All-Time Best Los Angeles Dodgers

Who made our starting lineup?

Welcome to the All-Franchise Starting Lineup, where we review each of the 30 current MLB franchises to determine the best players by position in franchise history. A few weeks ago, we revealed the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels. This week, we’ll cover their cross-town rivals, the storied Los Angeles Dodgers. If you like this article, you can find all the lineups we’ve created thus far and other great content here.

 

The Ground Rules

 

  • Each player’s WAR with the franchise was the primary driver of the selections. We used two WAR calculations, one from Fangraphs and the other from Baseball-Reference. When the WAR between players was similar, we considered other factors, such as stats and awards, to break the tie.
  • We only considered statistics earned with the franchise in question for each player. For example, Albert Pujols won’t be the Dodgers’ first baseman since he only played with them for part of a season near the end of his career.
  • Players with multi-position eligibility can play any position they played for a reasonable period in their career.
  • Outfielders can be shifted between center, left, and right as long as it makes sense defensively – especially for center field.
  • Since we have universal DH now, we will assign one DH per team. Doing so also allows us to get more deserving hitters into the lineup who played at a log-jammed position.
  • Three pitchers will be named – one right-handed starter, one left-handed starter, and one reliever.

 

Franchise Overview

 

The Dodgers franchise started in 1884 in the American Association as the Brooklyn Atlantics. They changed their name to the Grays the next year and to the Bridegrooms in 1888. In 1889, the Bridegrooms lost the World Series to the New York Giants and returned the following season after joining the NL. This time they tied the Louisville Colonels in seven games.

Over the next 40 years, the franchise changed its name several times. They were the Bridegrooms, Grooms, Superbas, Dodgers, and Robins, before settling on the Dodgers for good in 1932. The club only advanced to the World Series twice more during this period, losing in 1916 and again in 1920. They would lose the series five more times between 1941 and 1954 before finally breaking through in 1955. The club relocated to Los Angeles three years later and won a second championship in 1959. The Dodgers were frequent patrons in the Fall Classic in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, winning and losing four times.

After the club’s dramatic underdog victory in 1988, the franchise did not return to the World Series until 2017 despite many playoff appearances. They lost in 2017 and again in 2018 before finally producing another championship in 2020. The Dodgers are one of the most successful franchises of the last decade, making the playoffs every year.

In addition to their myriad of championships and playoff appearances, the Dodgers are best known for breaking MLB’s color barrier in 1947 when Jackie Robinson made his debut after being signed by Dodgers President Branch Rickey in 1945. The franchise has produced a multitude of Hall of Famers, many of whom are in our lineup below.

 

Catcher: Roy Campanella

Career Stats with the Brooklyn Dodgers

Roy Campanella edges Mike Piazza out as the Dodgers catcher. Piazza was a slightly superior offensive player, but “Campy” was a better defender and was with the franchise longer. Campanella was the sixth player to break the color barrier, joining the Dodgers from the Negro Leagues in 1948 when he was already 26 years old. Campy wasted no time establishing himself, though, garnering MVP votes his rookie season despite not debuting until July. For the next eight seasons, Campanella didn’t miss an All-Star game, attending 11 in total due to the years with two games. He also won three MVPs in 1951, 1953, and 1955 and led the league with 142 RBI in 1953. During his prime seasons from 1949-1956, Campy averaged 29 HRs and 97 RBI while batting .288. In addition, he led the league in caught-stealing % five times and range factor nine times. Campanella was the complete package.

Campy played in five World Series with the Dodgers, including the break-through 1955 series when Brooklyn finally took down the Yankees. Campanella slugged four HRs and drove in 12 runs in his Fall Classic career. His offensive production began to dip in 1956, but Campy was ready to join the Dodgers in their inaugural season in Los Angeles. Sadly, he never got the chance after an auto accident in January 1958 paralyzed him from the chest down. Baseball fans everywhere mourned the accident as Campanella was an extremely popular player due to his gentle and humble disposition. The BBWAA elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1969, and in 1972, the Dodgers retired his #39.

