Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers arrive to Great American Ball Park with a record of 35-25, good for a first-place tie in the NL West division with the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers started the season 13-13 through the first month, but have played 22-12 ball since. They’re coming off a 2-1 series loss in LA to the Yankees. In power rankings, the Dodgers are 5th in FanGraphs and 6th in The Athletic. (The Reds are 25th and 26th respectively).  

Last season the Dodgers won an MLB-best 111 games before being upset in the NLDS by the San Deigo Padres. The Dodgers have qualified for the postseason ten years in a row (that’s right) including the last seven under President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. They won the 2020 World Series and finished second two other times in that stretch. The 46-year-old Friedman worked magic at Tampa Bay earlier in his career then took his talents to Chavez Ravine and a top-tier payroll.

For those inclined toward baseball history, it’s worth remembering that in the Big Red Machine era, the Dodgers were often the second-best team in baseball. The Reds won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. The Dodgers reached the World Series in 1974, 1977 and 1978.

The 2023 Dodgers are spending $228 million on player salaries in 2023. That’s down from $285 million two years ago. They haven’t spent below $200 million since 2018. 

The three-game series starts tonight. 

  • Tuesday (7:10 pm)
  • Wednesday (7:10 pm)
  • Thursday (12:35 pm)

The Dodgers won all seven games the two teams played last year by a combined score of 52-18. The teams split six games in 2021. Somehow, in 2018 when the Reds were losing 95 games and the Dodgers winning 92, the Reds won the season series 6-1. 


Gone are SS Trea Turner, CF/1B Cody Bellinger and 3B Justin Turner to free agency. The Dodgers didn’t make any huge free agent signings in the offseason. They did add several important pieces.

  • JD Martinez (DH) – $10 million/1 year
  • Jason Heyward (OF) – league minimum (Cubs paying him $22m)
  • Noah Syndergaard (SP) – $13 million/1 year
  • David Peralta (OF) – $6.5 million/1 year
  • Miguel Rojas (SS) – via trade, $11 million/2 years
  • Shelby Miller (SP/RP) – $1.5 million/1 year
Position Players

The Dodgers can score runs.  The top of their lineup has been awesome. They rank 3rd in overall offense (Reds 23rd), 2nd in home runs (Reds 29th), 1st in isolated power (Reds 26th) and 7th in average exit velocity (Reds 30th). They also take walks, ranking 2nd in MLB (Reds 4th) and run the bases. They rank 2nd in FanGraphs’ composite base running metric BsR (Reds 4th). They’ve done this without SS Gavin Lux who has missed the season with knee surgery. Lux had a wRC+ of 113 in 2022. OF Trayce Thompson is also sidelined (oblique). He put up a wRC+ of 142 last year.

Here are the 13 Dodger position players with their 2023 stats through Sunday. 

The Dodger lineup still features Mookie Betts, who has won six Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, the A.L. MVP and finished second in MVP voting two other times. Freddie Freeman, who also has a large collection of awards — a Gold Glove, three Silver Sluggers, one N.L. MVP — is having one of the best years in his career and leads MLB in total bases. Yet the best hitter on the team may be 28-year-old catcher Will Smith.

Here’s the lineup manager Dave Roberts has used against right-handed pitchers:

1. Mookie Betts (R)
2. Freddie Freeman (L)
3. Will Smith (R)
4. Max Muncy (L)
5. J.D. Martinez (R)
6. David Peralta (L)
7. Miguel Vargas (R)
8. Chris Taylor (R)
9. James Outman (L)
They’ll present a challenge to the Reds pitching staff. 

The Dodgers pitching staff has been decimated by injuries. They are without ace Walker Buehler (Tommy John surgery), Dustin May (flexor), Ryan Pepiot (oblique) and Julio Urias (hamstring). Six relievers are on the IL, each on the 60-day list. 

Starting Rotation

The Dodgers starting pitching has been middle-of-the-pack, which is about as good as you could expect given the pitchers who are missing due to injury. They rank 10th in xwOBA, 11th in xFIP, 14th in average exit velocity surrendered, 21st in strikeouts and fourth in walks. 

Here are the series’ probable starters. The Reds will face a large dose of veteran starting pitching this series. 

  • Tuesday Luke Weaver vs. Tony Gonsolin
  • Wednesday Brandon Williamson vs. Noah Syndergaard
  • Thursday Graham Ashcraft vs. Clayton Kershaw

Tony Gonsolin will be making his eighth start this season. Gonsolin hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts, but hasn’t pitched deep into games. His strikeout rate has fallen along with his fastball velocity. Gonsolin’s underlying numbers and .155 BABIP don’t support his low ERA. 

Noah Syndergaard is having a disappointing season so far for the Dodgers. In his most recent start, Syndergaard went five innings, giving up five earned runs, seven hits, and a season high three HR to the Washington Nationals. Syndergaard posted a desperate plea on his Instagram account afterward. The Dodgers reportedly considered moving him to the bullpen or just outright releasing him. This start in Cincinnati may be it for Thor. 

Clayton Kershaw is pitching like you’d expect a 35-year-old sure-fire Hall of Famer. Kershaw’s 16th major league season — all with the Dodgers — has been successful. He’s struck out 84 and walked only 17 in his 69.1 innings. Kershaw’s fastball velocity isn’t what it used to be, but he’s relied more on a slider in recent years. Against the Yankees in his last start, Kershaw went seven innings, striking out nine and walking one. 


The Dodgers’ bullpen is their weak spot, largely due to the injury toll. They rank 27th in xwOBA and 13th in xFIP. They are 17th in strikeouts and sixth in walks. As a group, their relief corps has been inconsistent at best and awful in many games. 

Kenley Jansen has been gone since 2021. 28-year-old Evan Phillips is the Dodgers closer.  


The competition gets even tougher as the Reds try to move on from a disappointing and dispiriting series against the Brewers. The 2023 Dodgers may not be as good as their 100-win teams of the past few seasons, but they are still talented and experienced. The Reds pitchers haven’t faced a lineup this strong and deep all season. But the Dodger starting pitchers in the first two games give the Reds a chance to match that firepower on the scoreboard.

Featured image: Dodgers Facebook

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.