Let’s Compare the 1988 WS Dodgers With This Year’s Team

This could be the year the Dodgers break their World Series drought. Lots of folks believe it, from the never say die, blue-tinted lens wearers, to the cold and calculating, sabre-metric heads. This really could be the year.

The last time the Dodgers won the World Series was a generation ago. Tommy Lasorda is much older and slower, but thankfully, he’s still with us. The 1988 catcher has gone on to win a World Series title as a manager in the American league, and their ace pitcher is now a member of the tv broadcasting team.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the two teams, the 1988 champions and this year’s squad, and see how they stack up against one another. Let’s begin:

Starting pitching 1988. We’ll go with the big five who began the season.

Rk Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 SP Orel Hershiser 29 23 8 .742 2.26 35 34 1 15 8 1 267.0 208 73 67 18 73 10 178 4 5 6 1068 149 3.18 1.052 7.0 0.6 2.5 6.0 2.44
2 SP Tim Leary 29 17 11 .607 2.91 35 34 0 9 6 0 228.2 201 87 74 13 56 4 180 6 6 9 932 115 2.75 1.124 7.9 0.5 2.2 7.1 3.21
3 SP Tim Belcher 26 12 6 .667 2.91 36 27 5 4 1 4 179.2 143 65 58 8 51 7 152 2 0 4 719 116 2.54 1.080 7.2 0.4 2.6 7.6 2.98
4 SP Fernando Valenzuela* 27 5 8 .385 4.24 23 22 1 3 0 1 142.1 142 71 67 11 76 4 64 0 1 7 626 79 4.48 1.532 9.0 0.7 4.8 4.0 0.84
5 SP Don Sutton 43 3 6 .333 3.92 16 16 0 0 0 0 87.1 91 44 38 7 30 6 44 1 4 2 380 86 3.87 1.385 9.4 0.7 3.1 4.5 1.47

The Bulldog won 15 complete games. Tim Leary, next best, had nine. The staff threw 31 CGs in all. It truly was a different game back then. Needless to say, the bullpen will be a much more important factor in 2017 than it was for this group.

Hershiser dominated. At one point he broke the MLB record with a 59 inning scoreless streak. Leary and Belcher were strong, while Fernando and Sutton had lackluster, losing seasons.

Here are the 2016 stats for the Dodgers 2017 starting pitchers.

Rk Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 SP Kenta Maeda 28 16 11 .593 3.48 32 32 0 0 0 0 175.2 150 72 68 20 50 6 179 8 0 6 716 112 3.58 1.139 7.7 1.0 2.6 9.2 3.58
2 SP Clayton Kershaw* 28 12 4 .750 1.69 21 21 0 3 3 0 149.0 97 31 28 8 11 1 172 2 3 5 544 230 1.80 0.725 5.9 0.5 0.7 10.4 15.64

Rich Hill only pitched 34 innings for the Dodgers, with 39 Ks, a 1.83 ERA, a 1.3 WAR and 0.79 WHIP.

Brandon McCarthy didn’t give much more, as he only pitched 40 innings. He had 44 Ks and 26 walks (26! Yikes!), with a 0.2 WAR and 1.38 WHIP.

Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t even pitch in 2016.

The edge clearly goes to the 1988 starting pitchers.

1988 Relief pitchers:

Rk Pos Name Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
6 CL Jay Howell 32 5 3 .625 2.08 50 0 38 0 0 21 65.0 44 16 15 1 21 2 70 1 2 2 262 162 1.83 1.000 6.1 0.1 2.9 9.7 3.33
7 RP Alejandro Pena 29 6 7 .462 1.91 60 0 31 0 0 12 94.1 75 29 20 4 27 6 83 1 2 3 378 176 2.45 1.081 7.2 0.4 2.6 7.9 3.07
8 RP Brian Holton 28 7 3 .700 1.70 45 0 11 0 0 1 84.2 69 19 16 1 26 7 49 1 6 1 339 198 2.72 1.122 7.3 0.1 2.8 5.2 1.88
9 RP Tim Crews 27 4 0 1.000 3.14 42 0 12 0 0 0 71.2 77 29 25 3 16 7 45 0 0 1 301 107 2.73 1.298 9.7 0.4 2.0 5.7 2.81
10 RP Jesse Orosco* 31 3 2 .600 2.72 55 0 21 0 0 9 53.0 41 18 16 4 30 3 43 2 0 1 229 124 3.94 1.340 7.0 0.7 5.1 7.3 1.43

The 1988 bullpen, led by Jay Howell and Alejandro Pena.was solid.

