The Dodgers Lead Our 2023 MLB Forecast — But They're The Weakest Favorite In Years
There's plenty of doubt about L.A. after its shaky offseason.
As we look ahead to Opening Day on Thursday, plenty of usual suspects lead the World Series odds in our 2023 MLB forecast interactive. But what you can’t see is how much variance there was around each team’s prediction, between the different component forecasts that go into our preseason model. And surprisingly, no contender comes freighted with more uncertainty this year than the team with the best odds in our forecast: the Los Angeles Dodgers.
At the high end of the component predictions, our regressed-to-the-mean Elo ratings from the end of last season imply that the Dodgers will win 100.4 games in 2023 — ho-hum, another outstanding year for a team that has cracked triple digits in the win column four times over its past five full seasons. But on the low side, FanGraphs’s predictions call for the Dodgers to win just 87 games, which would be the team’s fewest in a full season since 2012. Adding to the disagreement, the other two component forecasters (Clay Davenport and Baseball Prospectus) are roughly in the middle of L.A.’s two extremes.
As a result, no team has a greater standard deviation in its component preseason win forecasts than the Dodgers do:
The Dodgers have the most uncertainty in their projections
Average and standard deviation of predicted 2023 win totals for MLB teams, according to a composite of FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings and three statistical projection systems
On the one hand, it’s strange to think about Los Angeles being at risk to take a real step back in the standings. In the regular season at least, the Dodgers are as close to a winning machine as baseball has seen over the past decade, posting an MLB-high 931 wins and never once dipping below a .562 winning percentage (or 91 wins per 162 games). They also perennially open up the pocketbook for premium talent, ranking first in payroll five times during that span (and in the top three eight times), never falling below seventh in spending. L.A. would seem to be the baseball equivalent of a blue-chip stock — a stable investment that always delivers a reliable return.
However, there are legitimate reasons to think Los Angeles is facing a more uncertain path this year. For one thing, the Dodgers are spending less than usual: According to Spotrac, L.A. currently ranks “only” fifth in payroll, which would be the team’s lowest ranking since 2018. Furthermore, nearly half of the 2023 Dodgers’ starting lineup will be newcomers to the team, to go along with a handful of new faces in the pitching staff and on the bench.1 Those additions were necessary after the Dodgers lost a stunning array of big names since the end of last season, including Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, David Price, Joey Gallo and Craig Kimbrel.
We’re used to seeing the Dodgers add name-brand players, not lose them. But the surest sign this is an unusual moment for Los Angeles is the fact that the Dodgers lost more value (based on net 2022 wins above replacement2) during the offseason than any other team in baseball.
The Dodgers were the offseason’s biggest loser
MLB teams ranked by net 2022 wins above replacement added versus subtracted during the 2022-23 offseason
Still, that doesn’t mean the worst-case scenarios will necessarily play out at Dodger Stadium this summer. New starting second baseman Miguel Vargas had a .915 OPS in Triple-A last season and is Baseball America’s No. 30-ranked prospect heading into 2023. Lineup additions David Peralta, J.D. Martinez and Miguel Rojas are all bounce-back candidates at the plate for 2023, despite each being in his mid-30s. Starter Noah Syndergaard reclaimed some of his former potential with a solid 94 FIP-minus in 134⅔ innings last season. And it would surprise exactly no one if Los Angeles made a big midseason splash on the trade market to shore up its position in the playoff race, should things eventually come to that.
Even so, the Dodgers’ uncertain overall outlook may speak to a different kind of MLB season in store for 2023. Yes, they once again find themselves atop our preseason World Series odds — where they also resided in 2022, 2021 and 2020 — but they have only an 11 percent probability of winning it all. That’s the lowest for any preseason favorite in our model since the Chicago Cubs also had an 11 percent chance going into the 2016 season. While we would never count out talented teams like L.A. and its fellow top contenders (the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, etc.), we can’t be quite as sure about their chances this year as we normally would be.
Check out our latest MLB predictions.