Fresh off a new four-year contract and second consecutive World Series loss, Dave Roberts will start the fourth chapter of his tenure as manager for the Dodgers during Spring Training 2019.
In three seasons as skipper, Roberts has led the Dodgers to two consecutive Fall Classics and was two wins shy of punching a ticket to it in his first year. But the honeymoon phase evaporated at the torturous start of last season.
The success rate of any trigger Roberts pulled was low. Certain calls to the bullpen were puzzling and benching players amid a hot streak were head-scratching but the Dodgers managed to top the NL West in 163 games.
Since becoming manager, Roberts has accumulated 287 regular season wins and reached at least 90 wins in each of the three seasons. Perhaps the most exhilarating being the 104-win season that led to Los Angeles’ first ride to the World Series since 1988.
But his sophomore season as manager was the best case scenario for a team firing on all cylinders. Injuries piled on out of the spring training gates last season with broken wrists and Tommy John surgeries to vital players.
With the absence of two top-of-the-order hitters, the presence of Max Muncy and Manny Machado propelled the Dodgers from the bottom to the general vicinity of first place. As players were added to the roster, via triple-A promotions or trades, the dugout quickly turned into an embarrassment of riches.
The lack of consistency among players taking the field became a common thread with Roberts. Towards the end of the season, third baseman Justin Turner and Machado were the only everyday-players on the team.
Pitching matchups saw hitters on a hot streak sit on the bench while a player with a batting average hovering over 200 stand in the batter’s box. The inconsistency carried into the postseason with different lineups and leadoff hitters.
But with three unique years of experience under his belt, Roberts is set up for a different path in his fourth season.
Avoiding the platoons will be key for Roberts as the subtractions in the offseason strengthened the lineup, rotation and bullpen. With thinning out the overcrowded outfield and inability to sign a second baseman, only three positions are laid out for platoons: catcher, first base and second base.
Consistency will be a huge factor in how the Dodgers play in the upcoming season since that’s where they lacked the most when it came to runners in scoring position and putting the ball in play.
By having less multiple-position players and trying to balance out their playing time, Roberts can have a consistent lineup between series instead of 112 variations similar to last season.
The proposed three-batter minimum requirement by Major League Baseball will pose the greatest challenge for Roberts since he’s fond of matchups out of the bullpen. With the possibility of restricting usage out of the pen, the likelihood of starting pitchers facing a lineup for a third time increases.
Advanced analytics have been the main determinant for many decisions on the field, but the margin of error for winning the World Series is dwindling with each year of experience. A third consecutive trip to the Fall Classic isn’t out of the question as the Dodgers are one of the best sounding teams in the National League, once again.
As the saying goes: “the best things come in threes;” and with three years of experience, Roberts has the masterplan for which keys to turn at the right time.
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