Nelson on the 60-day IL (which is why they signed Anderson). May, who had Tommy John surgery — and is expected to throw his first bullpen session on April 1 — has been a strong young starter so far for LA, accumulating a 2.93 ERA in 113 2/3 career innings spanning parts of three seasons. Nelson, more of a reliever these last two years, is dealing with an elbow injury. He’s capable of making spot starts for the Dodgers too, though his impact is probably pretty limited.

This one is basically a tie, although I’d probably give the Braves the edge given it has better depth options and a more impactful pitcher potentially coming of the injured list in Soroka.

*EDIT: this exercise was started before it was announced that the Braves will begin the regular season with a six-man starting rotation.

LAD BULLPEN

PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR)
Blake Treinen1.1
Alex Vesia0.2
Daniel Hudson0.4
Brusdar Graterol0.6
Phil Bickford0.1
Evan Phillips0.1
Caleb Ferguson0.7
Justin Bruihl0.6
Tony Gonsolin0.4
David Price1.0
TOTAL5.2

ATL BULLPEN

PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR)
Kenley Jansen0.8
Will Smith0.5
Collin McHugh0.8
Tyler Matzek0.8
Luke Jackson0.3
A.J. Minter0.9
Darren O’Day0.2
Jacob Webb0.1
Spencer Strider1.2
Sean Newcomb0.5
TOTAL6.1

Historically the Dodgers have always possessed a strong bullpen. It’s not difficult to do when you can afford to roster seven or eight viable starting pitchers; just use five for your starting staff, then insert the other two or three in the bullpen. But on paper this season LA doesn’t look as strong, especially compared to the Braves.

Although the Dodgers will look less dangerous in the bullpen to start the 2022 season, the team should get stronger as the year progresses. Tommy Kahnle, who signed to a two-year deal last offseason, is expected to return from the IL at some point as he should be close to fully healed from his Tommy John surgery (which caused him to miss all of 2021). Kahnle was a beast for the Yankees back in 2019, posting a 3.67 ERA in 61 1/3 innings that year. LA should also receive some relief from lefty Danny Duffy, an arm the team signed just a few weeks ago. Duffy, who’s expected to come off the IL “some time in June”, is formally a starter, but given he’s coming off surgery last October to repair a flexor tendon, he’ll likely limit his work in 2022, suggesting a bullpen role for the time being. Both Kahnle and Duffy will be big additions once healthy.

Unlike the Dodgers, the Braves look even better in the bullpen this season. You could probably insert recently-acquired righty Tyler Thornburg in there as well as a depth option as Atlanta has 10-11 capable arms for relief innings in 2022. Kirby Yates is the man everyone is excited to see when he returns, which is looking like probably somewhere around mid-season. Jay Jackson is another arm that could eventually make an impact as well.

The Braves easily take this one as it probably has one of the best (if not the best) bullpens in the game. The projection for Spencer Strider above (1.2 WAR) is a bit optimistic, though I think ZiPS rans its numbers with him as more of a starter than a reliever. However, even if you cut his projected 2022 WAR in half, Atlanta’s bullpen is still the superior group.

Hitting

LAD HITTERS

PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR)
Freddie Freeman4.0
Mookie Betts5.5
Trea Turner5.7
Chris Taylor1.9
Max Muncy3.4
Justin Turner2.6
Cody Bellinger3.1
AJ Pollock2.1
Will Smith4.3
TOTAL32.6
PLAYER2022 ZiPS (fWAR)
Austin Riley3.3
Matt Olson4.8
Ozzie Albies4.1
Dansby Swanson2.6
Marcell Ozuna1.6
Adam Duvall1.8
Travis d’Arnaud0.7
Eddie Rosario1.3
Alex Dickerson0.4
TOTAL20.6

Yeah… yeah… the Dodgers are absolutely stacked on offense as literally eight of its nine potential regulars are projected to accrue at least 2 WAR this season, with Chris Taylor the worst at 1.9. It’s simply ridiculous just how dangerous LA’s lineup is going to be in 2022, and I’m not sure there’s a better one in baseball at this point.

The Braves really need another bat, and GM Alex Anthopoulos has even admitted that. However, it looks like the team is going to roll with what it has, which to me, is a better group then what the projections are expecting. In terms of exceeding their projected numbers, I believe Marcell Ozuna will surpass 1.6 WAR this season. Save for his disaster of a year in 2021, he hasn’t finished a campaign below 2.5 since 2014. Still, though, a few more WAR isn’t going to really help the Braves get much closer to the Dodgers on offense. Atlanta needs a breakout from someone. Although we shouldn’t forget, Ronald Acuna Jr. should return some time around the end of April or beginning of May, so you can add another 4.5-5 WAR or so to that total. In terms of bench options, Guillermo Heredia, Orlando Arcia and Brock Holt collectively tack on another 2-ish WAR to the grand total.

ZiPS really loves LA’s offense, and though some of the projections may be a bit over the top, I wouldn’t argue too much. With so many All-Stars in the lineup, several of them are bound to get hot in 2022 and put up monster numbers, so 30+ WAR is probably a safe bet. The two projections I have an issue with, though, is Max Muncy’s and Cody Bellinger’s. With Freddie Freeman now a Dodger, I don’t see how Muncy can get enough ABs to surpass 3 WAR this season, and Bellinger… well he’s coming off a combined 0.4 WAR over the last two seasons as his huge 2019 campaign is looking more and more like a fluke. I don’t think he achieves 3.1 WAR in 2022. Either way, though, this is a scary lineup. The Dodgers notable bench pieces on offense consist of Gavin Lux, Austin Barnes and Edwin Rios — a group that should add on another 2-2.5 WAR.

It’s obvious, but the Dodgers are definitely the better offensive team. We probably didn’t even need to look at the projections to know that.


So there you have it. As you can see, the Dodgers are not some superpower that’s head and shoulders better than the Braves. We didn’t look at defense, but given that’s still a pretty difficult thing to quantify these days (and even harder to project), I didn’t think it was worth looking too deep into. Both LA and Atlanta have some outstanding defenders, and each club also has some weaknesses in that department as well. The point is… these two teams are much closer than Roberts probably thinks. As we saw last postseason, World Series aren’t won simply because of firepower on offense. And while the Dodgers will most likely score more runs than the Braves in 2022, when it comes to the starting rotation and bullpen, the Braves should be the better club.

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