Jay Howell had 70 Ks over 65 innings, with 21 saves and a 2.08 ERA.

Pena had the most innings out of the pen, with 94.1 and 83 Ks. He chalked up 12 more saves and a 1.91 ERA. In  94 innings, he only gave up four home runs.

The 2017 Dodgers give us the best closer in Dodgers’ history. There are strong possibilities in new Dodger, Sergio Romo, and southpaws Luis Avilan, and Adam Liberatore. Everyone else is a toss-up.

Despite Jansen, I give the edge to the ’88 bullpen.

1988 outfield: John Shelby, Kirk Gibson and Mike Marshall.

John Shelby was steady, but not spectacular in CF, and he was a slightly above average hitter. Not much power, and a little streaky, but when he was hitting, he was red-hot. His slash line for 1988 was .263/.320/.395 with 10 home runs and 64 RBIs. He had a 24-game hitting streak and good speed on the bases with 16 swiped bags.

What can I say about Kirk Gibson that hasn’t been said a thousand times over? Bulldog led the team on the mound, but Gibby led from every other possible angle. He was the epitome of a spark plug – heck, he was a human torch. Gibson hit .290/.377/.483 with 25 home runs, 31 steals (31!), 76 RBIs, and 106 runs scored.

Mike Marshall never really lived up to his potential, but he had a steady and productive 1988. Marshall brought a big bat behind Gibby in the lineup, and he delivered with a line of .277/.314/.445 with 20 homers and 27 doubles.

2017 outfield: Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Andrew Toles.

Young Joc hit .246/.352/.495 with 25 homers, 26 doubles and 68 RBIs. He only stole 2 bases, but he’s got the potential for a lot more. He put up these numbers as a platoon player, but if he can hit RH pitching, that platooning will end this season.

Yasiel Puig also platooned and spent time in the minors in 2016. He hit .263/.323/.416 with just 11 home runs and 14 doubles. I’m looking for a healthy and attitude-adjusted Puig to bust out this season.

Andrew Toles was cheated last season by the acquisition of Mr. Smoke and Mirrors, Josh Reddick. As a result, Toles only had 105 ABs. He put up a line of .314/.365/.505 and 16 RBIs in 2016.

Toles had a strong spring, and he caught a break when Andre Ethier went on the DL, opening a slot in left field. He’s had a couple of misplays with the glove, but look for Toles to tear it up this year at the plate and to use his speed on the base paths to regularly turn double into triples.

Even if Toles should not live up to expectations, the Dodgers could plug in Trayce Thompson, and that would not be a bad thing.

The boys had Gibby in 1988, but I’m going with the outstanding potential this group is showing to give the 2017 Dodgers the edge in outfielders.

1988 Infield: Pedro Guerrero, Steve Sax, Alfredo Griffin, Jeff Hamilton.

The Dodgers played infield bingo and shifted players around that year as they dealt with an injured Pedro Guerrero whose bat was too good to keep on the bench, and Mike Davis, whose bat was too hollow to keep on the field.

Guerrero started the season at third base and later went to first base – which Mike Marshall to the outfield and Davis to the bench. Jeff Hamilton then took over third.

Guerrero put up a line of .298/.374/.409 with five dingers and 35 RBI for the Dodgers in just 59 games. He was then dealt to St. Louis for John Tudor.

Steve Sax was Mr. Second Base and the lead off batter for the Dodgers in ’88. He hit .277/.325/.343 and stole a hefty 42 bases.

Alfredo Griffin was a light-hitting, but decent shortstop. That’s about the best I can say about him.

Jeff Hamilton became the Dodgers’ regular third baseman when Pedro Guerrero moved to first base. He excelled at making a nice semi-circle with his cleat in the clay at third base. He didn’t necessarily hurt the team at third, but he didn’t particularly help at the plate either. And that’s the best I can say about him.

2017 Dodgers infield: Adrian Gonzalez, Jeff Forsythe, Corey Seager, Justin Turner.

Adrian Gonzalez: His power is down (possibly gone), but I expect him to be steady at the plate, a la Tony Gwynn. He’s an Iron Man and plays solid first base defense. (He may be petered out by July)

Forsythe had a very good spring and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue into the regular season.

Corey Seager…2016 Rookie of the Year and just getting started. ‘Nuff said.

Justin Turner just keeps getting better every year. He just finished a strong spring suggesting the same for 2017.

Hands down, this infield runs circles around the 1988 infield, both defensively and offensively.

