I wanted to look at some 2018 surprises that I saw this past baseball season. Now is a good time to look at what has happened over the 2018 season before being absorbed with the 2018 World Series. Here are my surprises from 2018 before the World Series.
When the Dodgers traded for Matt Kemp I almost went into shock. It was understood as a salary shuffle and that Kemp would be moved to another team. The trade never happened as Kemp made the opening day roster and was a major contributor for the first half of the season. He was voted into the All-Star game but mostly faded after that. His late inning heroics against the Diamondbacks on September 1 and 2 started the first place Arizona onto a path of self-destruction. Matt Kemp was a huge part of 2018 and who would have expected that.
We all knew that when Justin Turner went down with an injury that the Dodgers would miss him. What is surprising is how much he actually means to the Dodgers. When Turner came back on May 15, the Dodgers were 16-24 and had just been swept by the Reds at home. When JT came back they started to play better and reached the .500 mark on June 9th. The leadership on the field is important. Even more important, he sets the tone with quality at bats. Thank you Mets!
The Hershiser Sweater
My little claim to fame in 2018 was on April 16 in San Diego when I gave Joe Davis a duplicate of Orel Hershiser’s 1988 parade sweater. I captured the experience in a different article.
The day after the sweater game, Max Muncy was called up by the Dodgers. I doubt anyone thought he’d be up for too long. In April is slash line was .281/.448/.730/.207 then in May it was .381/.551/.932/.261 and now they were trying to make room for him to get more at bats. He caught fire in June and slashed .465/.711/1.176/.289 and now was a regular. In July he was selected to the Home Run Contest at the All-Star game and was part of the final 5 to get elected onto the All-Star team but he lost. For the season Muncy hit 35 home runs with a slash line of .391/.582/.973/.263.
In mid-July I got a direct message on Twitter from @dodgersnation asking to talk. I though it might be to help elect Max Muncy to the All-Star Game. Instead I was offered a position to write for Dodgers Nation. Talk about a surprise! It has been a blast and I am honored to write for Dodgers Nation.
Although rated as the Dodgers top prospect the team tried to manager Walker Buehler’s innings. It was rumored they didn’t want him to throw more than 130-140 innings in 2018. Buehler, once he was called up, was good right away. He did take a line drive to the ribs May and he still made 3 more starts. It turned out there was a micro-fracture in his rib cage. By the end of the season he was a trusted member of the rotation and started game 163 and game 7 of the NLCS. The surprise was that he became a top of the rotation pitcher so fast.
Caleb Ferguson was in single A for all of the 2017 season, living in a closet. He began 2018 in AA and was quickly promoted to AAA. He had 2 starts in AAA when he was called up by the Dodgers, at the age of 21. His first 3 starts with the Dodgers were a bit mixed. However, his first relief appearance for the Dodgers was in New York against the Mets. He threw 4 innings, giving up 3 hits with a walk and struck out 6. He never went back to the rotation and ended up being a trusted member of the bullpen. There was no way anyone expected Ferguson to be on the Major League roster in 2018.
Minor League Baseball
I went to my first minor league baseball game to see a Rich Hill rehabilitation start in June. Then I saw other ones such as Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urías and Dennis Santana and became hooked. I was able to get press credentials for some of the games and could not have had a better baseball experience. Thank you to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes for some great experiences.
In September of 2017 Pedro Baez was booed by the Dodgers faithful. He did not make all the post-season rosters and had become a guy that most had given up on. 2018 did not start out that well and he even got optioned to AAA. He missed most of June and July due to injury. His August was excellent except for one disaster in Colorado. Other than that blemish he’s only given up one earned run since August. He seems to have better command of his slider and change up that is leading to his surprising success.
There have been plenty of other surprises in 2018 but these are my favorites. The 2018 season is one to remember. What are some of your surprises? Now, on to the 2018 World Series!
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