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Dodgers: Top 5 Signs To Indicate What Type of Team We Have for 2019

In the spirit of the great movie “High Fidelity” I am continuing to compile top 5 lists, this one about the beginning of the season and signs to look for as indicators about the type of team we have.

The 2017 Dodgers was one of the best teams I’ve ever seen despite their awful September and World Series failure. The bullpen was strong at the back end, the offense had many players be consistent and the defense was stellar. The 2018 team was underachieving (and kind of ugly to watch in some areas) yet still won the Natioal League pennant. We’ll take a look at 5 key signs to look for at the beginning of the season to see if the 2019 team is similar to the 2017 team or the 2018 team.

Jansen Keeping The Ball In The Park

Last year Kenley Jansen had a nightmare season both on and off the field. We know about his heart issues and are very thankful he is health. After a vacation instead of a Spring Training in 2018 he started the season giving up a game-winning home run to Joe Panik and a game-tying home run to Chris Owings in his second game. His velocity seemed down all year and then he had his heart issue in August. Even when he came back he was on medication and never seemed to be himself.

Now he’s come back after his heart procedure and has lost 25 pounds. He’s had a more normal Spring Training in 2019 and his velocity seems  closer to 2017. Kenley game up 13 home runs in 2018 while only giving up 5 in 2017. There are many indicators of how Kenley is doing but if we see a continuation of the 2018 home run trend then that will indicate that Kenley still isn’t back to 2017 form.

Starting Rotation Health

Hyun-Jin Ryu at Spring Training on March 3, 2019 (Photo Credit: Tim Rogers)

Just as I conceived of this article we found out that Rich Hill would be joining Clayton Kershaw on the Injured List to begin the 2019 season. We also know that Walker Buehler got a late start on Spring Training due to some back discomfort, so the Dodgers have been cautious with him. As of this writing he’s only had one Spring Training start and will get one more before the regular season starts. This is not an optimal start to the season, that is for sure.

The danger of the Verducci Effect (where the season after a big jump in innings) could impact Buehler and maybe Ross Stripling. They both pushed their limits last year as Stripling lost all of his effectiveness by the end of the season. Let’s hope that Buehler can overcome the previous innings and can have an impactful 2019. If the Dodgers can keep his innings reasonable I feel he will be ready in October to dominate again. The Dodgers have the depth to withstand injuries but long stays on the disabled list by too many starters is a bad sign. The Dodgers we able to overcome injuries to most of the rotation in 2018 but how might they handle 2019? I’d prefer not to find out.

NOTE: no other team can withstand as much as the Dodgers but there are a lot of fragile arms.

Consistency In The Offense

One of the reasons for trading players like Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig and signing A.J. Pollock was to find some consistency in the offense.

“I believe we’ve gotten exposed offensively in the World Series,’’ said Roberts, not needing to note that last fall the Dodgers batted .180 with a .550 OPS against the Red Sox. “Now, bringing in guys who hit lefties and righties, less platoons, more consistency.’’ – Dave Roberts in the LA Times

It seems that the Dodgers want players like Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy to play against all pitching. Even adding Alex Verdugo to the bench brings a player who can hit all types of pitchers. Hot and cold Yasmani Grandal was allowed to leave as a free agent without much effort to re-sign him.

I think the team last year was the most talented team I’ve ever been around. But for a host of reasons and some bad luck, some real, we weren’t as consistent. I think a bit thing for us is to avoid the games where we score zero, one, or two runs. As often as we can score three or more and we will win a lot of games doing that. Especially with our pitching staff. – Andrew Friedman

If the Dodgers have a lot of games where they score 0, 1 or 2 runs then have a few with big burst then that is a sign of the 2018 team that was awful in the clutch. With a new set of hitting coaches let’s hope the team can be more consistent at the plate.


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Early Emergence Of Platoons

Who knows how many more times Bellinger slaps hands while rounding third as a Dodger?

