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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Dances Around the ‘Cost’ of Using Starters in Relief



The Dodgers started the year with a plethora of options to fill their starting rotation. Fast forward 7 months and a hard-fought season later, and those options have been stripped away. Instead, the Dodgers entered the postseason with only 3 reliable starters to lean on. Thankfully those three were Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and Max Scherzer.

However, things haven’t worked out too well for the Boys in Blue as they’ve had to hit the in case of emergency button several times in October. Despite having their best bullpen in years, Dave Roberts called on Max Scherzer in relief to close out the NLDS and Julio in relief during game Game 2 of the NLCS. Roberts had expressed his concern doing so as it could have a cost, and it certainly did on both pitchers in their next starts. Yet Doc seems to stand by those moves.

“There’s a potential cost. I don’t think anyone knows. There’s been starts where Julio hasn’t pitched well on regular, extra [rest]. For me, it’s looking and talking to the player, the pitching guys, and seeing the stuff … I just didn’t see the stuff comprised, I just didn’t.”

While Scherzer was able to slam the door on the Giants in the NLDS, he struggled two days later against the Braves. He labored through 4 1/3 innings giving up 2 runs along the way. He ended up revealing that his arm was fatigued and never really felt loose.

Later in that game, Roberts called upon Urías to keep the Braves at bay and bridge the gap to Kenley Jansen despite being scheduled to pitch in game 4. Julio was tagged for 2 runs that inning which lead to a tie game and an eventual walk-off win for Atlanta. Similar to Scherzer, Julio was not himself in his next start getting tagged for 5 runs in the blowouts loss.

Part of Julio’s bad outing should be attributed to some great hitting by the Braves, yet it still makes one wonder if he and Scherzer would have performed better had they not been used in relief. Maybe they both just had one of those days, or maybe they were just overworked.

Written by Adam Salcido

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  1. Didn’t work for Alex Cora either. Just not a good idea. Different mindset and preparation characteristics. It’s not like he lacked viable alternatives!

  2. The unfortunate part is trying to figure out who shoulders the blame. Both instances have been well documented to be “organizational decisions.”

  3. Well, At first it didn’t work-then it didn’t work-then it didn’t work again-then AGAIN it did not work-so who is to blame for it not working? Hmmmmm…..

  4. Let’s think about this. Do we really want to be in the World Series? This team is dead and depleted, a miracle in this series would take everything this team has left and leave nothing for the next series. Houston can hit and their pitchers are figuring it out, they’re also healthy. Boston also looks in better shape at the moment. What’s worse letting the Braves finally get a crack at a championship or losing once again to one of the two cheaters. It would not be a competitive series at all

    • Don, I have to agree. Braves will get absolutely stomped by either of the two cheaters. I won’t even watch and I’m about as rabid a baseball fan as there is. Not just Dodgers

      But let’s go Dodgers anyway!

  5. This seems to be a team that’s operating on its own, without any real management. Dave Roberts is no leader. He puts Lux, a second baseman, in centerfield where Taylor, Bellinger, Mookie, and AJ are each available and experienced in the most expansive outfield position. Taylor seems to have forgotten to look at this third base coach and opted on his own to go from first to third on a hit, only to be picked off trying to scuttle back to second.

    The players love Roberts, because he always invents excuses to protect them. This is no leader.

    This team lacks discipline, clearly.

    And don’t look for him to be fired. I doubt any manager has been fired after going to his ninth postseason in a row and after winning 106 games.

    We’re stuck with this. Hopefully, upper management will establish expectations of him for next year, beyond merely getting a postseason slot.

    • Paparulez, fair enough. I’m a big Roberts fan, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he does. All I’m trying to say is that it is quite apparent from reading that a good portion of the decisions being made are not his alone.

  6. Using a starter in relief works sometimes; witness Hershiser in 1988 v the Mets and Scherzer v the Giants. They had to beat the Giants to get this far.

    • Orel wasn’t a power pitcher like Max and actually pitched better when tired. We were very close during his time in LA.

  7. I’m a fan of using a starter as a reliever only in an elimination game. But with the Dodgers great bullpen, they didn’t need to do that this year at all. The 3 starters left standing are all tired; your ace/Cy Young winner proclaims he has a dead arm. Heads won’t roll on this, as it came from the top, but what a shame once we got to the NLCS we didn’t reset the 3 starters and keep them in their routine. Hope the pen throws a shutout tonight!

  8. Dave, you are not a good dancer.

    HORRIBLE to take your top starters out of their routine and burn their arms for future games.

    Simple as that.

    • Joe and Doug, fair criticisms of DR. However unless you don’t know how to read, you know those decisions where not his alone.

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