ARLINGTON, Texas — Let’s start with a thought that has been conveyed — straight and not directly — so typically by distinguished members of the Los Angeles Dodgers that it would as properly be thought-about an announcement of truth: Mookie Betts has exceeded expectations.
Now let’s think about why that appears so outrageous: Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, gushed fervently and uncharacteristically when he launched Betts in early February. He joked that he had adopted his profession so carefully that Betts ought to think about “a restraining order” and mentioned Betts would “blush” if he heard the way in which Friedman talked about him.
Friedman gave up an exceedingly gifted shortstop prospect and a younger, controllable, promising outfielder for one season of Betts. Then he signed Betts to a 12-year, $365 million extension — the primary nine-figure deal of Friedman’s tenure — earlier than Mookie even performed a sport with the Dodgers, regardless of the awful monetary panorama going through the trade.
Then Betts exceeded expectations.
It wasn’t simply the .292/.366/.562 slash line. Or the 16 residence runs and 10 stolen bases in 55 video games. Or the three.0 FanGraphs wins above substitute (third highest amongst place gamers) and a pair of.46 win likelihood added (ranked fourth).
It is that Betts went exterior of himself, stood in entrance of a clubhouse filled with achieved teammates he barely knew and confused the significance of particulars earlier than the beginning of spring coaching. It is that he partnered with Justin Turner to huddle the staff collectively earlier than the Nationwide League Division Sequence and reminded everybody to remain collectively amid the challenges that awaited them. It is that he made the mundane drills aggressive, that he went out of his approach to assist Austin Barnes and Gavin Lux — and doubtless a number of others — with their swings, and that he set the tone for a lineup that has spent years making an attempt to determine an id exterior of residence runs.
It is that he led in a way that was honest and natural, not forceful and contrived.
It is that he backed all of it up with motion, seemingly on daily basis.
Virtually everybody who noticed baseball in Los Angeles this summer time — followers, media members, coaches, executives, even gamers — had one comparable response. It went one thing like this: I knew Mookie Betts was good. I did not know he was THAT good.
“I believe the day-in, day-out consistency of what he does on a baseball discipline separates him,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw mentioned after Betts appeared to do all the pieces in Sport 1 of the World Sequence. “You may see one sport and probably not admire Mookie to his full potential, however now that we have seen it for a full — properly, COVID-shortened, however a full season for us — you form of get to understand it.”
Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts noticed Betts drive a pitch deep into the left-center-field seats throughout a nighttime scrimmage shortly after baseball restarted and was shocked to study somebody so small (5-foot-9) may drive baseballs to this point. Third-base coach Dino Ebel, who spent a very long time working carefully with the Angels’ Mike Trout, has typically discovered himself in awe of Betts as a baserunner. A number of Dodgers pitchers have commented about how they’ve by no means performed with a extra dynamic proper fielder, and a few of them shared a clubhouse with Yasiel Puig.
The Dodgers already have been a dominant staff, the season was solely 60 video games, and but Betts made a profound affect that may’t absolutely be captured by numbers. You needed to see it, expertise it, on daily basis. Beneath, we recognized 25 methods by which Betts has influenced video games in 2020 and divided them amongst his plethora of instruments. (Statistical notes from ESPN Stats & Info)
This postseason, Betts’ launch angle is 20.1 levels. The league common is 12.7 levels.
July 29: at Astros
Betts managed solely 5 hits in his first 28 at-bats with the Dodgers. However with the rating tied within the eleventh inning of an emotional sequence in Houston, he turned on a 2-0 cutter out over the plate and drove it off the fence in deep left-center discipline, giving the Dodgers their second of three leads in an eventual win.
Aug. 7: vs. Giants
A swollen left center finger stored Betts out of the beginning lineup for the earlier three video games, however he returned within the sequence opener in opposition to the Giants, hit a double within the first inning and homered within the fourth, the primary of 4 Dodgers residence runs on the afternoon. It gave Betts 4 consecutive at-bats with an extra-base hit.
Aug. 9: vs. Giants
Main by a run with two on and one out within the eighth, the Giants introduced in right-handed reliever Shaun Anderson to face Betts. And on Anderson’s first pitch, a slider barely exterior, Betts lofted a house run over the fence in left-center discipline to blow open the sport.
Mookie Betts goes off for 3 residence runs within the Dodgers’ dominant win over the Padres.
Aug. 13: vs. Padres
Roberts started the yr batting Betts second in opposition to righties as a solution to stagger his left-handed hitters, however Betts maintained that he felt extra snug as a leadoff hitter. On this Thursday night time, Betts returned to that spot for the primary time in 11 days and hit three residence runs within the first 5 innings, becoming a member of Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa as the one gamers with six profession three-homer video games — and he received there rather a lot quicker than they did. Betts by no means batted anyplace however leadoff once more.
