2020's Dodgers were among the all-time greats

It may sound crazy to salute a short-season club, but L.A.'s stats were truly outstanding

We witnessed true excellence during the recent season. The 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the greatest clubs to ever take the diamond.

Who says? The numbers, that’s who. Consider these three facts:

  • The Dodgers’ 43-17 record gave them a .717 winning percentage, making them one of only three clubs in the Expansion Era (1961 to the present) to win more than 70% of their games. (The others were the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners.)

  • The Dodgers scored 5.82 runs per game, while yielding an average of 3.55. The resulting margin of 2.27 runs per game was the largest in the 60-season era. (The previous record was 1.91 by the 1998 Yankees.)

  • The Dodgers’ batters attained .811 bases per out in 2020, while their pitchers surrendered .566 BPO. The difference of .245 between those figures was — you guessed it — easily the biggest since 1961. (The previous mark belonged to the 2019 Astros at .209.) 

I know, I know. It seems crazy to compare stats from 2020 and previous years, given the great disparity in season lengths. Small sample size, right? But Major League Baseball made it clear before July’s belated opening that 2020’s numbers would carry the same weight as those from prior years.

“In baseball, there is neither crying nor the asterisk,” MLB official historian John Thorn told the New York Times. “No excuses, no pointless shorthand directing you to wrinkle your nose.”

Who am I to argue?

So I took Thorn’s edict to heart and plugged this year’s relevant stats into my team score (TS) formula, which allows direct comparisons of clubs from different seasons.

The formula gives equal weight to four factors: winning percentage, the differential between runs scored and allowed per game, the differential between BPO attained by batters and allowed by pitchers, and postseason success.

I’ll deal with its inner workings on another day — perhaps in the depths of winter — but suffice it to say that the formula spits out a score for each club on a 100-point scale. It equalizes everything from year to year, making it possible to say that a 1965 club with a TS of 85 was better than a 2015 team with a score of 83.

The Dodgers earned the best TS of any of this season’s 30 clubs, 94.085 points. No surprise there, given their National League pennant, World Series title, and the dominant statistics noted above.

But that’s not all. The score for the 2020 champs stamped them as the fourth-best among all 1,596 clubs that have taken the field during the Expansion Era. The only teams to outperform this year’s Dodgers were the 1984 Tigers (97.109 points), 1998 Yankees (96.123), and 1986 Mets (94.962).

Think of it this way: The 2020 Dodgers, as measured by TS, were better than 99.8% of the teams that passed through the major leagues over the past 60 seasons.

We could argue this point forever. It’s possible that Los Angeles might have sustained its excellence over 162 games, yet also likely that it could have tailed off as the long season dragged on. We’ll never know. All we have are the 2020 statistics that carry the MLB seal of approval.

Three of this year’s clubs ranked among the top 10% in team score for the entire Expansion Era. Joining the fourth-place Dodgers were the American League champion Rays (61st place since 1961) and the Padres (159th). You can find the full standings below.


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TS (team score) for 2020

Here are the top-to-bottom TS (team score) rankings of 2020’s clubs. Each is preceded by its 1961-2020 rank among 1,596 teams — and followed by its win-loss record, TS, and the percentage of Expansion Era clubs that it outperformed:

  • 4. Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17): 94.085 points (beating 99.8% of teams since 1961)

  • 61. Tampa Bay Rays (40-20): 77.699 points (96.2%)

  • 159. San Diego Padres (37-23): 68.422 points (90.1%)

  • 241. Chicago White Sox (35-25): 63.906 points (85.0%)

  • 242. Minnesota Twins (36-24): 63.663 points (84.9%)

  • 304. Oakland Athletics (36-24): 61.371 points (81.0%)

  • 305. Atlanta Braves (35-25): 61.310 points (80.9%)

  • 356. New York Yankees (33-27): 59.553 points (77.7%)

  • 358. Cleveland Indians (35-25): 59.522 points (77.6%)

  • 541. Chicago Cubs (34-26): 53.847 points (66.1%)

  • 716. Cincinnati Reds (31-29): 48.632 points (55.2%)

  • 736. St. Louis Cardinals (30-28): 48.121 points (53.9%)

  • 774. Toronto Blue Jays (32-28): 46.890 points (51.5%)

  • 814. San Francisco Giants (29-31): 45.582 points (49.0%)

  • 863. Houston Astros (29-31): 43.887 points (46.0%)

  • 901. Milwaukee Brewers (29-31): 42.825 points (43.6%)

  • 954. Philadelphia Phillies (28-32): 41.279 points (40.3%)

  • 1,047. Miami Marlins (31-29): 38.599 points (34.4%)

  • 1,050. New York Mets (26-34): 38.523 points (34.2%)

  • 1,051. Los Angeles Angels (26-34): 38.483 points (34.2%)

  • 1,095. Baltimore Orioles (25-35): 37.071 points (31.4%)

  • 1,116. Kansas City Royals (26-34): 36.579 points (30.1%)

  • 1,118. Washington Nationals (26-34): 36.489 points (30.0%)

  • 1,250. Seattle Mariners (27-33): 32.025 points (21.7%)

  • 1,275. Arizona Diamondbacks (25-35): 30.931 points (20.1%)

  • 1,373. Colorado Rockies (26-34): 27.417 points (14.0%)

  • 1,402. Boston Red Sox (24-36): 26.276 points (12.2%)

  • 1,477. Detroit Tigers (23-35): 22.457 points (7.5%)

  • 1,511. Texas Rangers (22-38): 20.335 points (5.3%)

  • 1,546. Pittsburgh Pirates (19-41): 17.177 points (3.1%)