It's complicated: Can the 2020 Dodgers be considered one of MLB's greatest teams ever?

After a 32-year drought and a series of disappointing October finishes, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally secured the franchise’s seventh World Series title by defeating the resilient Tampa Bay Rays in six hard-fought games.

It's a triumph that will resonate for generations to come. Not only did this Dodgers team end over three decades of waiting, it provided a payoff for eight seasons of dominance that had been overshadowed by heartbreak. It rewrote narratives, reshaped legacies and, with the pressure of not winning now gone, may have ignited the dynasty many believe this team is capable of becoming.

Now that we’re a day removed from the clinching victory, we can sit back and marvel at how truly remarkable the 2020 Dodgers were, while attempting to process their place in MLB history. That latter bit is no easy feat given the circumstances. MLB’s pandemic-shortened 60-game season, followed by an expanded postseason, changed nearly every dynamic we use to measure success. Yet, even with the small and unusual sample size, the 2020 Dodgers made a strong case to be mentioned among MLB’s greatest teams.

Here, we’ll examine how favorably the 2020 Dodgers compare to the best of the best.

The Dodgers rush the field after defeating the Rays to win the World Series.
The Dodgers rush the field after defeating the Rays to win the World Series. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

2020 Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 43-17 (.717 winning percentage)

Postseason: 13-5 (Defeated Tampa Bay Rays in World Series)

Run Differential: +136

Team overview: The 2020 Dodgers will go down as one of the most dominant regular season teams in MLB history, and one of the most determined postseason teams after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. They’ll also go down as one of the deepest teams we’ve seen.

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The lineup is loaded with superstars (Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager) and other All-Stars (Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Joc Pederson), too. The rotation has a surefire Hall of Famer in Clayton Kershaw, MLB’s next elite-level ace in Walker Buehler and emerging arms like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. The bullpen sprung a few leaks down the stretch, but despite that L.A.’s 3.02 team ERA led baseball.

Now, here’s how the 2020 Dodgers compare to four teams many consider to be among the greatest of all-time.

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1927 New York Yankees

Record: 110-44 (.714)

Postseason: 4-0 (Defeated Pittsburgh Pirates in World Series)

Run Differential: +376

Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, Herb Pennock, Miller Huggins (manager) and Ed Barrow (president).

How the 2020 Dodgers compare: Aside from weighing the unusual 2020 circumstances, attempting to compare eras is generally difficult. Obviously, it’s a far different game than it was nearly a century ago.

Perhaps the best place to start is run differential. That at least shows you how much better a team was than its contemporaries. The 1927 Yankees had the second highest run differential in MLB history, only trailing the 1939 Yankees (+411), so they were clearly head and shoulders above the competition.

We had to do some serious math here, but we’ve found that the Dodgers 154-game pace of +348 falls just below the 1927 Yankees run differential. That would rank third all-time. The Dodgers were also on a 110-win pace. Of course, being on pace and staying on pace are two different things. We’ll never know how the Dodgers would have finished, but for 60 games they were elite.

1975 Cincinnati Reds

Record: 108-54 (.667)

Postseason: 7-3 (Defeated Boston Red Sox in World Series)

Run Differential: +254

Hall of Famers: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Sparky Anderson (manager)

How the 2020 Dodgers compare: The "Big Red Machine" Reds of the 1970s are what the current era Dodgers hope to become. Aside from the aforementioned Hall of Famers, the 1975 Reds also had the all-time hit king Pete Rose and underrated slugger George Foster. That's five bonafide superstars, which is something very few teams can equal.

The Dodgers lineup is close. Betts, Bellinger and Seager certainly fit the superstar description, and younger players like Will Smith and Gavin Lux hope to follow suit. The collective slash lines for both teams are close, too. The Reds slashed 271/.353/.401, while the Dodgers went .256/.338/.483. That's reflective of the game's shift toward power. Where the Dodgers have a clear edge is pitching. The Reds posted a 3.37 team ERA. As previously noted, the Dodgers were at 3.02, and that's without David Price throwing a single pitch.

Once again, the 2020 Dodgers hold their own. But, once again, the data is limited.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter turns a double play during the 1998 World Series.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter turns a double play during the 1998 World Series. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB via Getty Images)

1998 New York Yankees

Record: 114-48 (.703)

Postseason: 11-2 (Defeated San Diego Padres in World Series)

Run Differential: +309

Hall of Famers: Derek Jeter, Tim Raines, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre (manager)

How the 2020 Dodgers compare: There are five or six Yankees teams in the discussion for the best all-time. The 1998 squad is squarely among them. Aside from being the winningest regular season team in Yankees history, the 1998 team dominated the postseason like few others in the wild-card era, losing two games total. At one point, the 2020 Dodgers actually lost three of four to Atlanta. That’s a notable notch for the Yankees.

In the Dodgers’ favor is a team ERA nearly one full run lower than New York’s. However — and this is a fairly large “however” — 1998 was part of MLB's steroid era. A rotation featuring Andy Pettitte, David Wells, David Cone, Hideki Irabu and Orlando Hernandez would likely dominate in 2020.

1955 Brooklyn Dodgers

Record: 98-55 (.641)

Postseason: 4-3 (Defeated New York Yankees in World Series)

Run Differential: +207

Hall of Famers: Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Walter Alston (manager). Tommy Lasorda was a player later inducted as a manager.

How the 2020 Dodgers compare: The 1955 Dodgers weren’t just star-studded, they were iconic.

Until 2020, they were also the undisputed greatest team in Dodgers’ history. But that’s maaaaybe not so cut and dried now.

Again, it’s nearly impossible to anoint a team based on 60 games. But the 2020 Dodgers were setting a more impressive pace and won four postseason series compared to one, not that that’s the 1955 team’s fault. While the offensive production was nearly even, the 2020 squad also posted a better ERA (3.02 to 3.68) and was poised to shatter their run differential by nearly 40 percent.

While I’d need more data to comfortably suggest the 2020 Dodgers could be a top five or even top 10 team all-time, I’d be fairly comfortable saying they were destined to be the greatest Dodgers team ever.

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