Like any manager in baseball, Dave Roberts draws a lot of criticism. It starts about three hours before each game when the lineup. With each pitching change or lineup switch, the manager takes a lot of heat. At the same time, there are fans who adore him. Is it possible to be critical of Dave Roberts yet still think he is the right manager for the Dodgers?
First off, nobody really knows how the lineups are put together. My semi-educated guess is that there is a collaborative effort between front office personnel, analytics data and Doc. I also believe Doc does have the final say. Many issues are because of the constant lineup changes as the analytics are used heavily on a game-by-game basis. Every team uses analytics and they should. However, many feel the Dodgers use them too much and Roberts gets a lot of blame for the lineups, deserved or not deserved.
The other issue that people seem to have with the lineups is a player will have a great game or two and then finds themselves on the bench. This is the theory of playing the “hot hand” and the Dodgers don’t seem to believe in it. My question would be, how far back to they look at the analytics? If someone was good against a pitcher a year ago, 2 years ago or 5 years ago count the same? With the Dodgers, they can have a guy be in a horrid slump yet stays in the lineup while someone who’s been hot sits (see A.J. Pollock and Alex Verdugo on 4/15/19 as an example). Again, Doc takes most of the heat for these lineups.
During the game, some believe Roberts goes to his bench too soon and leaves them vulnerable later in the game. For example, let’s say he pulls Kiké Hernandez in the 6thinning against the Brewers. Later in the game there is a key situation in the spot where Kiké was replaced in the lineup by Joc Pederson. Now Josh Hader is pitching and Kiké should have been in that spot. There are numerous times when those scenarios play out and the Dodgers are in a bad spot against a good closer.
I don’t know how analytics play into these situations and I can see doing something earlier in the game if there is a huge opportunity. Sometimes it just seems that Doc is automatic for pulling certain players early in the game then not having options at the end of the game. How many times have they gone to extra innings and burned through the whole bench already. With only four bench players the Dodgers need to not needlessly limit their options. My first article for Dodgers Nation was about this topic. Look what Joc did against the Reds on Monday night when Roberts followed my advice (I’m guessing he doesn’t read my tweets):
Leave Joc in here please. You'll want him in the lineup against their righties at the end of the game.
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) April 16, 2019
The way Roberts handles the bullpen seems to ignite the fan base the most. Personally, I had a lot of heartburn with how he managed the bullpen in the 2017 World Series and I wrote about it extensively during last season. The latest usage of Joe Kelly is just the most recent issue fans have with Roberts and his bullpen management. Whether it is Kelly, Pedro Baez or Ryan Madson there is always someone that people will blame Roberts for using. Pulling starters early has also been a frequent source of frustration in Doc’s handling of the pitching staff.
Now that I’ve brought up a lot of issues that fans have had with Doc I will provide some defense of him. One area of defense I will not pull on you is the “you just don’t know the things the front office or Roberts knows”. That is a cop-out that people like to use to shut down discussion. Having discussions about how a manager manages their team is a great way to talk about the game.
The Players Seem To Love Him
As the game has evolved the front offices have taken more control of some of the things managers used to do. The amount of information provided to the managers for every team is a bit different and managers, in some cases, have more leeway than others. The number one job of the manager is to deal with the players. Number two is to deal with the media. That is the life of a modern manager and Dave Roberts handles those two areas as well as anybody. When he signed his new contract the players seemed genuinely happy that he’d be back.
If you get the chance to watch batting practice, watch Roberts. He wanders all around the field and do his best to connect with each player. I will also give him a huge boost of credit for handling Yasiel Puig so well. In my opinion, Roberts saved Puig’s career. After 2015 Puig was clearly on bad terms with Don Mattingly and was becoming a part-time player. Roberts (and Turner Ward) worked with Puig and even had to show him some tough love. In 2017 and 2018 he became a productive player again despite some serious issues. If you’ve ever managed a difficult yet talented person it is exhausting sometimes. The fact that Doc was able to deal with Puig shows how well he can manage people.
On-Field Decision Making
Disagreeing with a manager will always happen. There were plenty of times that I disagreed with Dodgers’ legend Tommy Lasorda. The grass is not always greener and you can ask almost any fan base about their manager and they’ll have plenty of issues. We all have opinions and that is a good thing. If decision making alone was the ultimate decider for a manager, then they’d be getting fired almost every year.
In some cases, the bullpen choices are just Roberts using the players he is given. He doesn’t make trades or sign free agents. In 2019 the starters have generally not been terribly strong in terms of logging a lot of innings. The bullpen gets stretched out and become less effective. For the lineups there are decisions that I don’t agree with but it is also legitimate to say “Pollock is due to get better, he’s too good of a player to give up on.” It is also legitimate to say that the numbers favor a matchup over another. Again, we don’t have to agree and nobody is dumb for having an opinion, including Roberts.
I do have plenty of areas of disagreement with Dave Roberts. At the same time, I think he’s the right person to bring the Dodgers a World Series win. Many will blame Roberts for losing two World Series but I consider his culpability to be quite low. At the end of the day, the players didn’t come through in too many instances. If the bullpen had a better construction then there might be a new World Series trophy at Dodger Stadium. The season is long and many decisions are made, but is the ones that don’t work out that are considered to be “bad”.
Doc will drive me nuts and I’ll talk about it on Twitter and enjoy interacting with other opinions. He is also a good man (I’ve met him and have mutual friends) who the players seem to respect. For those who want Roberts to be fired, please give me your alternatives in the comments. In conclusion, I’ve found that it is easy to both disagree and really like Roberts at the same time. What are your thoughts?Game Recap: Joc Walks It Off, Kershaw and Puig Return on Jackie Robinson Day