The team with the 8th best record going into the 2019 MLB Playoffs are now the 2019 World Series Champions.
Well, they did start 19-31, but after that, they stayed under the radar as the best team in baseball while the Twins, Yankees, Astros and Dodgers were grabbing all the headlines.
At least when the #Dodgers lose, they lose to the Champs. 4 years and counting (Cubs, Astros, Red Sox, and Nationals). Their time will come…
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) October 31, 2019
KEY TRADE DEADLINE MOVE
At the time, the subtle trade for former Dodger Daniel Hudson didn’t raise any eyebrows around the league. It looked like a move of desperation after other players from the opening day roster turned out to be huge disappointments: Jeremy Hellickson, Tony Sipp, Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal, along with Brian Dozier and Matt Adams on offense.
That trade for Hudson turned out to be one of the keys to the success of the last half of the season with Hudson turning into their primary closer to the point where Hudson recorded the final outs for the Nats vs. the top of Astros lineup of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley.
The Dodgers tried their hand at some under the radar moves as well, but any move they did try this year didn’t bring the consistency the bullpen needed to be a real factor in the postseason the rest of the year. Adam Kolarek was a great addition, but was that ultimately enough for the club to rest its laurels on?
There was no way the Nats were going to get one of the top records in the league, so the underdog mentality was baked in early.
Moreover, with manager Davey Martinez, the Nats got into a foxhole mentality and knew they weren’t going to compete with the home run hitting teams, so they lowered the launch angle a bit and started playing baseball.
The Dodgers seem to have this flipped around as they tend to start so hot that they cruise into the fall. I’m not asking that the Dodgers go 19-31 to get their team mentally tough, but having a plan that adjusts to the context of the season’s competition might be a good idea.
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 9, 2019
MVP Candidate, Anthony Rendon and their young stud, Juan Soto were at their best when it counted – in the playoffs.
There’s a difference between hitting for numbers in the regular season as opposed to hitting for the situation in the playoffs and from Soto’s shouting BALL to Rendon letting the ball talk after his manager gets booted, the Nationals two biggest bats did what they were suppose to do for their team.
We all know that Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and AJ Pollock are the main Dodgers we’re talking about right here while Max Muncy, Justin Turner and possibly Joc Pederson have proven enough that they don’t shy away from the bright lights of the playoffs.
More at Dodgers Nation
- Is A.J. Pollock on the Dodgers in 2020?
- Why The Dodgers Might Explore A Corey Seager Trade
- Justin Turner Willing to Move Away from Third Base for Anthony Rendon
The Nationals had arguably the two hottest pitchers going into the playoffs with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. The key was that they got even hotter in the playoffs, especially Strasburg, who just turned in a MVP performance in the World Series:
- 5-0 Postseason Record
- 1.98 ERA
- 47 strikeouts
- 36 1/3 IP
One of the defining moments for Strasburg, which might hit home for a lot of Dodger Fans is in Game 6 when the Nationals coaches realized he was tipping his pitches. Strasburg just got rocked for a double and home run and instead of breaking down, he stepped up and did whatever he had to do to mix up his delivery to get the Astros off balance and buy his team enough time to generate some offense of their own.
Tom Verducci asked Stephen Strasburg what adjustment he made after the first inning. "I started shaking my glove so they didn't know what I was throwing," Strasburg said. Correcting pitch-tipping midgame isn't usually that easy!
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) October 30, 2019
Scherzer showed the grit that reminded us Dodger fans of an old bulldog we all know as Orel Hershiser. He pitched like an ace when needed and was there for the team in any relief situation he was called upon. Pitch count be damned.
His body was his only enemy as spasms took him out of an important Game 5, but he quickly came back and gave his team an amazing performance for Game 7 on the road.
To be honest, the Dodgers pitching staff doesn’t come up short in terms of talent and potential, but there’s one thing for the club to takeaway from the Nats win — identifying pitchers tipping their pitches.
It’s the damn tipped pitches that seem to get us and that’s on the coaches, organization, and teammates to get better at. The pitchers just need to be ready with a back up plan to their delivery approach if that happens and it WILL happen as teams learn the ways of the Astros and MLB continues to turn a blind eye.
Imagine the Dodgers being able to become more aware of their tipping situations during important games like that these past few years.
SPENT WISELY, but STILL SPENT
For all the criticism the Dodgers organization has gotten about spending a ton of money, not many fans realize that only the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox had higher Opening Day Payrolls this season compared to the Nationals.
By the end of the season, this is where the payrolls ended.
With Bryce Harper, the Nationals did offer a big contract, but the fine print shows a large majority of it was deferred, so in the 10+ years it would have taken Harper to collect that money, inflation would have diluted it down to a present day value of around $200M.
Instead of signing Harper, they took their money and signed the best pitcher in the market in Patrick Corbin for 6 years and $140M, beating out the Yankees and Phillies for his services and thereby coming in third behind the Padres and Phillies for amount spent last off-season.
With the signing of Corbin, the Nationals now had the highest paid trio in baseball with Corbin, Scherzer and Strasburg’s extension.
Still under the radar, huh?
The Dodgers are coming up on one of the most important off-seasons in recent memory. With the most likely loss of two primary starters in Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill, the Dodgers are left with Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, and likley Julio Urias along with Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, and Ross Stripling.
With Gerrit Cole now officially a free agent and Stephen Strasburg most likely opting out of this the remaining $100M and 4 years on his deal, the Dodgers do have a chance to show they know how to take advantage of their deep pockets to go along with their small market smart spending ways.
You have the money, Dodgers… spend some. Win the damn thing.