 

First Base: Gil Hodges

Career Stats with the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers

The choice for our first baseman was close between Gil Hodges and Steve Garvey. Both were great players for the franchise, but Hodges gets the nod as a Hall of Famer with slightly better offensive numbers. We will get back to Mr. Garvey later. Hodges played one game as a teenager with the franchise in 1943 before joining the war effort. He returned to the club in 1947 as a catcher and transitioned to first base the following season. Hodges was a cornerpiece for the franchise for the next 11 seasons, attending eight All-Star games, winning three gold gloves, and leading the NL in games played twice. From 1949 through 1959, Hodges averaged 30 HRs, 101 RBI, and 148 games while batting .281.

The Dodgers made it to the World Series seven times during Hodges’s tenure with the club. They lost five series to the Yankees but won in 1955 and again in 1959 in their second year in Los Angeles. Hodges slugged five HRs, scored 15 runs, and drove in 21 in the Fall Classic. His production began to tail off in 1960, and two years later, the Mets selected him in the expansion draft. He retired after only 65 games with the Mets over two seasons. The BBWAA never voted Hodges into the Hall of Fame, but he finally got his day in 2022 after the Veterans Committee inducted him. The Dodgers followed suit by retiring his #14 in June of this year. Hodges ranks second on the Dodgers’ all-time list in HRs and RBI.

 

Second Base: Jackie Robinson

Career Stats with the Brooklyn Dodgers

Despite a relatively short major league career, Jackie was one of our Top Ten Second Baseman of All-Time and a no-brainer for our lineup as he was not only a trailblazer but an excellent baseball player. With Jackie entrenched at second base, the Hall of Famer Jim Gilliam was squeezed out of our lineup. Gilliam was the best Dodgers position player not in our lineup and no doubt would have made it on most other franchises.

Despite the obstacles he faced, once Jackie debuted with the Dodgers in 1947, it became clear that he belonged. He won Rookie of the Year that season, finished fifth in the MVP voting, and led the league in stolen bases. Robinson won the MVP a few years later after batting .342 with 37 SBs and 124 RBI in 1949. He made his first of six consecutive MLB all-star games that season and led the league in stolen bases and batting average. Jackie was also an excellent fielder. He played before the Gold Glove award was created but undoubtedly would have won a few. He led NL second basemen in double plays four times and fielding % three times.

The Dodgers made it to six World Series with Robinson, all against the Yankees. The only championship came in 1955, Jackie’s second to last season. In 1962 he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Ten years later, the Dodgers took his #42 out of circulation. In 1997, MLB retired the number 42 across all of baseball, an honor bestowed on only one player in sports history.

 

Shortstop: Pee Wee Reese

Career Stats with the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers

Harold “Pee Wee” Reese was another Dodger great from the 1940s and 50s era and is the franchise leader in runs scored. Reese debuted in 1940 after the Red Sox sold his rights to the Dodgers the year before. After three seasons, he enlisted in the Navy and spent the next three years in the Pacific. During this period, the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, but “The Little Colonel” was back at shortstop in 1946 before Jackie debuted. Reese famously put his arm around Robinson when he was being razzed early in his first season to show his support. Pee Wee was not a large man, but his character was huge.

Reese made his first All-Star game before enlisting and picked up where he left off upon his return. He played in the Midsummer Classic every season from 1946 to 1954 and finished in the Top Ten in the MVP voting eight times. Reese led the league in runs, stolen bases, and walks in three separate seasons and played excellent defense. The Little Colonel led the NL in putouts and double plays twice and fielding % and assists once.

