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Dodgers Bullpen Decisions In Game 3 Adversely Impacted Game 4

The bullpen decisions made by the Dodgers have been questionable throughout the 2018 World Series. I am not going to pin all these decisions on Manager Dave Roberts. The Dodgers talk about how the front office and coaching staff plan the games so I will now refer to decisions pre-determined as Dodger management. See this article about game planner Danny Lehmann to see that there is more to game planning than just Doc.

Before game 3 of the 2018 World Series Dave Roberts spoke about how closer Kenley Jansen would probably work more than one inning. That opportunity presented itself in the top of the 8thinning with the Dodgers up 1-0. The Red Sox had three left handed batters coming up with a fresh bullpen. Walker Buehler was over 100 pitches so it was time to pull him.

Dodgers
September 2, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Some History

Some history on Kenley Jansen is in order. He has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the last 5 years and had an outstanding NLDS and NLCS. After a tough season that included a late start to the season, a worse than expected season and life threatening heart problems, he had finally started looking like the old Kenley. However, he never had not pitched two innings in a game in 2018 and his blown save and loss in the 2017 World Series were both over 2 inning appearances.

Game 3 Decision Point

Dodger management decision to have Kenley try for a 6 out save with a fresh bullpen available was totally unnecessary. There were three left handed hitters coming up. Julio Urías was available and has the best stuff in the bullpen. If the Red Sox put in some right handed pinch hitters, then Pedro Baez was available and he has been outstanding since August. Instead they chose to put Kenley in to a situation he hadn’t pitched in since the 2017 World Series.  The last time Kenley pitched in a 6 out save situation was game 2 of the 2017 World Series. He game up an inherited run in the 8thand a tying home run in the 9th.

So putting Jansen into a situation he’s not familiar with in 2018 and has not had a previous clear history of success there is no way he should have been in there in the 8th. Again, a fresh bullpen was available. My biggest concern though, he’d have to throw around 25-30 pitches for the two innings, which would not be good for game 4. Again, Dodger management had a rested bullpen. This type of management is what burned out the bullpen in the 2017 World Series.

Regretfully, Kenley gave up a two out, two run homer that tied the game. He then also pitched the 9thgiving him 32 pitches. Pedro Baez pitched later and threw 26 ptiches and Kenta Maeda threw 36 pitches in the historical game 3 that the Dodgers won in 18 innings. Another important note is that Scott Alexander threw 19 pitches and only 9 for strikes as he gave up the lead run in the 13th. Even more important, the first batter he faced was Brock Holt, who he walked.

Game 4 Impact

Jumping to game 4, so many things would have been different for this game for both the Dodgers and Red Sox but there was some lessons from game 3 and further history that weren’t applied. Some information we found out later was that both Pedro Baez and Julio Urías weren’t available and I never saw the reasons given.  The controversial decision in game 4, that is truly one for the ages, was pulling Rich Hill.

In the 7thinning Hill started it off with walking the first batter. He then struck out Eduardo Nuñez. At that point Roberts went out and pulled Hill and replaced him with Scott Alexander to face Brock Holt. The night before Alexander’s first batter was Holt and he walked him. Straight up, how the heck to you pull Rich Hill at 91 pitches with a lefty coming up and replace him with another lefty reliever, especially one as spotty as Scott Alexander? Alexander proceeded to walk Holt and the rest is history as the Dodgers lost 9-6. The Dodgers bullpen was trash.

Decision Ramifications

Of course, having blown the game 3 lead with the call of bringing Jansen in too early made the bullpen do a lot of unnecessary work. Jansen, having thrown 32 pitches, unnecessarily in game 4, game up the game tying home run in the 8th. Maeda wasn’t sharp and Baez wasn’t available.

Let’s also not leave the offense out of this. Their performance, in general has been horrible in the 2018 World Series. If the offense does its’ job the Dodgers are at least tied 2-2 going into game 5.

Two decisions will haunt the Dodgers; trying for a game 3 two out save with Kenley Jansen and pulling Rich Hill too early in game 4. The result of those two decisions by Dodger management led to the bullpen blowing up at the end of game 4.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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  1. Roberts sharing conversation with hill and then sharing with media is beyond pathetic……Under the bus goes hill….Gotta go dave….Think other players didn’t notice….Own the loss…Tip cap to opposing team.. JFC

  2. A few major typos in this article:

    “However, he never had not (WHAT?) pitched two innings in a game in 2018 and his blown save and loss in the 2017 World Series were both over 2 inning appearances.”

    “Two decisions will haunt the Dodgers; trying for a game 3 two out (TWO INNING) save with Kenley Jansen and pulling Rich Hill too early in game 4. The result of those two decisions by Dodger management led to the bullpen blowing up at the end of game 4.”

  3. I have been a Dodger fan since 1959 attending my first game when I was five years old at the LA Coliseum. The main takeaway I have from this debacle is that the offense played poorly and inconsistently and the bullpen decisions in this series were abhorrent. I cannot put into words how disappointed I am with the performance of management in this series. We were lucky to win in Milwaukee and it appears the effort in preparing to play the Red Sox, the best team in baseball was less than stellar. The Dodger organization has spent a great deal of money to build this team and the fans continue to support them each year in spite of rising prices for seats and parking. We set attendance records every year. It is time for the ownership to revisit the management of this team and make a decision based on the facts that present themselves. This lose of the 2nd series in a row was preventable, was a letdown and losing for the second time on our home field is despicable. I hope management makes some choices in the offseason that will bring the glory back to the Dodger organization that has been absent for the past 30 years.

  4. Frridman and Zaidi are the architects of this team. The talent we have does not equate to the results. Roberts follows orders, that simple.
    We should have 2 titles, but the Dodgers metrics cost us again.

  5. See my comment after Brook Smith’s blog, to which I will add that the photo of the two management dopes and their puppet laughing is infuriating.

  6. The incompetence of this Dodger management team began at the end of August 2017 when the Dodgers began collapsing as they moved into the 2017 World Series. While Houston fielded a great team, Dave Roberts and his management team let down their own players with poor decision-making, lack of leadership, and disregard for old school baseball.

    This season was no different! While baseball has become extremely business oriented with no regard for baseball history and the integrity of the game, so should management be treated. Dave Roberts and his decision-making team were given $200 million in player resources to get the job done. It didn’t happen. As happens in corporate America for poor performance, all three should be fired. Quite frankly, Dave Roberts should be made an example of and shown the door.

    I have been a Dodger fan and baseball for over 50 years. It is extremely disappointing to have experienced deconstruction of an American pastime intended to be a great day at the park. Data (metrics) management, defensive shifts (taking away offense), pitchers throwing 100 pitches or less, free agency trades midseason, front office managing their puppet field manager, and the like have destroyed the purity and simplicity of a kids game called Baseball.

    Last thought for this year’s season…
    If Dave Roberts was the Dodger manager in 1988, would Kirk Gibson have been allowed to hit?

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