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Dodgers Must Win Early, and Often, to Set Different Tone in 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 23: Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield Joc Pederson (31) and Los Angeles Dodgers First base Cody Bellinger (35) and Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield Alex Verdugo (61) hi-five after the ninth inning of a MLB game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies on July 23, 2018, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Every new season marks a chance for improvement for any team, whether it’s a last-place squad looking to take a step forward or a World Series winner seeking to avoid a championship hangover. In their quest to purge three decades without a trophy, the first area of improvement for the Dodgers in 2019 is winning at a consistent clip, and doing it right from the start.

I realize this article is saying the painfully obvious. It goes without saying any team should aim to win consistently at any point of the season. Furthermore, the Dodgers tend to get off to slow starts EVERY year, even in 2017. Yet the fact that the 2018 squad made it to the World Series can easily obscure just how maddeningly inconsistent they were throughout the season. Even after escaping the cellar, they never hit a groove like 42-8 or Codymania. They were downright whiplash-inducing to the end, avoiding potential elimination with a sweep of the Giants and winning game 163 to barely win the division.


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For all the questions revolving around a potentially Kershaw-less rotation and a capable-if-questionable bullpen, the key to winning consistently lies primarily in one thing: hitting. As you may recall, the 2018 Dodgers were historically un-clutch with RISP. One could blame the loss of Corey Seager to an extent, but this awful trend continued even after they acquired Manny Machado. It was no surprise they were well below the Mendoza Line as a team in the World Series.

Just as sluggish as the hitting was the team’s attitude. As another fan pointed out in a conversation on Twitter, the players seemed rather despondent for the first few months of the season, as if the division was just going to be handed to them. The team weirdly attributed it to a “World Series hangover,” a term usually employed to refer to those who actually won it. After making it to a second consecutive WS, that excuse won’t fly this year.

Personally, I think they will correct both of these flaws in 2019. They have a new hitting coach, the vaunted batting guru Robert Van Scoyoc, and plan on a more strategic approach that will include more bunting. Full health for Seager, Justin Turner and A.J. Pollock, as well as Max Muncy avoiding regression and Cody Bellinger going full 2017, will stabilize an excellent lineup. The year-long presence of Seager, Walker Buehler and David Freese will help shape a much tougher, hungrier attitude.

If anything, L.A. has to win at a consistent clip from the opening pop simply because their schedule in the first half will be relentlessly challenging. Last year’s team hit “rock bottom” in early May after a string of humiliating defeats at the hands of the lowly Padres, Marlins and Reds. The opening months of 2019 will be far, far tougher. April has a four-game series in St. Louis, two series against the Brewers, one against an improved Reds team, and one against the Cubs. May is no less forgiving, with the Braves, Nationals, Reds and Mets on the dock. If the Dodgers are sluggish and mopey like they were last year, this stretch could put them in a similar hole.

If the Dodgers wish to finally grab that World Series trophy in 2019, they must show the hungry attitude and resolution necessary immediately. Many N.L. contenders have improved, and are not going to simply lay down for the back-to-back National League champions. We all know the MLB regular season is long, and allows for ebbs and flows for even the best teams. But this would nonetheless be the perfect time for the Dodgers to skip their ritual cold start.

Written by Marshall Garvey

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  1. With the moves they made so far this year they will miss the playoffs. To many swing and miss type players on the team. Not resolved.

    Colorado pitching is looking good and they can still hit with Arenado leading the charge

    S.F. will not be as bad as last year some of there stars will begin to wake

    SD is an up and coming team. Laugh all you want Paddack looked Ace like Mejia can hit at the catcher position and Manny will be Manny then you have some middle of the pack players like Renfroe Reyes Margot So they have a nice young core with veterans with Tatis JR coming soon. Let’s not forget that The Madres are up thier as an organization with good prospects

    Mets Brewers Cardinals Reds Nationals Phillies are all I still no walk-in the park

    • First besides missing Seager they also missed their biggest threat in Turner the first 3 months. Also Jansen lost several games and was not effective. Saying they added Machado to replace Seager while correct is not the full story as Machado was not as effective. Machado was a boom or bust guy for the Dodgers last year.

      This team has added for the start of the year a Healthy Jansen, Seager, Urias, Ryu and probably Yimi Garcia. They signed Pollock and have brought up Verdugo. Freese was added at the end of the year and played very well. Muncy did not come up until April.

      Unlike some opinions I believe this team will win 97 to 100 games and win the NL West again. The Rockies are good but will not make the wild card as the NL Central is packed with the Cards, Brewers and Cubs. I see that most betting and MLB sites are saying the same.

      If you take the Dodgers winning percentage from their last 2/3 of the season and project that to a full year you get around 98 games plus they added Seager. I look at the Puig, Grandal and Kemp losses as actual gains as I believe Pollock, Verdugo, Martin, Kelly, Seager and healthy Jansen, Ryu, Urias, Garcia will be better.

      As you mentioned they have new hitting coaches and so far Barnes and Bellinger look good although it is Spring Training WSS…

      I am hoping Kike plays mostly 2nd base. A Line up of Pollock, Seager, Turner, Muncy, Bellinger, Kike, Verdugo and Barnes is a very strong one.