Reese faced the Yankees seven times in the World Series and, like Campanella, Hodges, and Robinson, came out on the losing time every year except 1955. His last season was 1958, the Dodgers’ first season in Los Angeles. He was a part-time player at this point but still the team captain. Reese’s statistics kept him out of the Hall of Fame for many years until the Veteran’s Committee wisely inducted him in 1984. Pee Wee’s career wasn’t about numbers; it was about leadership. The Dodgers retired his #1 that same season.

 

Third Base: Ron Cey

Career Stats with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Ron Cey manned the hot corner for the Dodgers for a decade, anchoring the Garvey/Lopes/Russell/Cey infield of the 1970s and early 80s. “The Penguin” was an excellent defender with high on-base skills and good power. He emerged as the club’s third baseman in 1973 after briefly appearing in the majors in the preceding two seasons. Cey finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year vote in 1973 after driving in 80 runs. He was an All-Star for the next six seasons and finished as high as eighth in the MVP voting. Cey was consistent and durable, averaging 154 games per season from 1973 to 1980.

The 1970s Dodgers were similar to many of their predecessors as they made it to several World Series but had trouble winning them. Cey’s teams lost in 1974 to the A’s and in 1977 and ’78 to the Yankees before breaking through in 1981. The Penguin was co-MVP of that series, hitting .350 with a home run and six RBI in the Dodgers’ six-game victory over the Yanks. The following season would be his last in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers traded him to the Cubs in January 1983. Cey ranks fifth on the Dodgers’ all-time HR list and had an under-rated career.

 

Left Field: Zack Wheat

Career Stats with the Brooklyn Superbas / Dodgers / Robins

Zack Wheat is the oldest player in our lineup, debuting in 1909 for the Superbas. Wheat played almost his entire career in Brooklyn and is the franchise leader in several categories, including games, plate appearances, hits, doubles, and triples. Wheat was a fixture in left field for the franchise from 1910 through 1926. “Buck” was an excellent hitter. He hit under .300 only five times in his 19 seasons and won the batting title in 1918. Wheat also excelled in the outfield and was viewed as one of the finest defenders of his era. He led left fielders in putouts seven times, double plays four times, range factor three times, fielding % twice, and assists once during his career.

Wheat played in two World Series in Brooklyn, losing both. His was a down era for the franchise, and after the Dodgers released him in 1927, he played one final season for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics. Unfortunately for Wheat, they finished in second that season. After retirement, Buck had to wait a long time before joining the Hall of Fame. He finally made it when the Veteran’s Committee selected him in 1959.

 

Center Field: Willie Davis

Career Stats with the Brooklyn Superbas / Dodgers / Robins

Willie Davis and Duke Snider both made our lineup and played center field. As Davis was a superior defender, we slotted him into center and put the Duke in right. Davis was one of the first stars of the Los Angeles Dodgers, making his debut in September 1960, three years after the franchise relocated. Davis took over as the club’s regular center fielder in 1961, with the aging Snider shifting over to right. The speedy Davis is considered among the best defenders at the position in history and is ranked twelfth in defensive WAR among center fielders on Fangraphs. He led NL center fielders in TZR three times and took home three Gold Gloves in his last three years in Los Angeles. Davis likely would have won more if he hadn’t played at the same time as Willie Mays.

At the plate, Davis used his speed to his advantage, leading the league in triples twice and stealing as many as 42 bases. He was a two-time All-Star and played on three Dodgers World Series clubs. Unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940s and 50s, Davis’s Dodgers won two of the three series in which he played, beating the Yankees in 1963 and the Twins in 1965 before losing to the Orioles in 1966. The Dodgers traded Willie to the Expos following the 1973 season. He bounced around for another six seasons, including two in Japan, before retiring in 1979. Davis ranks second in triples and third in stolen bases on the Dodgers’ all-time list.

