After a shortened 2020 MLB season that saw the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series for the first time since 1988, the team failed to repeat the achievement this past October in the 2021 season.
The team was presented with various obstacles this season. The piling of injuries, situations off the field– such as the ongoing civil case with pitcher Trevor Bauer– and the presence of strong teams in the N.L. West like the star-studded San Diego Padres and dark horse candidate San Francisco Giants raised doubts for the squad winning back-to-back championships.
However, the mid-season acquisitions of pitcher Max Schezer and infielder Trea Turner added more star-power in the already strong lineup. This pushed the Los Angeles-based team into direct competition against the Giants for the N.L West Division title. Unfortunately, San Francisco won the division by a margin of one game, ending the 8-year reign of the Dodgers.
Since Los Angeles failed to win their division, they had to face the St. Louis Cardinals in a winner-take-all Wild Card game, where the heroics of Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run saw the Dodgers advance to the National League Divisional Series. The matchup in this round was against a familiar foe: the San Francisco Giants. The series came down to the wire, and the Dodgers ended with the win.
Despite beating San Francisco– the best regular season team of 2021, the boys in blue were outperformed and defeated by the Atlanta Braves in the subsequent National League Championship Series (NLCS). It is puzzling how a team that was coined as a .500 ball club during the regular season handled the team with the highest payroll of the league in six games.
The loss can be attributed to many factors. Primarily, the Atlanta Braves were just a hungry and overlooked team looking to spoil the repeated tale of the Dodgers. Dominance at the plate from Freddie Freeman, Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario– who posted a ridiculous .560 batting average (BA) during the NLCS, made L.A. play catch-up many times during the series.
Cold bats were visible in the Dodger lineup, as solidified stars such as Mookie Betts (.174 BA in NLCS), Corey Seager (.167 BA in NLCS) and reigning batting champion Trea Turner (.240 BA in NLCS) went silent throughout the 6 games.
The notorious and questionable managerial techniques of Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts were once again the center of attention. His reliance on sabermetrics and analytics seemed to not function, as his pitching changes were inconsistent and sometimes ineffective. On the other hand, Braves manager Brian Snitker, who is regarded as an “old school” manager, easily outcoached Roberts by tending to stay away from matchup probabilities in tense situations.
The injury bug was running through the Los Angeles team as well. By the middle of the NLCS, important players like Justin Turner and Joe Kelly joined Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw on the injury lists, while Max Scherzer was scrapped from several starts feeling as if he had “overcooked himself.”
Ultimately, the Atlanta Braves went on to win the World Series in 2021, while the Dodgers will have a busy offseason ahead of them, as many integral players such as Corey Seager, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen are in free agency. As of early November, there has not been much movement in the Dodgers’ front office, but this is bound to change.