[Opinion] A Deeper Dive into the Dodgers Postseason Struggles


Avery Rosas

From the stand, Dodgers fans wait for the first pitch of the 2022 NLDS, the only game they end up winning in the disappointing series.

Avery Rosas, Sports Editor

Josh Hader prepares himself on the mound, foot set adjacent to the rubber, ready for his next offering. He sets, engulfed by the deafening roar of 42,000 unhinged Padres fans on their feet as he lunges his body down the mound and delivers a changeup that first baseman Freddie Freeman swings over for a simultaneous third strike and out. 

That was it. The Los Angeles Dodgers season was over in an instant, as if their April 8th Opening Day start had happened only yesterday. 

But it didn’t. 190 days occurred between the start and end of the season. Including the postseason, 166 games were played; a full season and 4 games in the postseason. Even 2 weeks later, I’m still at a loss for words.

I don’t know how to describe this season, but I suppose there are 2 ways to look at it. 

There’s the optimistic way: we won 111 games and had the best regular season in recent history, the best National League season since 1908; that’s pretty important, right?

And then there’s my way: We lost in the division series to the San Diego Padres, a team we were 14-5 against this year. A mess. 111 wins to be outmatched by a team that had no answer for us all year, a team that had not beaten us in a series since June of 2021.

A team beating another that employed Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy and Justin Turner, who turned a ridiculous amount of chances with runners in scoring position into 2 hits in 4 games. That is not a winning formula. 

Before anything else, we need to examine how the Dodgers operated throughout the year. A plethora of rotation arms at the beginning of the year was a sigh of relief after not only losing Max Scherzer in free agency, but also because of their downfall in the previous postseason, largely due to a lack of starting pitching. Offensive production, with all its niches, was never an issue.

No one was going to top the first-half New York Yankees, not even the Dodgers’ powerhouse. July 16th saw the end of the Dodgers’ first half, a 60-30 record and a 3 game deficit to the Yankees for the best record in baseball. 

For any other team, a 108-win pace through the first half would be considered elite; for the Dodgers, it was just the start. A 4-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants to start the second half was a sign of things to come… right?

After at one point having a half-game lead over the 2nd place Padres, by September 13th they saw themselves with a 20+ game lead and a division championship after a 4-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Thanks, Baseball Almanac.)

From the surface, one of the earliest division clinches in history seems like a good thing. But perhaps it wasn’t. If we look as early as last year, the Dodgers fought tooth and nail up to the last game of the season in order to have a chance at taking the division from their rival Giants. 

After going 21-7 in their last 28 to end the season, they still found themselves 1 game back, after which they drained themselves in a 5-game NLDS win against those rival Giants. We don’t need to go into detail about what happens after. 

This season was drastically different. Once they secured the division, their lineup the following day was missing the top 4 in the order for the first time all year. We lost the game, 5-3. Before we continue, I must stress that I don’t think we needed to go full steam ahead after securing the division, nor do I think that we were too good so as to say we had too much time left. 

It’s tricky. You don’t want them to burn all their energy and be burnt out for the postseason; you also don’t want them to stop trying and have to scramble trying to remember how to play baseball before the postseason starts.

If you watched the Dodgers play every day like I had, you saw a difference. The losses were less tense and seemed more as if they stopped trying once they were losing in the late innings. The blowout wins that we got so used to had disappeared. A 13-8 finish to the season isn’t bad when they weren’t trying as hard, but couldn’t it have at least looked prettier?

All of the losses didn’t matter after the division was ours. And frankly, the only wins that mattered were the ones that secured the Dodgers the #1 seed throughout the postseason. They got that too, plus 4 more wins after the fact. 

Concern came with the final 3 losses of the season, all coming consecutively against the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers scored 4 runs in those 3 losses and looked lost at the plate the entire time, but we had to once again remind ourselves that it “did not matter.

It mattered. The final game of the season was a 6-1 win that looked more like the Dodgers from the rest of the season, perhaps a quick glance into what we could be expecting 5 days later. Freeman homered for the first time in over 20 games, and Craig Kimbrel struck out the side for the first time all year. 

Complacency was the death of the Dodgers. The bullpen was elite until it wasn’t. The offense showed signs of concern even in their one win of the series. Maybe they felt that they had nothing to prove after such an incredible regular season, or perhaps it was that daunting pressure to deliver that somehow made them cave in on themselves.

The 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers season was by far the funnest time of my entire life. Seeing a Mexican pitcher lead the league in ERA created a sense of pride I imagine a young Mexican boy felt at the birth of Fernandomania in the 80s. Seeing Clayton Kershaw, from the yellow seats of Dodger Stadium, become the Dodgers strikeout king will forever be a memory that I consider among the best.

Where was this magic? Where had it gone? Why did this once-familiar feeling of “we’ll bounce back” suddenly elude me? I began writing this thinking I knew the answer. For the most part, I think I do. But for the parts I do not understand, I sit idly, trying earnestly to understand what could have caused everything to go wrong.

The most disappointing season in Dodgers history was not merely an offensive skid. It was the culmination of ineffable pressure to be the best while everyone else wanted nothing more than to see you lose. The Houston Astros play with a chip on their shoulder, and it’s taken them to 6 straight ALCS appearances and 4 pennants in the last 6 years. 

If there were any explanation for an NLCS loss against an 88-win Atlanta Braves team, it wasn’t because they were fundamentally better. It was because of steroid-user Eddie Rosario and the unmatched energy that beamed from their dugout. 

In case these sounded like excuses, I wish they were. They’re reasons, and they need to be addressed. Going 1-5 against the Pirates didn’t help either, but that’s neither here nor there.

I will say, however, that in my completely honest and unbiased opinion that is only affected by my ability to accurately analyze the performance of any given Major League Baseball team, and not by ignorant speculation, that I can confidently say: we’re still winning the World Series in 2023.