1988 Catcher: Mike Scioscia

Scioscia hit .257/.318/.324 with just three home runs, but the man was literally solid as a rock behind the plate. He threw out 41% of base-stealers and anchored the Dodgers’ pitching staff to number two in the National League. In 1988 nobody blocked a plate better than Mike Scioscia. Nobody.

2017 Catcher: Yasmani Grandal

Grandal’s offensive numbers in 2016 were .228/.339/.477. The BA was anemic, but the power can be found in 27 homers, 14 doubles and a very good 72 RBIs. Bonus: He’s a switch hitter. Defensively, they say he’s one of the top pitch framers in the game, but he only threw out 28% of base stealers.

Scioscia was a rock, but today’s catchers don’t need to be. Grandal’s power gives him the edge over his ’88 counterpart.

1988 Bench:

In 1988 the Dodgers’ bench famously referred to themselves as “The Stuntmen”. Made up of such players as Mickey Hatcher, Franklin Stubbs and Rick Dempsey, they were a solid crew who seamlessly stepped in whenever called upon. While being a testament to their talent and abilities, it also points to the average-ness of many of the Dodger position players in 1988. Nevertheless, they also had an uncanny knack for making the right play, and occasionally a very big play, at exactly the right time.

2017 Bench:

The Dodgers will be looking for flexibility from Chase Utley, Scott Van Slyke and Enrique Hernandez off the bench. In the name of depth, they purposefully chose players that can handle more than one position.

Like Scott, I’m not sold on Hernandez, and unlike many others, I think Van Slyke has maxed out his potential, settling in as mediocre with the bat and the glove.

My vote goes to the talented Stuntmen from 1988.

Manager:

It’s the legendary Tommy Lasorda v last season’s Manager of the Year, Dave Roberts. It’s a tough call, as Roberts clearly knows the game and his players. I can see him winning multiple championships with the right players and autonomy. There’s a lot to like about Doc, but c’mon…it’s Tommy, the greatest motivator the Dodgers have ever seen.

The edge goes to Tommy Lasorda.

Let’s check the score:

The 1988 Dodgers win with SP, the Bullpen, Bench and Manager.

The 2017 Dodgers take the Outfield, Infield and Catcher.

It was close, but the win goes to the 1988 squad. The real point here is the teams are very close in talent and it comes down to choosing six of this or a half-dozen of the other.

This squad is very, very good, which bides well for the 2017 Dodgers and their quest to bring the first World’s Championship to Los Angeles in 23 years.

 

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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35 thoughts on “Let’s Compare the 1988 WS Dodgers With This Year’s Team

  1. I see that Urias is going to pitch a simulated game at Camelback.
    Isn’t his stuff too good to waste? Does this count against his inning limit?
    If not, or even if it is, does anyone agree that every cannonball from this gun should
    be used wisely? Maybe getting a W for us in the standings?

      1. Why not Bluto?
        If we want to win, don’t we start at day one? Does not every bit of positive baseball energy count towards the goal of being WS champs? I admit it’s a bit cutthroat but that’s probably what it takes.
        Why haven’t we won in 29 years?
        A bit soft maybe?
        Please enlighten me with your prospective

        1. Every game, every pitch, hit, it all counts if you want to
          be the world champions. Kids arms have to be sacrificed.
          Egos have to be sacrificed, everything becomes a means to that end.
          I guess runner-up is something you just get comfortable with.
          Better that then hurt someone’s feelings or whatever

          1. No. If you want to have a successful organization that contends for the World Series into the foreseeable future (that’s what’s lacking in your imagination…foresight), you don’t sacrifice the arm of the kid you expect to be an ace or #2 for the next ten years.

            In this perpetual great FAZ/anti-FAZ debate, my point has always been, and I’ve tried to articulate it time and time again, is that to objective is not to sacrifice everything for possibility of wining a WS and then flaming out, but to be a perpetual world series contender.

    1. Just because the objective is to limit his innings in game situations over the course of the season doesn’t mean he sits on the couch and never throws a ball.

    2. Ray

      Urias isn’t even close to being built up to start and pitch yet, so they are going to have to find a way to gradually do that, since he won’t be getting in the rotation for a while.

