Sports

118 wins?! Projecting how the Dodgers can make MLB history in 2021

The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the 2021 Major League Baseball season as the clear-cut front-runners to win the World Series.

That’s a simple, declarative statement, right? Do you disagree with it? Well, there are a lot of you out there, so some of you might. Chances are, however, that you don’t. You might think another team will knock off the Dodgers. You might think the team you root for will knock off the Dodgers. But few of you would actually argue that another team ought to wear the favorite’s target on its proverbial back as the season dawns.

The reason that opening sentence is so uncontroversial is that solid evidence to the contrary simply does not exist. L.A. is working on a streak of eight straight NL West titles, during which it has won 75 more regular-season games than any other team and 10 more postseason games. The Dodgers’ most recent season was their best yet: They won at a clip of 116 wins per 162 games in 2020. Their run differential suggested a team that should have won 115 and was on pace to be one of the five best differentials of the modern era. Not only is nearly the entire core of talent responsible for those lofty numbers back for 2021, but it’s been augmented by 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer.

Thus all major projection-based forecasting systems flag L.A. as baseball’s top team entering the campaign. My system is even more hyped about the Dodgers than most, giving them an average of 106.1 wins during my most recent run of simulations. Out of 10,000 sim seasons, the Dodgers had two — two! — records under .500, won at least 79 games every time, broke the all-time wins record (116) a number of times and even had five simulations in which they won at least 117 games then swept their way to another World Series crown with an 11-0 postseason.

As unlikely as both of those outcomes — a new single-season wins record and a perfect postseason — might be for any team, even the Dodgers, it does set one to thinking. What would the ceiling for a team like that even look like?

In an effort to put my head around that outlandish notion, I ran an experiment. I took my projections and loaded them up into my replay game of choice, which is Action! PC Baseball. The goal was simple: I would run the 2021 season as many times as it took for the Dodgers to break the wins record and go on to win the World Series. I would run those replays all day if I had to.

On the first and third of those replays, the Dodgers won the World Series but did not break the wins record. On the second, they also didn’t break the record and lost the World Series to the Yankees. Then on replay No. 4 — boom. New wins record. World Series title. Here was the blue-tinted Dodgers dream season that my simulation model told me was possible, fully documented. And it took me only four tries to produce it.

What did that too-fantastic-to-imagine season look like? Let’s watch it unfold.

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