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Dodgers: I’m Done With Favorites, Make This Team Better

It’s the name on the front, not the name on the back.

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?

dodgers
Dodgers legend Sandy Koufax applauds as Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler walks off the field in the seventh inning of Game Three of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday, October 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

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:

Player AVG OBP SLG
Barnes .158 .235 .224
Bellinger .178 .234 .326
Forsythe .297 .435 .351
Grandal .115 .274 .244
Hernandez .213 .333 .426
Muncy .217 .365 .493
Pederson .239 .326 .487
Pollock .111 .200 .333
Puig .280 .351 .429
Seager .203 .275 .331
Taylor .255 .392 .453
Turner .310 .411 .520

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

Coaching

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?

Position Players

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.

Pitchers

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.

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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

17 Comments

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  1. I agree with Ice-cube, until the Dodgers sign at least 2 Black position players they will continue to lose in the playoffs.

    • I have no idea why someone would think race has anything to do with winning. Unless of course, you are a racist.

  2. And how did the back-to-back-to-back walk-off rookies do in the post season? Not so well and Robers decided to put another rookie (lux) in the post season roster. How did that work out? That’s what I thought.

  3. Excellent article, Tim, to which I would add a couple thoughts:
    1. Hinch’s decision to pull Greinke after his best performance with the Astros reminds me of Roberts’ stupid pitching changes going to relievers (game 4 last WS, for example) in recent years based on analytics, which cost us several postseason series.
    2. Until the fools in charge get us a reliever who can bridge the gap between starter and closer, we will not win a title. THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT NEED.
    Astros did not win with the best starters possible.
    3. Less reliance on analytics and more reliance on gut decisions (like Lasorda) = success, at least more often than not.

  4. I have been saying the same thing for 3 years. Kiki is a disaster on the field in the moment but a great club house guy also very overrated on defense. Taylor had his 1 good year and he is what he is below average. Joc can only hit home runs and barely holds his own on defense. Where is our Eaton? Unknown quiet and doesn’t have to rah rah and clown like Kiki to hold his spot. Eaton is a team player with splits all of those I mentioned can’t come close to. Bunting stealing bases and hitting the other way. Or even an all defensive guy like Gurriel who brings clutch hitting to the post season. Or Brantley who we missed out on. Great splits and clutch. Our FO never gave a sniff to Yelich way back banking on our weak platoon instead. We have fakers, Pederson lead off a real joke. Those players who hit righty or left and then we sub in another poor split guy for him. It doesn’t work We are stuck with Roberts and the FO always waits until the last minute when guys like Kelly and Pollock are all that is left. The great FO lets guys like Jordan Alvarez go for Fields a 10+ ERA guy. Alvarez was highly touted in the international market and there were headlines he was going to be real good even gave him 2 mil to sign. We won 106 games but it might as well have been as many as the Padres, Who cares. I can’t believe we will be going into next year with Pollock, Kelly, Kiki, Pederson, Yimi, Hill, Stripling, Jansen as closer and of course Roberts. Great clubhouse with no chance at the WS. Please angels sign Cole and Rendon.

    • You have pretty thick blinders on and are quite obviously a glass half empty person. No FO hits on every move. You are too blind to see or acknowledge all of the great moved Friedman has made, or didn’t make and only focus on the less perfect. He wisely didn’t spend big $ on players like Harper, Darvish, Morrow, and more that most fans screamed for. His genius trade to dump salary and unwanted players to obtain Downs & Gray(our current # 4 & 5 prospects). The majority of our minor leaguer’s he’s traded have been hurt or haven’t amounted to much. Pollock was a solid signing. That roster you want to bash just won 106 games(most in LA Dodger’s history). Yup, they must just be horrible like you say. If you want to complain about something, do so about Roberts who clearly can’t manage in the playoffs.

      • I totally agree. Bottom line is we have good players but they were not hot at the right time. The Nationals were not the best team in baseball but they got hot at the right time. That being said, I would love to see some upgrades especially with pitching. If we had even a decent bullpen we are most likely looking at one if not two rings in the last decade.

  5. Relying on our love for certain players to propel the Dodgers reached a point of obsolescence before post-season and all we could do was look towards miracles. Admittedly, I have been slightly unhappy when certain players go because I “like” them, but I try to stay focused on the “bigger picture.” (And sometimes I must hope like heck the loss does not come back to hurt us.) So, I also do not understand why we hold on to Pollock, Kelly, Garcia, Hill or Stripling. Now there may be something a little less incomprehensible about retaining Hernandez and Pederson (but not as part of a regular line-up.) As for acquiring the likes of Cole and/or Rendon……I believe that it will take the acts of angels to relentlessly whisper their names into the ears of the FO.

  6. Response to Barb’s comments:
    1. “So, I also do not understand why we hold on to Pollock, Kelly, Garcia, Hill or Stripling.” BECAUSE MANAGEMENT IS STUPID!

    2. “As for acquiring the likes of Cole and/or Rendon……I believe that it will take the acts of angels to relentlessly whisper their names into the ears of the FO.” There ARE NO angels or baseball gods when it comes to the Dodgers or their life-long fans, or 1988 would not have been our last championship. We are still being punished by the morons who traded Piazza and the criminals who bought the team – FOX first and then Frank McCourt, may they rot in Hell!

    Reply

    • No they aren’t being punished for that still because this is an entirely new ownership that had nothing to do with anything prior to 2013. We are being punished for what this current group has done, blacking out most of the LA area with a greedy tv deal going on 7 years now, raking in billions from the brand, tv deal, parking, food, and everything else they make money on but NOT using the money on the team, crying poor about the luxury tax, hiring a small market guy for the sole purpose of making them the most money possible. A team with billions penny pinching on throw away players robbing the fans. These are all crimes to baseball

      • It always comes down to the almighty dollar. All they care about is how much money they are making. They could care less whether we win or loose as long as they keep seeing the Benjamin’s.

  7. Barb McP, and to all other folks who may be here or not here at this time, don’t expect them to change anything concerning the players and how the lineups, pitching and all else are managed. I don’t want to see Dodgers even in the PS as long as Roberts is the manager. Look at it this way…Dodgers lack any real great players right now on this team and it’s as simple as that. They WOULD NOT IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM have been able to be even close to matching up with he Nats or Astros.

  8. Their approach doesn’t work in the post-season. Like you said, they’re facing the best teams with the best pitching. The Dodgers strike out way too much trying to hit home runs no matter the situation or count. Put the ball in play….bunt and try move runners over. Game 5 vs Nationals, tie game bottom of the ninth, with a runner on first and one out, why not have Will Smith sac bunt Kike to second? Give Taylor a chance to win the game with a base hit. I guess the data doesn’t support that kind of strategy, but it’s the post season. If you need one single run to win the series, I would think a bunt and a base hit are more likely to produce that run than an extra base hit.

  9. Want to win the World Series. I bleed blue, so I want to win it! A Season is not like Playoff Baseball. Situational Hitting, hitting the empty areas of the shift, not swinging at pitches down when they’re released. Have a bullpen that Doc believes in using.

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