  2. For those who’ve forgotten or never knew the lyrics to Take Me Out To The Ballgame:

    Take me out to the ball game
    Take me out with the crowd
    Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
    I don’t care if I never get back
    Let me root, root, root
    For the home team
    If they don’t win it’s a shame
    Aahh.
    For it’s one,
    Two,
    Three strikes you’re out
    At the old ball game

    All I need is just one chance
    I could hit a home run
    There isn’t anyone else like me
    Maybe I’ll go down in history
    And it’s root, root, root
    For the home team
    Here comes fortune and fame
    ‘Cause I know
    That
    I’ll be the star
    At the old
    Ball
    Game

      1. Singing is like a prayer for the fans. It creates a single minded energy that the players feel and can tap into. I recall the Boston Red Sox winning the WS back some years ago. The fans poured out their hearts for them. Can L.A. citizens do anything like that? Hard to imagine, but possible. Maybe that has something to do with the mojo that’s necessary to go all the way. In a city like L.A., lack of TV coverage is an unheard of thing for a sports franchise. Raiders left, Rams left (now their back). I hold the fans lack of support responsible! Lakers are dead. Dodgers are the only game in town, now. Take me out to the ball game……………

      2. Actually they don’t. The last couple of years they have started off slow, at one point they were 9 games back of the Giants. All they have to do is keep pace. Now if they fell flat on their face and were 20 games out, then you could worry. Baseball is and always will be a game of streaks. And not having long losing streaks is what keeps you in the race. I do not think this team will have any long losing streaks.

  3. The 88 team had Hershiser do what nobody did up to that point. Our team has Kershaw who doesn’t make me feel 100% confident in October.

    I’ll go with 88

    1. Bobby

      I agree whole heartedly with you on that!

      And until Kershaw dominates in the post season, Koufax is still the most dominate pitcher, in LA Dodger history.

  4. Tough call. I think talent wise this 2017 squad has better overall players. Especially at 1st, SS, and 3rd. Pederson is great defender and so was Shelby. Gibby was a grinder and remember he won the MVP that year. Marshall had a ton of power, but was only average on defense. I would love to have a guy like Leary behind Kersh. He was as solid as they come. I remember the Guererro for Tudor trade, I thought it was a bad deal. You might give the nod to Grandal because of his power, but I would take Scioscia and his far superior defense and game calling skills, and remember, Mike hit a crucial homer off Doc Gooden in the playoffs. They won the series without Gibson except for 1 AB, and probably one of the most memorable HR’s in series history. Orel got the series MVP, but Mickey Hatcher hit 360 in the series with 2 homers. The stuntmen delivered when it counted the most. Our guys are good, but until they prove they can win the big one, they do not match up to the 88 team, which beat a team that was clearly more talented.

  5. Here’s a little tidbit as we approach today’s game…….

    Clayton Kershaw vs. The Padres

    Yes, baseball’s greatest pitcher and highest-paid player earns more money than the team he’ll face on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium.
    Kershaw will make $33 million in 2017, the second consecutive year he’ll earn baseball’s biggest salary. The San Diego Padres, meanwhile, will line up 25 players making a combined $29.6 million. The Padres’ payroll of $34.6 million includes six players on the disabled list, so if you subtract their salaries, the Dodgers’ starting pitcher will earn more than all the able-bodied visitors from San Diego.

    1. Rye

      How can’t a Dodger fan, not love the way the Giants lost yesterday!

      There fans are so terrible even after winning those three World Series.

      I hope they enjoyed those championships, while they could, because they will have to wait for another fifty years, until they win a World Series again.

  6. Interesting stat about the Padres payroll. They look like a last place team.

    ’88. Not a great year for me personally but I do remember October. Until there is another one that wins, the ’88 team is better. My favorite teams were those in the 60’s.

    We saw some shaky bullpens yesterday. In 3 games there were 11 total runs scored after the 7th, 8 in the 9th. Will it be that kind of year? For some, yeah. SF gave up 6 from the 6th on. Another example of how the win stat needs to be changed – After Martinez shut out the Cubs for 7.1, Oh comes in for 5 outs, gives up 3 runs, gets a Blown Save – and a W. That’s just wrong.

    1. Badger

      Really the win stat should only be a team stat, not a stat for a pitcher.

      Because a pitchers win or loss, is to much based, on what there team does on defense, as well as on offense.

  7. Great comparison!

    Right now all things look good for this team! Right now!

    But Scioscia said the 88 team did all the small things needed to win. Will this team do those same things? Or will they stand around and wait for someone to hit a 3 run HR?

    I predicted 87 wins last season. In honor of this post I’ll go with 88 wins this season.

    Anyone else want to post their prediction?

    1. Artieboy

      That is what this team needs to do to score more runs, they need to do all of the small things.

      Because any offense based off HRs, isn’t going to work against good pitching, most of the time.

      And if they want to win in the post season, it is going to take all of the small things to win it all, along with good pitching, and good defense.