Going into the 2019 season we know that Joc Pederson will be regularly platooned. I also expect Max Muncy to sit a bit to allow David Freese to get some at bats against left handed pitchers. Austin Barnes will catch 3 of every 5 games but, since Russell Martin is also a right-handed hitter, that is not a platoon. Players such as Justin Turner, Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock will see all pitching and it looks like Cody Bellinger and Kiké Hernandez will get a chance to hit against all pitching. Muncy should also play against most pitching except as noted above.

If the Dodgers see a need to go acquire another hitter to fix a deficit against certain handedness of pitching ,then we’ll know that one or more of the players expected to play every day is having platoon splits. Last year the team went out and acquired Brian Dozier and Freese because the team was terrible against left-handers. I’ll be very concerned if there are platoons at more than two spots in the batting order. That would mean too many players are not able to get past bad platoon splits.

Overall Defense

According to FanGraphs the Dodgers ranked 4th in overall defense in 2017 and dropped to 23rd in 2018. I covered the possible defensive upgrades in the outfield and it looks like an outfield of Pederson or Chris Taylor in left, A.J. Pollock in center and Cody Bellinger in right should be a stronger defensive outfield than 2018. Not having Matt Kemp in the outfield will improve the outfield defense alone.

For the infield having some consistent players out there will help. There is no way to replace Cody Bellinger’s amazing defense at first base but the hope is that Max Muncy continues to improve at first. He doesn’t need to worry about third or second (for now) so that will help. Justin Turner had some troubles at third last year, including 5 errors in 5 games near the end of the season, but he has had a full Spring Training and is healthy. Second will be fine with Hernandez and Taylor but I think Corey Seager will need a little time to become “Seager Smooth” again.

Even with the question marks noted above if they are in the top 10 according to FanGraphs then that helps the pitching. Good defense saves throwing unnecessary pitches and gives the pitchers confidence that plays will be made behind them.

Final Thoughts

I’ve listed some signs to look for in the beginning of the season to see what type of team the Dodgers will have. I’ve used the word “hope” a lot but I am very optimistic about the 2019 Dodgers. Every team is different so this team will evolve into their own identity as the season progresses. I’m hopeful that the 2019 team looks a lot more like the 2017 team than the 2018 team. I do believe it is a very good team will be ready to contend for the World Series title in 2019.

What are your top 5 signs to look for in your opinion? Please use the comment section below to express your thoughts.

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

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  1. My biggest concern is will the Dodger hitters decide to make solid baseball Team at bats with runners on base? Do they make contact and move the man over or in to score or do they stay selfish and swing for the fences? That will decide a lot about the year I believe

    The Bullpen is Jansen the 2017 version? Is Kelly able to be consistent? Is Yimi Garcia back and consistent? How about Floro and Baez? There are some great arms in the pen they have to be sharp the entire season.

    Rotation health…does Kershaw when he is back find a way to differentiate his fastball and slider and get more movement on his slider consistently? Do Ryu and Hill stay healthy? Hill is already on the Injured list but the Dodgers have Urias and Stripling and I was very impressed with Gonsolin and May.

    I am a big Verdugo fan I am hoping they give him a chance. Pederson is another of those HR, Walk or Strikeout guys. And his defense has become below average according to stats.

    • tmaxster, I think you nailed a lot of the key point, in particular the advancing the runners and pitching staff health. If this team is a station-to-station club, combining that with a maybe healthy, maybe not rotation is a recipe for a bad start and per last years series – a bad finish

  2. HEALTH. Gotta get healthy and have a Strong start to the season. The saying…You do not win a Pennant in April…But you can Lose a Pennant in April rings true.

  3. So far Bellinger, Taylor, Muncie, and Pederson are striking out too much. But other than that the Dodgers seem to be doing a better job of making productive outs.

