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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Reflects on Past Mistakes and Why He Makes Certain Moves



For Dave Roberts, manager of your 2020 World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, this has been a long time coming. Over the years and failures in October, Doc has faced questions and scrutiny for moves he’s made in games and the moves he didn’t make.

If the shoe was on the other foot, we’d all realize that managing a big league team on the biggest stage might be a lot harder than it seems from our couches. Now finally a champion as a manager, Roberts joined legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski’s SiriusXM show, Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” to talk about his process and why some moves he’s made perhaps haven’t gone according to plan.

It’s a balance. It’s certainly a balance and I’ve made many mistakes going with my gut too much, or my heart, my eyes, and I’ve made mistakes going too much with the data. And I think for me as a baseball manager, the one thing that I do appreciate and I do get is the fact that it’s predicting. Because none of us can predict the future but our eyes and the analytics and the data is there as a predictor.

Dodgers fans have seen both sides of the coin for Dave Roberts. Particularly in the postseason. Two key moments to highlight lowlight are the choice to remove Rich Hill during the 2018 World Series against the Red Sox, and the decision to leave Clayton Kershaw in game 5 of the 2019 NLDS (among other times) too long.

The determined Roberts was on a mission to explain why he does what he does when he does it. The balance of numbers (analytics) and eye test (gut).

I’ll give you a quick example of me as a player. If I face a certain pitcher and I was 6 for 12 and I would say ‘hey, I own this guy.’ And let’s just say that my 6 hits were not quality contact I but I got 6 hits. So there’s a value of the pitcher knows I got 6 hits against them. But then that does not mean I’m going to be 6 for my next 12. So now I as a manager have to figure out what gives that player the best chance to be closer to 6 or 12 than 1 for 12. And that’s why the data we have… all that stuff matters, but that’s the balance.

So now that he’s laid the numbers and analytical reasoning out there, what about the player side of it again? The psyche and feelings of a pitcher or a hitter come into play for Dave.

The player has to feel that he’s always the best option no matter what. And that’s what you want from a player. But then now how do you introduce this to him and say that ‘I still believe in you,’ but also if I don’t use this player, that means that I don’t believe in him either. So when I take the ball from a starting pitcher he’s pissed because he wants to stay in the game and that’s what I want. But I do have to show that I have confidence in a guy coming in.

Hearing Doc talk this out, you do get a clearer look at the inner workings that make the Dodger manager tick. Not every move works out — this we all can confirm with our eyes and the numbers — but he’s damn well trying his best to make the right calls in key spots.

Thankfully, in 2020 he finally (mostly) did.

World Champion Dodgers: A Dave Roberts Redemption Story

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

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  1. Clear as mud Dave.

    Here’s my observations:

    Every time Jansen closes it’s rolaids time. Not because he provides relief like rolaids, but because we have no idea what to expect, and need take take some rolaids to releive that unsettling feeling. Roberts insistence on using Jansen as a closer resulted in one of the two losses to the Rays. Please take Jansen out of the closer role. Time has passed him by and lapped him several times.

    Roberts did a good job of not using Kershaw in relief, or extending him too far in starts, or using him on short rest in the 2020 postseason. The result was Kershaw’s best postseason ever. I would like to beleive a lesson was learned from the past, that will continue in the future.

    Urias was allowed to close games as tail enders of long relief rather than bringing in Jansen. He was smoking hot and these were great non moves to leave him in. I credit Roberts with seeing the obvious and leaving him in. The Rays are still kicking themselves for refusing to see the obvious when they yanked a near perfect Blake Snell in the same WS game 6 that Urias closed out for the Dodgers.

    Yes I know managing a baseball team is difficult. But recognizing the obvious sure makes it easier. Roberts showed a better recognition of the obvious in the 2020 postseason, and now the Dodgers are world champions.

  2. He still should be fired. He cares too much about pissing off players like Jansen and has as this article states made terrible decisions that cost the Dodgers at least one important game in each playoff loss. If Cash doesn’t make an even worse decision Robert’s losing game 5 by going with Jansen would have lost the Dodgers another series. Robert’s makes horrible pitching decisions because of his gut. We are now stuck with him…

  3. Of course he’s trying. But I really hope he’s done trying to fit a square peg (Kenley) in a round hole (closer’s role). It’s just not going to work consistently anymore.

  4. I think with Kenley he needs to pick his spots. 3 run leads with the lower part of the order coming up, RH batters with problems with the top half of the strike zone, etc. And last but not least, avoid having him face the tieing or winning run. We have some really great options now. Bringing back Treinan. You never know, with Price coming back, maybe Julio could transition to closer. How about that?

  5. I really hope the Dodgers go after DJ LeMahieu. Kike will probably sign somewhere else and they can platoon Muncy and Turner at 3rd. LeMaheiu and Seager up the middle with Belli and Mookie in the outfield woukd make this lineup historically good.

  6. All I can read in this is that Roberts admits he made mistakes previously but that’s something. Recognition rather than “I liked him right there” or “I’d do the same thing again” is a good start. He performed better this past playoff – far from excellent – but good enough to win. There’s hope and he’s earned the right to defend next year.

  7. Congrats Dodgers!

    Coach Roberts,

    Thank you. For listening to fans and making change.
    I recall last year writing about 1) starting Kershaw against non number one starters 2) using Gonselin and May more and mixing them into relief in WS 3) signing Betts long term 4) D up with Hernandez at 2B.

    Thank you coaching staff and ownership. Shout out to Sandy Koufax and Magic.

    Thank you players! Kike Hernandez, way to step up when given more playing time, and pinch hit HR. Mookie, no words, just awesome, lighting the fire. Cody, thanks for the heroics and bringing the Cody Cody Cody! Muncy doin it Right. Seager stepping it up big time. JT doing it Animal Style D and at the plate, Joc bringing the Pop.

    Lastly, pitching staff, you rocked it! Got what you deserve, finally! May 101.5 big future red. Walker, Urias, May, that’s some strong youth at the SP!!! Let’s get another one, no Asrtrics!

    Congratulations Champions, This Team! Lots of Love

  8. It’s good to see Roberts willing to grow, learn and admit he made mistakes. That’s part of having success in the long run; learning and growing from mistakes and failures.

  9. Dave Roberts’ gut, heart and eyes have the brights and the instincts of a clod of dirt.

    How many post-season games did it take for him to finally stumble into wining a World Series.

    You hire a manager mainly for his/her judgment. I know. I hired a zillion managers during my career. I doubt that I would have hired Roberts, but if I had, he would have lasted about two games with me.

    Who in the Dodger organization has been protecting him anyway? Magic?

    Whoever it is needs to stop doing so and get a manager who, with all the talent Roberts has had for years, can actually make competent decisions on a consistent basis. That’s what good managers do that Roberts doesn’t.

  10. He just won a world series !!! Show me a manager who has won a world series that was a perfect show … Have a clue and quit being a hater . You obviously arent a true blue. Great job Doc!!!!!

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