Dodgers' Early-Season Takeaways After 1st Month of Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2022

Dodgers' Early-Season Takeaways After 1st Month of Season

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers have made the postseason nine years in a row, and after another flashy offseason that saw them add superstar first baseman Freddie Freeman in free agency, they are once again looking like one of baseball's elite teams.

    The starting rotation has been the biggest catalyst for their early success, with young starters Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin all throwing the ball well alongside future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, who returned on a one-year deal.

    However, it hasn't all been good, and the early struggles of 37-year-old Justin Turner are especially concerning.

    Ahead, we've taken a closer look at the Dodgers' biggest early takeaways of the 2022 season.

Freddie Freeman Is Fitting Right In

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    The Dodgers handed Freddie Freeman a six-year, $162 million contract in one of the biggest moves of the MLB offseason, and the team's new first baseman is fitting right in with his new team.

    The 32-year-old is hitting .314/.398/.514 with 14 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 28 games, and his 163 OPS+ is tops among the team's everyday players. Freeman has been a staple at the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

    It remains to be seen how he's going to age over the course of the six-year deal, as he'll be 37 years old in the final year of the contract, but for a team built to contend for a title right now, he has made an immediate impact at the plate.

    With Max Muncy, Trea Turner and Justin Turner all off to slow starts relative to their usual production, Freeman's contributions have become that much more important.

End of the Road for Justin Turner?

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    Justin Turner tested the open market prior to the 2021 season in hopes of securing a four-year deal, but he eventually found his way back to the Dodgers on a two-year, $34 million contract that includes a 2023 club option.

    The 37-year-old was his usual productive self last year, posting a 123 OPS+ with 27 home runs and 87 RBI while earning his second career All-Star selection, but his numbers have plummeted in the early going this season.

    Turner is hitting just .200/.252/.300 with a 59 OPS+ that ranks 160th out of 175 qualified hitters, and his batted-ball metrics provide zero optimism for a quick turnaround. His average exit velocity (90.9 to 87.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (42.4 to 34.9 percent) have both plummeted, and his modest 18 percent strikeout rate is also a career high.

    He has started seeing more time as the designated hitter and less time at third base, with Max Muncy picking up some of the workload at the hot corner, but his $16 million club option for next year is looking increasingly likely to be bought out for $2 million.

A Dominant Starting Rotation

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    Walker Buehler
    Walker BuehlerNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Simply put, the Dodgers rotation has been the best in baseball.

    Their starting staff leads the majors in ERA (1.82), WHIP (1.00) and opponents' batting average (.199), and they have allowed just 10 home runs in 148.2 innings.

    Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin all have an ERA of 2.10 or lower entering play on Wednesday, and while the team's depth was tested early when Andrew Heaney hit the injured list after just two starts, Tyler Anderson has made a seamless transition into the No. 5 starter job.

    Top prospect Ryan Pepiot is scheduled to make his MLB debut on Wednesday, and the team is also expected to welcome back Dustin May and Danny Duffy at some point in the not-too-distant future.

    There is no shortage of star power in the Dodgers lineup, but it's baseball's best starting rotation that once again has them squarely positioned among the World Series favorites.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and accurate through Tuesday's games.