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Should the Dodgers Ride-Or-Die With the Veterans in NLDS Game 5?

David Freese and Russell Martin could be key factors.

With the Dodgers losing game 4 of the National League Division Series to the Nationals they face a do-or-die game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. Fortunately, we already know who the starting pitcher will be, Walker Buehler. At a minimum, he gives the Dodgers a nice chance to win the game. Of course, the Nationals will counter with Stephen Strasburg, who dominated the Dodgers in game 2. For baseball fans it is a great matchup.

Given that this is an elimination game the Dodgers need to put the best lineup on the field to start the game. There truly is “no tomorrow” and this game will help determine the legacy of the 2019 Dodgers. If we are being honest, losing the NLDS would be a major failure for the team that won a franchise record 106 games. There is no doubt in my mind that the Dodgers (players and management) will have a sense of urgency and I expect the lineup to project that urgency.

The Dodgers Against Strasburg

Batter AB AVG OBP SLG
Beaty 3 .667 .667 1.000
Bellinger 17 .118 .250 .176
Freese 11 .091 .286 .091
Hernandez 9 .222 .300 .889
Martin 6 .500 .500 .500
Muncy 12 .000 .200 .000
Pederson 14 .143 .250 .429
Pollock 17 .412 .412 .824
Seager 14 .071 .133 .286
Smith 4 .250 .250 .250
Taylor 16 .063 .063 .063
Turner 16 .250 .333 .625
Lux 2 .000 .000 .000

The statistics of the Dodgers against Strasburg are not very promising. These are all small sample sizes and some of the statistics are surprising. One of the questions the Dodgers management team needs to ask themselves is do they go with historical numbers, pure platoons or who’s hot or who’s not? My hope is they look at who’s hot and who’s not.

A Quick Look At Each Player

As the Dodgers build the lineup they will look at quite a few factors. There are some players that are going to be in the lineup for sure: Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Considering that Strasburg is a right hander we know Joc Pederson will also be in the starting lineup. We’ll look at the rest.

Matt Beaty – He puts together good at bats but I wonder what he was doing swinging at a 3-0 pitch against Max Scherzer. Beaty did have a hit against Strasburg in game 2 so that must be a factor.

Dodgers
DENVER, CO – APRIL 5: Russell Martin #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws to first base against the Colorado Rockies after fielding a sixth inning bunt during the Colorado Rockies home opener at Coors Field on April 5, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

David Freese – In a must win game, there really should not be any doubt that Freese should be in the starting lineup. He doesn’t have much success against Strasburg but he should play the whole game.

Kiké Hernandez – Kiké has a couple of home runs against Strasburg so that is a consideration. He has been in a slump but his double against Patrick Corbin in game 3 was great to see.

Russell Martin – Martin was the star of game 3 so he has to be a strong consideration for the starting lineup.

A.J. Pollock – He has some of the best numbers against Strasburg but is cold as can be. He has struck out 10 times in this NLDS and I don’t see him as a candidate to start game 5.

Will Smith – Smith has done an excellent job behind that plate, with no passed balls. With him behind the plate there has been only one wild pitch. He does have only one hit but he has been getting a few bases on balls.

Chris Taylor – CT3 has had little success against Strasburg and only has one hit in the series.

Gavin Lux – At times Lux has looked overmatched against Scherzer and Strasburg. He will get better but is now the time to hope for that?

Let’s Make A Lineup

As we look at the lineup possibilities I want to keep in mind what the Dodgers have done most of the year, so the first five will be:

  1. Pederson – RF
  2. Muncy – 1B or 2B
  3. Turner – 3B
  4. Bellinger – CF
  5. Seager – SS

This leaves the three spots for the rest of the players. Here’s what I’m thinking:

Catcher

I think Will Smith has been quite good for the Dodgers and he hasn’t done anything to warrant not playing. However, I believe Russell Martin, possibly playing in his last season and games, earned the game 5 starting spot. His game 3 heroics showed he might have a hot hand and has good numbers against Strasburg (very small sample size).

David Freese

There is no doubt in my mind that Freese needs to be in the lineup. He would start at first base with Max Muncy sliding over to second base. It would weaken the defense but it does get the better bat in the lineup. This isn’t just about “veteran presence”, it is about a guy that still has proven he can hit.

One Outfield Spot

The last outfield position does come down to Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty and Kiké Hernandez. Kiké’s two home runs against Strasburg make him a very tempting option. Beaty’s approaches at the plate, in general have been pretty good. Taylor can be good at times but he provides neither a hot bat nor any good history against Strasburg. You may have noticed I didn’t include Pollock. He has been playing horribly and this is not the time to try and get him rolling again.

The Verdict

  1. Pederson – RF
  2. Muncy – 2B
  3. Turner – 3B
  4. Bellinger – CF
  5. Seager – SS
  6. Freese – 1B
  7. Beaty – LF
  8. Martin – C
  9. Buehler – P

I took Beaty over Kiké because of the need for a left handed bat near the bottom of the order. In general this lineup is more veteran heavy than normally would have been in. There is no doubt that if this were a regular season game that both Lux and Smith would be in the lineup.

Final Thoughts

This is most likely the last season for both David Freese and Russell Martin. There are no players  I trust more than these two guys to help lead the Dodgers to win game 5. If the Dodgers advance I’d like to see David Freese start in every game. At catcher Martin should start at least 3-4 games per series. For the last outfield spot, the platoon advantage should take precedence.

