On Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, the Dodgers hit their third straight walk off home run. They swept the Colorado Rockies on 3 straight walk offs. While this Rockies team was 10 games back in second place, they actually came into this series tied with the Atlanta Braves for the second best record in the National League over the past 30 games behind only, the Dodgers.
Needless to say, they’ve been playing very well and have put up a good fight against the Dodgers, but to no avail. The past 3 ball games, the back and forth scoring between the two teams each culminated in walk-off heroics provided by rookies, Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo, and Will Smith.
On the surface one might view that success as luck, on the contrary, its Dodgers culture.
When you look at the Dodgers it’s easy to form an opinion as to why they are as successful as they are. You can point to anything really. Well, anything except the bullpen, I suppose. That’s the biggest tell as to why this team is so good. The Dodgers are just an elite organization from top to bottom. The progressive front office that uses deep pockets, a robust farm system, and analytics to make chess move trades and solid draft picks.
As a result, that farm system is chock full of diamonds in the rough, top prospects, and a log jam of Major League ready players. In short, they have great depth.
Major League Ready Depth
Depth is great, having a surplus of good players waiting in the wings is a good thing, but having great depth is even better. In the past few years, we’ve seen undervalued players like Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, and the recently estranged Andrew Toles, become star caliber players. We’ve seen home grown prospects like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, and Cody Bellinger become all-stars, ROY and even MVP candidates.
This year, we’re seeing rookies Alex Verdugo and Matt Beaty, two players that have been leashed in minors, excel on the big stage and may even themselves be ROY candidates. Additionally, Kyle Garlick and Will Smith have given the Dodgers fan base another glimpse into the future with their impressive stints at the big league level.
Although, this depth plays an integral role in the ability to win games, especially when players get hurt and the Dodgers are forced to recall from their farm system, it’s their game philosophy that makes them successful on this stage.
It All Starts at the Beginning
Beginning even with the non roster invites at spring training, Dodger Manager Dave Roberts begins preaching his “team first” style and overall “back up your teammate” mindset. Not “back up your teammate” the way your little league coach taught you, to avoid extra bases on the inevitable overthrow, but in the figurative sense – to be ready to pickup slack where you can.
Roberts shows every player that it doesn’t matter who is starting or who is coming off the bench — or who is a veteran or who just got recalled that day — that every player will likely have the opportunity to impact the game. That every player in that dugout has to be ready for their moment, yes this is a team game, but it’s a team game won on a collection of personal moments.
All this percolates into an ever-changing 25-man roster that are all ready to play the same way, with a sense of purpose.
Most can agree that Dave Roberts micromanages the bullpen and even that many of their struggles might originate from that micromanagement. Nobody’s perfect. Roberts overall leadership and ability to get the rest of the team to buy-in to the “team first” and “back up your teammate” philosophy is why they have been so successful. It’s why starters step up and keep the game close when the offense hits a collective slump, why the offense picks up when it suddenly becomes a bullpen game, and it’s why rookies or minor league call-ups can look like seasoned veterans in big moments.
Everyone plays with a sense of purpose, a sense of ownership. They are all confident when it’s their moment.