 

Right Field: Duke Snider

Career Stats with the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers

The Giants had Willie, the Yankees had Mickey, and the Dodgers had the Duke, who was one of our Top Ten Center Fielders of All-Time (though we have him in right as noted above). Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider was one of the faces of the 1950s Dodgers who went to six World Series during his time with the team. Duke broke in with Brooklyn in 1947 but bounced between the majors and minors his first two years. In 1949, the 22-year-old finally established himself as the everyday center fielder. The following season, he was an All-Star. Duke would play in the Midsummer Classic every summer from 1950 to 1956.

Snider emerged as one of the great power hitters of the day, slugging 40 or more homers for five consecutive seasons from 1953 to 1957. The “Duke of Flatbush” filled up the box score in several ways during his heyday, leading the league in runs three times, SLG and OPS twice, and hits, HRs, walks, and RBI once. Snider also flexed his power in the World Series, hitting 11 homers and driving in 26 runs during the six series in which he played. He hit four home runs twice in the Fall Classic – in 1952 and 1955. The Dodgers only won two of the six series, but the Duke did his part.

Snider played his last two seasons with the Mets and Giants before retiring in 1964. In 1950, the BBWAA elected Duke to the Hall of Fame. That same year, the Dodgers retired his #4.

 

Designated Hitter: Steve Garvey

Career Stats with the Los Angeles Dodgers

The choice for our DH came down to Steve Garvey versus Jim Gilliam. Gilliam had a slightly higher WAR on Baseball Reference while Garvey’s was higher on Fangraphs. Much of Gilliam’s was driven by his defense, though, so we went with Garvey as our DH since he was the superior offensive player.

Garvey began his career as a third baseman, but his defense kept him from taking over the position full-time. In 1973, his fifth year in the big leagues, injuries created an opportunity for him at first base, and he never looked back. The following season “The Garv” was an All-Star, MVP, and Gold Glover after hitting .312 with 21 HRs, 95 runs, and 111 RBI. Garvey won three more Gold Gloves over the next three years and represented the Dodgers at the All-Star game through 1981, where he was MVP twice. In addition, he led the league in hits twice and became an ironman, not missing a game from September 1975 until July 1983.

Garvey emerged as the most popular player in the Dodgers’ vaunted infield, and the Dodgers followed the Reds as the NL’s best team. He played in four World Series with L.A., batting .344 over the 23 games, culminating in the Dodgers’ only victory in 1981. Garvey became a free agent after the 1982 season, but the Dodgers were beginning to transition and let him go to the Padres, who outbid them. The Garv played well for the Padres and helped them get to the 1984 World Series before eventually slowing down and retiring in 1987. Garvey’s counting stats were not high enough for the Hall of Fame voters, but he still belongs among the franchise’s greatest players.

 

Left-Handed Starter: Clayton Kershaw

Career Stats with the Los Angeles Dodgers (to date)

Clayton Kershaw was number ten on our list of the Top Ten Pitchers of All-Time and may climb higher with a few more seasons like 2022. Thus, it should have been easy to pencil him in as our left-handed starter, but it wasn’t because of another all-time great lefty that pitched for the Dodgers, Sandy Koufax. The two pitchers are similar in many ways, but Kershaw separates himself on longevity. Whereas Sandy had one of the greatest five-year runs in MLB history, Kersh has been really good to great since 2009.

Kershaw debuted in 2008 as a 20-year-old prodigy and had an ERA under 3.00 in his second season. His ERA has almost always been ridiculously low and has only been over 3.00 in three of his 15 seasons. One of those was his rookie year; in another, he checked in at 3.03. Where Kershaw shines is in his amazing control. His K/BB ratio of 4.46 and WHIP of 1.00 are second all-time among pitchers with a minimum of 2,000 IP.

Kershaw’s accolades to date include nine All-Star game appearances, three Cy Young awards, a Gold Glove, and the National League MVP in 2014. He has won five ERA titles, including four years in a row from 2011 to 2014, and completed the pitcher’s Triple Crown in 2011. Kersh already has the highest WAR in franchise history and is the club’s all-time strikeout leader. He will reportedly be back with the Dodgers in 2023, and Dodger fans everywhere are hopeful he’ll spend his entire career with the franchise.

