Right after the Nationals beat the Astros in game 6 of the 2019 World Series I got a text from my wife:
Why couldn’t Kershaw be more like Strasburg? And why can’t we get a Soto or Rendon?
This truly cut to the heart of the matter with the Dodgers. Many players have have had multiple opportunities to shine and help the Dodgers win, yet how many positive memorable moments are there over these last few years in the post-season?
Game 5 in the NLDS against the Nationals in 2016? Justin Turner walk-off against the Cubs? Kiké Hernandez’s 3 home runs to help clinch the 2017 pennant? Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig homers in losing causes? Walker Buehler dominating? Max Muncy’s 18th inning walk-off? There are more but there aren’t nearly enough.
Instead, we see many of our favorite players trying to do too much. How many times did they not get that extra run with a runner on third and one out? How many strikeouts on pitches outside the strike zone? What about the many groundouts to the right side of the infield? How many highly paid pitchers have not gotten the job done? Finally, how many awful pitching decisions have come from this coaching staff?
No More Favorites
My three favorite Dodgers:
- Missing in action
- Arrested for Domestic Violence
- Missed most of 2018
They are pretty easy to guess and I’ve always had favorite players. Most fans have their favorites. Lately I’ve been a fan of the players who come through the farm system as I read about them when they first sign with the Dodgers. Currently, the Dodgers have an almost sure-fire Hall of Famer, an MVP favorite, a Cy Young candidate and plenty of other excellent players. Many are fan favorites. What they don’t have are any World Series winners with the Dodgers.
All this talent has not come through with performances that match much of their regular season performances, except in rare cases. Look at the hitters below with their playoff statistics:
You can see there are many under-performers on this list with very few coming close to their regular season numbers. Many players I really like have underperformed in the post-season. I’m just beyond done with “favorite” players and hoping they stay with the Dodgers. If the Dodgers can make themselves better by trading ANY player, then I am all in.
Characteristics of Post-Season Performers
One thing I don’t believe is that players can consistently be better than they normally are in the post-season. I believe it stems from players under-performing due to various issues. A player like Walker Buehler or George Springer can thrive in many “clutch” situations because they don’t get overwhelmed with the circumstances.
Overthinking vs Letting It Come To You
There is a great article about how players “choke” by overthinking:
Beilock’s explanation of why we choke centers around overthinking: by overcrowding your working memory – the part of your memory that holds and processes information for short periods of time – you become hyperaware of all that could go wrong, and in turn, you become acutely conscious of your own motions.
In Choke, she gives the classic example of shooting at the end of a close basketball game. Because the player is so attuned to the pressure of his/her team, coaches, and audience, the player tries to monitor every aspect of a highly familiar action – shooting the ball – and misses the shot. – Miriam Zuo: The Psychology of Clutch
Stubbornness vs Open-Mindedness
As we watch some of our Dodger favorites continue to struggle some of them seem to be stubborn. What worked in the regular season against the Padres doesn’t work against the Astros. Going away from a pitch that one needs to throw to be effective. Taking the same approach against Stephen Strasburg at the plate as you do against Fernando Rodney. Throwing 28 of 29 fastballs while the other team is lighting you up. Not following the positioning given to you by the coaching staff because you know better.
Making choices based on your gut when all of the evidence says to do something else.
Look how flexible some of the previous champions have been. They adapt and adjust based on what is happening, not what happened months or years ago. It just seems that so many Dodgers act like that the regular season is the same as the postseason. The bad news is that they are not playing the Rockies, Giants, Padres or Diamondbacks in the playoffs most of the time. They are playing teams as good or even better than them.
Embracing The Moment
For the Dodgers we’ve seen players like Walker Buehler, Max Muncy and former Dodger Yasiel Puig really seem to embrace the postseason. They recognized that it was a big event yet they were some of the better performers. Of course, one of the greatest postseason players of all-time was David Freese. Nobody embraced the moment better.
Time For Some Changes
There is enough evidence to indicate that the Dodgers need to do something different. They’ve decided to keep Dave Roberts for another year but changes are needed there. Rick Honeycutt is moving on so at least there will be a new voice for Doc to listen to. If Bob Geren gets another job then a new bench coach would be needed. I like all of those guys but change is needed. How many times have the Dodger pitchers been suspected of tipping pitches and the Dodger coaches seemed to be the last to know? Getting too caught up in the moment?
For those who wanted to fire Roberts, doesn’t it make sense to be good with a new bench coach? Something hasn’t been working and they are keeping Doc. Changing the voices could make a difference. https://t.co/OfL9EvaIkZ
— Tim Rogers – SDDODGER (@SDDodger) October 30, 2019
The team in 2019 was too left-handed. Whether there were too many starting pitchers that were lefties or there were too many left-handed batters, change is needed. There was a lack of balance. At this point all options should be on the table to balance the lineup and get some consistency in the lineup. I want more hitters like Max Muncy, Alex Verdugo and Justin Turner that can work an at bat. Players like Matt Beaty and Gavin Lux seem to have some of those same capabilities.
Other than Walker Buehler, the Dodgers postseason starters were a little underwhelming. I wonder if someone like Tony Gonsolin — who was excellent against the Yankees — could have made a difference. It seemed to me that both Dustin May and Gonsolin seemed to adapt pretty quickly to the pressures of the Major Leagues. To watch Stephen Strasburg maintain his cool, even through some rough early innings, is something I want to see in more Dodger pitchers. Buehler is just an absolute beast.
The New Favorites
For me, I will have have new favorites that come from the next World Series Championship for the Dodgers. It is the name on the front and not the name on the back. I look forward to seeing some changes but not just for changes’ sake. Finding just one or two key players can make a difference in the direction of the team. Somehow, that Gerardo Parra villain, made a difference for the Nationals. Let’s not forget the group of young players coming through. It seemed like most of the young players that came up were not afraid of the big moments. Remember the back-to-back-to-back walk-offs by the three rookies?
One other thought is that many of the players that have struggled can still break out in the post-season. One great example would be David Price. He had years of playoff struggles but finally figured it out in 2018 (regretfully). I can see some of our disappointing post-season players stepping up at some point. The big question would be, how much patience is left from the Front Office? We shall find out within the next two months.