    2. Did so 7 days ago………

      My first prediction for 2017 is that the LA Dodgers will lead the league in DL transactions.

      When analyzing the NL teams, it is safe to say that probably 6 teams are vying for 5 playoff spots. Those would include the Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Cardinals, Mets & Nationals. That would mean that winning 90 games would all but guarantee a playoff spot.

      Win 90 and you are in ‘the crapshoot’ as LA Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten likes to call it. Ignore preparation, opportunity and success. It’s all luck. Yeah!!!

      IMO the Cubs and Nats are the cream of the crop. In fact I’ll predict that the Nats (98 wins) will have the best record in the NL. Cubs (95 wins) second. The Giants have weaknesses but they also have a stout starting rotation. I firmly believe that the Giants (90 wins) will win the NL West this year. Between the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers for the 2 wild card slots and I can see the Dodgers (88 wins) getting one of those. Both the Mets (88 wins) and Cardinals (86 wins) have pitching concerns. If the Cardinals’ stud prospect Alex Reyes was healthy I would pick them. He’s not so I’ll go with the Mets.

      Dodgers/Mets in the wild card game. Whoever is the home team wins the game. The Nats will represent the NL in the WS against the Red Sox. That is my ‘unbiased predictions.’

      1. Chili

        For the Nats, Strasberg has to keep healthy, and there bullpen needs to keep them into games, at least until the TD, when they trade for a closer.

        And Harper must stay healthy also, and play like he did, in 2015.

    1. 1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
      2. Corey Seager (L) SS
      3. Justin Turner (R) 3B
      4. Adrian Gonzalez (L) 1B
      5. Logan Forsythe (R) 2B
      6. Joc Pederson (L) CF
      7. Yasmani Grandal (S) C
      8. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
      9. Clayton Kershaw (L) P

      Predictions? Under 93, in the crap-shoot again. Same result. Top 3, in # of starters used. Top 3 in DL use. A ho hum Latos II pitcher pickup at the deadline.

    2. Same lineup we saw in the 2nd Angel game minus the DH with Forsythe leading off. Forsythe, Seager, Turner, Gonzo, Grandal, Pederson, Toles, Puig and Kershaw, you could probably switch Puig and Toles around.

    1. 95 Dodgers wins!! Dodgers win the division going away!

      SF, Cubs, Mets, Nationals are all caught naked with no DEPTH and decimated by injuries to their starting pitching staffs.

    2. I think they are right about where they were last year…..91. Anything more than that will be greatly appreciated, anything less, not a surprise. I also think they need to play above the level of their competition. They lost too many games the last few years that they should have won. Depends on the starting 5 and the BP, if they are solid, it could be a very good year. Time will tell, as for comparing this team to the 88 squad, well that team won. Unless this team wins a series too, there is NO COMPARISON.

  8. Here’s my detail predictions as to how/why the Dodgers will finish with 88 wins…….

    – 13 different arms will take the mound this year.
    – BP will not pitch as effectively as last year.
    – Neither Turner, Jansen nor Hill will exceed last year’s numbers.
    – Gonzalez will drive in less runs (under 90) than any of his prior 11 seasons.
    – Grandal will not catch 100 games.
    – Pederson’s BA will be less than .246
    – Seager will improve on his HR’s (26) & RBI’s (72) from last year but will see a slight decline in BA finishing around .295.
    – Kershaw wins 18 games. Maeda wins 14. Hill wins 10. McCarthy, Kazmir and Ryu combine for 10 wins.
    – Urias ERA will be above 3.00
    – All talk, no ‘real’ action at the trade deadline.
    – Puig is sent packing, whether that be the DL, minor leagues or to another team by Aug. 1st with the later being the most likely scenario.
    – Forsyth does not play in more than 110 games.
    – Pederson, Grandal & Seager all hit 20-30 homers.
    – Turner, Gonzalez, Forsyth and Puig all hit 10-20 homers.

  9. Most probably understood my first prediction but to clarify, 13 different arms will take the mound to start the game.

    1. Good predictions Chili. Agree with most of them. I too don’t think the BP will be quite as good. Kershaw wins 17. The bullpen will lose 2 for him. Agree about the other starters. 13 is the O/U on number of starters. I’ll take the over. One of those three hitters will hit 30. Maybe 2. And one won’t be Grandal. He won’t play enough or he could do it too. Forsythe better play more than 110.

      Umps still need help with the strike zone. The 3 games I’ve watched so far, all three home plate umps were less than 85%.

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