Sept. 13: vs. Astros
Fifth inning, one out, 0-2 depend, Dodgers forward by three runs, Betts goes inside-out on a low changeup and barely lifts it over the fence in right-center discipline. It was his fifteenth residence run of the yr — and his third in 5 at-bats in opposition to Zack Greinke to that time.
Sept. 18: at Rockies
Betts has a house run within the sixth, a two-run triple within the seventh — each with two outs — and 7 or extra complete bases for the fourth time this season. Reminder: Betts will get a minimum of 9 video games a yr at Coors Subject as soon as baseball will get again to its regular schedule.
Betts ranks fourth in outfield assists over the previous 5 seasons.
Mookie Betts retrieves the ball within the right-field nook and throws an absolute strike to get Ketel Marte at third.
July 31: at Diamondbacks
Betts had three hits on this sport, two for further bases, however no one remembers that. They keep in mind The Throw. It was the primary inning. Ketel Marte led off with a flare close to the right-field line that seemed like a straightforward triple. Then Betts unleashed a jaw-dropping 305-foot throw completely positioned in Corey Seager‘s glove to nail Marte, who was overlaying greater than 28 toes per second. Betts barely reacted. Simply one other day within the workplace.
Sept. 2: vs. Diamondbacks
Betts hit one other huge homer, tying the rating at 1 with a drive to heart discipline within the backside of the ninth. After the sport, although, Roberts made certain to say his two fast throws to the infield that prevented baserunners from tagging up on fly balls — within the second inning with a person on third and within the tenth inning with the go-ahead run on second. The Dodgers gained by a run.
Oct. 17: NLCS Sport 6 vs. Braves
With the rating tied at 1 within the high of the sixth, Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud led off with a liner to deep proper discipline that one-hopped the part of the wall that sits about 330 toes from residence plate. It seemed like a certain double. However Betts retrieved it rapidly and fired a throw to second base that reached 96 mph, forcing d’Arnaud to cease in his tracks. The Braves by no means scored that inning.
Betts was within the 87th percentile in dash velocity this season, overlaying 28.3 toes/second (MLB common was 27.0 toes/second).
July 23: vs. Giants
Betts was hitless within the first two at-bats of his Dodgers debut, however he pressured a bobble on a semihard grounder to the left facet within the fifth inning. Within the seventh, after lining a base hit to left and requesting the baseball, Betts was on third with the infield in. He broke instantly on Turner’s grounder off the top of the bat, slid headfirst to barely beat the throw from Giants second baseman Donovan Solano, and gave the Dodgers the lead, igniting a five-run inning.
July 26: vs. Giants
With Betts on base within the third inning, Giants lefty Drew Smyly threw to first 4 occasions earlier than firing his third pitch to Max Muncy. Muncy finally struck out as Betts swiped second anyway, prompting Smyly to pitch round Turner with first base open and mentioning reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who drove in Betts with an RBI single.
Aug. 22: vs. Rockies
Betts started the underside of the primary by fouling off a few two-strike pitches and shedding two others close to the sides of the strike zone to work a stroll. He went first-to-third on Seager’s sharp grounder by the left facet, then instantly broke for residence when Seager received caught in a rundown between first and second. The Rockies by no means even bothered to throw over. The Dodgers gained by a run.
Sept. 3: vs. Diamondbacks
One other residence run by Betts — a two-run shot within the eighth, the Dodgers’ third of the inning — and one other refined second that in all probability was simply as vital. With the Dodgers trailing by a run within the sixth, Betts led off with a base hit within the left-center hole and took second after an preliminary bobble by Rockies heart fielder Kevin Pillar. On the following pitch, he scored on a single by the left facet by Seager to tie the rating.
Sept. 16: at Padres
The Dodgers turned the primary staff to clinch a spot within the postseason on this Wednesday afternoon at San Diego, and Betts was a nightmare on the bases. Within the first, he stole second and received to 3rd on a fly ball. Within the third, he stole second, superior to 3rd on a wild pitch and got here an inch away from escaping a rundown on an preliminary break residence. Within the fifth, he stole second and superior to 3rd on an errant throw, then scored on successful.
Sept. 19: at Rockies
This sport supplied the sequence that, to some on the Dodgers, defines Betts as a baserunner. He turned a tapper into an infield single, superior to second on a wild pitch and moved to 3rd on an errant pickoff throw from Rockies reliever Mychal Givens. Then, moderately than assume the play was over, Betts stored his head up, maintained aggressiveness, and when Pillar casually threw the ball again into the infield, Betts broke for residence. A run manufactured, all by himself.