None of this is a criticism of the rookies. They have gained some excellent experience so far and will be easy calls to be fixtures in the lineup next season.

This upcoming series deciding game will go a long way in defining the legacy of this team. So many of these players have yet to make a long-lasting mark in their post-season history. Many of them have been underwhelming in the playoffs. Now is the time to begin changing that legacy.

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

13 Comments

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  1. I agree with your lineup, we must have quality at bats . Defense needs to be tight. Hoping Walker can pitch the same game as game one. Gitterdone Boys !!

  2. I like your line up expect kaki must be @ 2nd,belli @ 1st . rf muncy , or set him down, 1st inning bases loaded , guess what . I CAN NOT UNDERSTAND D.R. CHOICE OF PITCHER SELECTION. MUST GET MIKE S .AS DODGER Manger ,OR SOMEONE . POLELICKER HAS TO BE OUT, SEND HIM DOWN THE ROAD, HAVE FRIEDMAN EAT THAT CRAZY CONTRACT.SINCE WIN DO YOU NEED SOME MANY OVER THE HILL GUYS,AND @ SUCH HIGH DOLLAR CONTRACTS. RICH HILL IS DONE, ANYONE CAN SEE IT,AS IS FERGERSON.DODGERS NEED YOUNGER BULLPEN & 3 STARTERS. PLAYERS CAN NOT GOOD PITCHERS. WE SHALL SEE TONIGHT.>>>

    • Wow.
      Play munch at a position hes never played before in a deciding game, when you’ve got a guy out there who will probably win the gold glove this year?

      “Or set him down” – you mean ther guy who had had the most consistent bat for the first 4 games of the series?

      Rich Hill gave us everything wr needed and asked if him yesterday. Did you watch the game?

      Ferguson isn’t even on the roster.

      Pollock is having a terrible series, and theres really no defending hom away this point. But most of your comment is quite the hot take!

  3. I like your line up as well. I wish Freeze and Martin would play more but bc of the “selective” analytics by Roberts/Friedman, these 2 will not play much. The cardinals’ VETERANS came out got the win for them yesterday on their elimination game. In these 5 game series, hot bats and experience must take priority over platoon. Freeze did not win the MVP NLCS AND WS by taking left handed pitchers only. I hate that we are losing bc the talented guys sit on the bench when Pollock/Smith/Lux start. As for Pollock, he needs to sit in the bench until the next series. No pinch hitting with RISP. He will only give NATS another guaranteed strike out.

  4. Is Roberts and Freidman gone if they lose ? They should be shown the door if they lose ! The process would not have worked for 3 years , you cant fire the computer , only destroy it . How about firing the hitting coaches ? Way to many strikeouts!!!!!!

  5. [IMC (civilian’s)HO] without looking, I have a feeling the strikeout situation was better this year than last so the new coaches get a repeat in my book. I believe if you look into other teams, you’ll see the same strikeout issue; that’s the way the game is now: pitching and hitting = strikeouts and HRs. Roberts and Freidman? Hmmm…good and bad. I think a lot of it comes down to the players though: Are the Clutch or Choke.

  6. Might as well because Lux and Smith look as bad as pollock. Throw your dumb matchups out the window it’s game 5 and Freese and Martin need to be in there against whoever. They will take better at bats

  7. Hmmm! This kinda thinking and strategy need to be implemented along time ago! Roberts wasted nearly 1/2 season on the Joc disaster experiments at 1B when they could have brought up and got Lux seasoned!
    Even though I love Beaty I have to go with CT3. CT3 can be a catalyst in all phases of the game as we saw in last years NLCS! Also I probably would replace Joc with Beaty! Dodgers get stuck with left handed lineup which is alot of feast or famine so I go with Beaty to get the ball in play!

    • I agree with you, Anthony. I also want to see Peterson replaced by Beaty (or Freese, for that matter.) Because this is an elimination game, I want our seasoned veteran, Martin, catching Buehler. This is nothing against Smith who, like all of our Rookies, is very good. I do not know that this is the wisest of line-up decisions for game 5, unless Buehler is more comfortable with Smith catching. But there will be absolutely no room for error, specifically in regards to management. Strasburg is gonna come ready so we can probably expect this game to be a tight one. I just do not want us to look like the Astros did last night after underestimating the Rays’ preparedness and fervor. I believe that our Dodgers will persevere tonight against the Nationals and advance. Go Dodgers!!!

  8. After the all-star break Pollock was starting to hit better and playing center field. Then management had to show how smart they are by moving Pollock to left field and putting 2month Cody in center. It is time to put Pederson back in left, Pollock in center, and 2month Cody in right. Hernandez is a clutch player and start at 2B.

  9. All of you guys make excellent points. I like what Sara has to say as watching the Cards or the Yanks or even the Nats, it’s nice to see the same line up each game. Pollock hasn’t done nothing so he needs to sit. Bellinger needs to be moved down in the line up or bat him lead off due to his speed and beating out ground balls. Turner to the 4. Freese needs to bat 3rd to protect Turner. Muncy bat 2. Seager 5, Martin 6.Taylor 7.Beaty 8.
    1. Bellinger
    2. Muncy
    3. Freese
    4. Turner
    5. Seager
    6.Martin
    7. Taylor
    8. Beaty

    This line up could beat Starsburg

  10. And another question for Roberts. Wasn’t resting Freese the enite month of August and some of September so he would be ready to go in the playoff’s? And then you sit him down once again because of anal—– lytics…. Stupid is as stupid does I suppose…

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