  4. So, the numbers 1-3 pitchers either start the season on the IL or had spring training delayed. And the number 4 starter who gets ( as of now) the opening day gig has been the most prone to injury. Let’s hope that back up depth is as good as we are led to believe as a result of early performance. Stripling started out last year in a great manner then faded to less than mediocrity. Urias is reportedly on a 75-100 inning count this year so he will burn innings early if he is pressed into too many starts
    Earlier this spring I voiced interest in the Dodgers pursuing Corey Kluber due to the injury prone nature of the starting staff. It appears my concerns have now become a stark reality and the season start is still five days away. Would it be nice to have Kluber now in that array?. If Ryu goes down early we may be in big trouble

  5. Is there some basic problem with the conditioning program for the Dodgers? It seems we continually are dealing with pitching injuries Also How long before we start to see positive results from the so-called hitting coach “guru”?.

    • Wouldn’t surprise me if the trainer was a hack. The Lakers use the Kardashian’s trainer and they’ve had a ton of injuries. As far as the hitting coach goes, I think he’s going to learn real fast that this team doesn’t value his teachings. The hitters all want to make that sabremetric money they aren’t team players they have their own personal career goals in mind. Friedman brought him in to fool the fans into thinking the change they want is actually going to happen but in reality they still value launch angle over just solid team hitting

  6. What kind of team will we see in 2019? Tmaxter addressed some things which can determine many things this year. But I do fear, because we have basically those same marginally made players who only compete against one hand of a pitcher, that platooning will be the norm as it was last year despite what Freidman and Roberts have told everyone. We will also fall short if the striking out with RISP does not show any improvement, AND Dodgers will fall short should this pitching staff continue with their generous allowing of HR’s, especially when it counts the most.

  7. “I believe we’ve gotten exposed offensively in the World Series,’’ said Roberts, not needing to note that last fall the Dodgers batted .180 with a .550 OPS against the Red Sox. “Now, bringing in guys who hit lefties and righties, less platoons, more consistency.’’ – Dave Roberts in the LA Times
    Not sure Roberts here is telling the whole truth but wss.

  8. “I’ll be very concerned if there are platoons at more than two spots in the batting order. That would mean too many players are not able to get past bad platoon splits”
    Tim, you certainly will NOT be the only one concerned should this take place.

  9. 1. Heath of rotation that has some fragile arms at times.
    2. Too many LH betters on roster, and most can’t handle LHP.
    3. Results of #2 above will lead to more platooning because of many ‘marginal’ players, which BTW comes as a result of platooning
    4. Inconsistent lineups sitting the hot hands because of the side the pitcher throws, players all over the order not knowing if or where they will play on a daily basis.
    5. A pitching staff, both starters and relievers who give up a lot of HR’s for a team that plays half its games in ‘pitcher friendly DS. (363 HR’s allowed between 2017 and 2018 and 23 HR’s allowed in the 12 games combined in these past 2 WS)

  10. #1 How long will it take Seager to regain his All-Star persona? Cory’s a stud, but if he’s not stud-like, it’ll pull the rest of the offense down.

    #2 How will Belly handle all types of Pitching? I love his approach to the shift and slappin the ball to left, but if he doesn’t fill that God/awful hole in his swing, major league pitchers will ruin his future.

    #3 Is Kiki an everyday player? I’d love to think so, but there have been so many players who are successful in short spurts. Every ballplayer has to establish an identity, an expectation. Is Kiki’s as an everyday player, or the cute little kid who comes off the bench or the versatile player who plays everywhere? For his sake, I hope its everyday player. Otherwise, the trade deadline can’t come fast enough.

    #4 Is Kenley back to being Kenley? Wow, watching closers come and go is amazing when compared to Mariano Rivera. Is Mariano the exception to the rule or can Kenley be another Hoffman or Ekersley? I’ll take any of them, just not Gagne.

    #5 Will the Dodgers be able to play “small-ball” when necessary? For just a moment, close your eyes and imagine a Dodger team who, when stuck in a 0-1 game could manufacture a run. A walk, a bunt, a hit behind the runner, a sacrifice fly. What’s it worth, 5 wins, 10 wins, 15 wins a season. We can only imagine.

    GO BLUE!

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