        • Dieselfarts always agreeing with his fellow shill LOL. “This team has no weaknesses” straight from the managers shill mouth and written by ownership. I’ll remember your comment come October when best case scenario they lose another World Series to a better built AL team, one that actually has no weaknesses lol

          • So schoolyard name calling and negative comments are all you got!! LOL Still in Romper Room ??

      • Agreed…Taylor has swung and missed his starting possibility and seems only able to hit the bench. Hope he comes around sooner than it appears..

      • Kike playing full time? Are you kidding? That really solves the all or nothing approach….NOT. Muncy? Another all or nothing hack that for whatever reason in the second half decided to stop taking walks and chase everything. So far this spring he’s continued that

      • No it’s called reality and facts with a little school yard name calling for those fans who have school yard naïveté

        • You rarely offer facts just negativity and childish name calling. Reality for each of us is based on how we see the world. You see negative and many of us see positive.

          It is the old question is the Glass half empty or half full? Sounds simple but that decision each of us makes decides how we see the world every minute and how happy and successful we are.

  2. A huge factor for their 16 and 26 record to begin 2018 was the team being out homered by their opponents. Zaidi had pointed that out at that time because the Dodgers were having a very hard time winning close games because either the SP put the team in a hole with allowing a 2 or 3 run bomb or the relievers came in and put the game out of reach for Dodgers by allowing game winning HR’s. Improve that scenario and the team should be better off. If one notices that when Dodgers started to ‘catch up’ in that HR department and eventually pass the opposition, lo and behold that eventually helped Dodgers get back into 1st place, despite an apparent struggle with RISP all year long.

  3. Don’t look now but Muncy is batting .172 so far this ST, and I realize these games don’t count. But also in 29 AB’s he has stuck out 10 times. In fact I am seeing a similar problem with this team so far, as they struck out 15 more times in yesterday’s game

  4. I think all of us would agree that getting off to a fast start is every team’s goal, especially when the first half schedule is difficult. Judging from the spring training box score I have perused after each game, I have not been impressed with the numbers : Muncy, Pollock and Pederson are not exactly killing the ball. This worries me, especially when players cannot get consistent at-bats due to platooning. The article mentions our new hitting coach : lets hope he is emphasizing situational hitting, and less on home run barrages. Go Blue!!!

    • Yes situational hitting is the key solo home runs are not that effective especially if you are against the ace of staff. You need to get guys on move them over and make him pitch under duress and throw a lot of pitches.

      The schedule is tough to start and there are a lot of away games against strong teams if they can get through that at .500 it would be an accomplishment.

      • Always great reading your responses, tmaxster. I am still flummoxed by Clint’s article yesterday dealing with a pitching “platoon” of Buehler and Kersh. I wonder why Alston never pitched Mr. Koufax/Mr. Drysdale back-to-back in the same game? Go Blue!!!!

  5. Get serious you guys. This team has 3 regulars and 5 platoon players ( platoon means not good enough to be a regular) . Dodgers and most writers would like us to believe that it means depth. The real good teams don’t really platoon.

  6. I disagree with your count. Seager, Turner, Pollock, Kike Hernandez, Muncy, Bellinger should be considered full time players. Pederson is definitely a platoon guy. Taylor needs to improve his strikeouts but if you look at his numbers he is a regular on most teams.

    Barnes which one do we have the 2018 or 2017 version? If it’s somewhere around 2017 numbers he is a full time guy. The Dodgers must have looked at his history, video and coach’s feedback and decided his swing was fixable. So far this spring in a small sample he is much improved.

    Bellinger has been working on his splits all winter and Taylor and Hernandez on strikeouts;

    Verdugo is a Rookie so we will have to se if they give him a chance.

    So WSS…

    It is the team we have…

    • Hello tmaxter. WSS as far as whether FO and Roberts in fact are able to do less platooning. Last year is done but their need to platoon due to various circumstances still became exposed while playing in the WS against a better Red Sox team. We should on the surface not have to platoon as much, as long as more players show they can hang in against both RH and LH. Muncy? Well he’s questionable with his current injury but to be honest I believe that if Bellinger is needed in RF ( he has all the tools to be there) I certainly would let Freese play a lot of 1st should Muncy not be able to go. If I recall and while I didn’t check it Freese does not have noticeable reverse splits.

      • Paul I think we agree on most things yes Freese hits around 320 from one side and about 270 from the other with very solid OBP.

        I appreciate you pointing out the HR differences which I did not realize and have not heard any talk of. The Dodgers as you showed lost the HR battle at home last year and were under .500 at home.

        I think part of that was Jansen and the BP allowing a bunch of HR’s early in the season. Plus the Dodgers train their pitchers to go after the High strike which works well unless you miss and throw the ball down the middle of the plate…

        And absolutely WSS. If Muncy goes on the Dl to start I wonder if they would bring up a young guy like Rios or would they opt for a utility guy like Beaty or Miller?

    • Actually muncy and bellinger both declined at the end of last season and were platooned like the rest of them.
      Kiki has always been platooned. This is a big year for bellinger and muncy. If they continue to decline we are in trouble. Quite a few ifs in this lineup.

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