 

Right-Handed Starter: Don Drysdale

Career Stats with the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers

There were several great candidates for our righty, most notably Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, and Dazzy Vance. Sutton had a longer career, which helped build his WAR, but Drysdale was the more dominant. “Big D” was a massive presence on the mound who threw hard and wasn’t afraid to come inside. He intimidated NL batters for fourteen seasons between Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

Drysdale debuted in Brooklyn in 1956 when he was only 19, mixing between starting and relieving. By the following year, he was a full-time starter. Big D was a workhorse, averaging 37 starts and 273 IP from 1957 to 1968, leading the NL in starts four times and IP twice. In addition, Drysdale led the league in Ks three times and was a nine-time All-Star. His best season was in 1962 when he led the NL with 25 wins and 232 Ks while sporting a 2.83 ERA over 43 appearances (41 starts). He won the Cy Young that year and finished fifth in the MVP voting. In 1968 Drysdale set the record for consecutive scoreless innings, topping out at 58 and two-thirds. The record was broken twenty years later by another Dodgers’ righty, Orel Hershiser. Big D could also hit, slugging 29 HRs in his career and driving in 113 runs.

Drysdale pitched in five World Series, of which the Dodgers won three. In his post-season career, he won three of his seven starts with a 2.95 ERA and 8.2 strikeouts per nine. The innings caught up with Drysdale in 1969. After tearing his rotator cuff, he abruptly retired mid-way through the season. He was still only 32 but had accomplished much. The BBWAA voted Drysdale into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Dodgers, as is their habit, retired his number 53 the same year. Sadly, Drysdale passed away suddenly from a heart attack in 1993 when he was only 56 years old.

 

Reliever: Sandy Koufax

Career Stats with the Brooklyn & Los Angeles Dodgers

We’re cheating a bit here, but Sandy Koufax began his career in the bullpen. In fact, 21% of his career appearances came as a reliever. Granted, the legend of Sandy Koufax came when he was starting, but can you blame us? You can’t have a Dodgers’ all-time lineup without “The Left Arm of God.” For purists, we prefer Kenley Jansen‘s longevity to Eric Gagne’s three years of dominance.

Koufax broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and was an average pitcher who battled his control over his first six seasons. By 1961, the left-hander began to throw strikes more consistently, and his career took off. He pitched in both All-Star games that season and led the league in strikeouts. From 1962 to the end of his career in 1966, Koufax electrified the sport. He was an All-Star and won the ERA title each season. In addition, Koufax took home three Cy Young awards, three pitching Triple Crowns, and an MVP. Over those five seasons, Koufax averaged 22 wins, seven shutouts, 20 complete games, and 289 strikeouts with a 1.95 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over 275 innings. This incredible run is arguably the most dominant in the sport’s history.

Koufax was on six Dodgers’ World Series squads but only pitched in four. He sat out the first two, which occurred in his first two seasons. Koufax got his chance over the next four and did not disappoint. He won four of his seven post-season starts with four complete games, two shutouts, a 0.95 ERA, and 9.6 Ks per nine. The Dodgers won three of the four series he played in, and he was the World Series MVP in two of the three championships. Incredibly, Koufax pitched with chronic arthritis through much of his run. After the 1966 World Series, which the Dodgers lost, Koufax called it quits. He was only 30 years old but feared permanent disability. Who knows what he may have accomplished had his career not been short-changed? Despite his short career, the BBWAA elected Koufax to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1972, and, as usual, the Dodgers retired #32 the same season.

 

On Deck

 

In a few weeks, we’ll travel across the country and reveal our lineup for one of MLB’s newest franchises, the Miami Marlins. If you love baseball as much as we do, check out the We Love Baseball section for more great content!

 

Featured Image Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

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