Oct. 14: NLCS Sport 3 vs. Braves
The Dodgers’ record-breaking 11-run first inning began with Betts, who barely legged out an infield single after the preliminary out name was overturned by replay. The Dodgers had a runner on to begin the sport whereas trailing the best-of-seven sequence 2-0. Contemplating they scored 10 of these 11 first-inning runs with two outs, it was a vital one.
Oct. 20: World Sequence Sport 1 vs. Rays
Decide any Betts second from the World Sequence opener and also you in all probability would not be incorrect. Maybe it was how he walked, stole a base — and gained America a free taco! — then led a double steal within the fifth. Or possibly it was what occurred instantly thereafter, when he broke residence quick sufficient to barely beat the throw on a pointy infield grounder. Or possibly it was his opposite-field residence run the next inning. As at all times is the case with Betts, it is laborious to decide on.
This postseason, Betts is hitting .327 with a hard-hit charge of 60%, which means balls hit 95-plus mph, good for sixth amongst 71 qualifiers, per Statcast.
Aug. 15: at Angels
Betts went 0-for-4 the night time after his three-homer efficiency, then got here proper again and tied the rating twice in opposition to the Angels — with a two-out, two-run single within the second and a leadoff homer within the seventh. The Dodgers went on to win by a run in 10 innings. Betts gathered 21 two-out RBIs throughout the common season, 5 shy of the main league lead.
Aug. 23: vs. Rockies
No huge deal — simply two homers, two stolen bases, three runs pushed in and three runs scored in a rout over one of many Dodgers’ division rivals. The primary homer, his tenth, got here after not chasing a slider that tailed off the plate and to run the depend full. Betts slugged .505 with two strikes this season, the second-highest mark within the majors. The league common: .309.
Sept. 1: vs. Diamondbacks
This marked the fourth straight sport by which Betts labored a stroll. He drew six of them over the course of that stretch and the Dodgers finally scored in half of these cases — together with the sixth inning of this sport, which helped give the staff its twenty seventh win in 37 tries.
Oct. 6: NLDS Sport 1 vs. Padres
Betts gathered 4 doubles in every of his first three postseason video games for the Dodgers. This one got here in a 1-1 tie with one on and one out within the sixth. Betts notched the Dodgers’ first hit of the sport with a ringing double down the left-field line. It pressured the Padres to switch Garrett Richards with Matt Strahm and triggered the four-run inning that proved to be the distinction.
Prior to now 5 seasons, Betts leads all main leaguers in defensive runs saved. He has gained 4 straight Gold Gloves, and is a finalist once more this season.
Sept. 10: at Diamondbacks
Betts began his first sport at second base in six years. He got here up as a center infielder, and a few weeks earlier Betts informed Roberts he could be glad to fill in at second base if an emergency scenario introduced itself in October. He was tremendous, as you may anticipate.
Oct. 16: NLCS Sport 5 vs. Braves
It was the third inning. The Braves, a win away from the World Sequence, led 2-0 with one out and two runners in scoring place. The sport was starting to unravel for the Dodgers. Then Betts made an especially troublesome lunging catch on a sinking line drive proper earlier than it touched the grass and ended the inning with a double play as a result of Marcell Ozuna broke from third too early. From there, the Dodgers scored seven unanswered runs.
Oct. 17: NLCS Sport 6 vs. Braves
It was the fifth inning. The Dodgers, a win away from forcing Sport 7, led 3-0 with one on and two outs. Ozuna drove a Walker Buehler providing to deep proper discipline. Betts sprinted again, leapt off the warning observe, twisted within the air and made a full-extension catch proper up in opposition to the fence, high-stepping in jubilation shortly after coming down with it. The Dodgers did not rating any extra runs. They desperately wanted that catch.
Freddie Freeman hits a fly ball to the wall as Mookie Betts jumps to make the unbelievable out in proper discipline.
Oct. 18: NLCS Sport 7 vs. Braves
It was the fifth inning. The Dodgers, a win away from their third World Sequence look in 4 years, trailed 3-2 with one out and Roberts already was deep into his bullpen. Freddie Freeman hit a deep drive that appeared to sail over the fence. However Betts ranged again, timed his leap completely and caught his glove over the 8-foot fence to rob Freeman of a house run. The Dodgers finally got here again to win by a run. It was Betts’ third game-changing defensive play in as many days. And lest you assume Betts did not contribute offensively with the Dodgers’ season on the road — he reached base by way of hit or stroll in half of his 14 plate appearances from Video games 5-7.