The Dodgers' all-time single-season team
LOS ANGELES -- Yet another list for me to commit a gross omission: players with the best season at each position in Dodgers history.
Here it goes:
C: Roy Campanella, 1953 (.312 average, 41 homers, 142 RBIs) or Mike Piazza, 1997 (.362 average, 40 homers, 124 RBIs)
Comparing different generations is a tough task, especially when the bulked-up 1990s are involved. Baseball-Reference WAR gives Piazza’s 1997 season a huge win over Campanella’s best of his three National League MVP Award seasons in '53, even though by any account, Campanella was also a spectacular defender and Piazza was a phenomenal hitter. Hard to imagine a franchise having two Hall of Fame catchers like these in its history, even though Piazza went to Cooperstown with a Mets cap, which is an entirely different story.
1B: Gil Hodges, 1954 (.304 average, 42 home runs, 130 RBIs, 106 runs)
Look at those numbers and consider that Hodges not only finished 10th in NL MVP voting that season, but third on his club behind Duke Snider and Pee Wee Reese. This was his best of seven consecutive seasons with triple-digit RBIs. Had the Gold Glove Award been invented by 1954, he would have won that. No wonder remaining Brooklyn fans still shake their heads at Hodges’ Hall of Fame snub.
2B: Jackie Robinson, 1951 (.338 average, .957 OPS, 106 runs)
Robinson won the NL MVP in 1949, but he had the highest bWAR (9.7) for a position player in club history two years later. That was the season best remembered for Bobby Thomson’s "Shot Heard ‘Round the World" that ended the Dodgers’ season. In much the same way as Mookie Betts, Robinson impacted games in a multitude of glorious ways.
SS: Maury Wills, 1962 (104 stolen bases, 130 runs, .299 average)
No offense to Hall of Famer Reese, but in one season, Wills transformed the running game in 1962, with instinct and intelligence. What Betts does on the bases now, Wills did every game, beating up his body and always coming back for more. He was an essential run creator on a team with dominant pitching. He even won his second Gold Glove at shortstop in '62.
3B: Adrián Beltré, 2004 (48 home runs, 121 RBIs, 200 hits)
It’s still hard to believe the Dodgers let him walk after this one -- so they could sign J.D. Drew. Beltre didn’t win the NL MVP this year, finishing second to the incomparable Barry Bonds. Beltre was only 25. On a first-place team, he played Gold Glove defense, although he didn’t win his first of five Gold Gloves for another three years.
LF: Babe Herman, 1930 (.393 average, 1.132 OPS, 241 hits, 94 extra-base hits, 416 total bases)
Ninety years later, Herman still holds the club's single-season record for each category above, albeit they came during a season in which hitters dominated the game. Special recognition for Tommy Davis, who in the expansion season of 1962 set the existing franchise record with 153 RBIs and won the first of back-to-back batting titles. No Dodgers hitter has won a batting title since.
CF: Duke Snider, 1953 (.336 average, 42 home runs, 126 RBIs, .627 slugging, 1.046 OPS, 132 runs)
With Willie Mays serving in the military and Mickey Mantle still learning at age 21, The Duke was the star of stars among New York center fielders. But take your pick from 1953, '54 and '55 for Snider’s best season, as they were mirror images of Hall of Fame-level production, even though he never won an MVP Award.
RF: Cody Bellinger, 2019 (.305 average, 47 homers, 115 RBIs, 1.035 OPS)
Although Bellinger tailed off in the second half, the first half was about as good as it will ever get. He’s the only Dodgers player to sweep these four honors: NL MVP, All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He finished third in franchise history with 47 homers, behind only Shawn Green (49) and Beltre (48). His 27 homers at Dodger Stadium set a franchise home record, while his 18 homers against left-handed pitchers were the most in the NL.
SP: Sandy Koufax, 1966 (27-9, 1.73 ERA, 323 innings, 317 strikeouts, 27 complete games, 0.985 WHIP)
Seriously? What Koufax did in 1963 was utterly amazing, capped by the NL MVP and Cy Young Awards and a World Series ring. But I’ll go with '66 as much for what he did after the season -- he retired, because he couldn’t stand pitching in pain any longer. And look what he did pitching in pain. Imagine what he’d have done if healthy. The entire Dodgers staff hasn’t combined for 27 complete games over the past seven years.
RP: Eric Gagne, 2003 (55-for-55 in save opportunities, 1.20 ERA, 137 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings, 0.692 WHIP)
Mike Marshall’s 1974 Cy Young season was ridiculous (208 1/3 innings in relief). And as noted in an earlier list, Gagne admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. But so were the hitters he made look silly. Gagne showed sheer dominance, and he won the NL Cy Young for it. He did more to keep Dodgers fans in their seats than any player in franchise history.