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The Dodgers Had a Clutch Problem in October

Three Dodgers were in the top six players who hurt their team’s World Series chance

Dodgers
Oct 23, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) walks to the dugout after being relieved against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning in game one of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park.

It’s no secret the Dodgers’ season ended too early after losing game five of the National League Division Series to the Washington Nationals. A 106 win season, all nearly pointless in the blink of an eye.

To help understand how that happened, we can look at championship win probability added (cWPA) to see who helped and hurt their team’s chances of winning the World Series. WPA is arguably the best indicator of clutch right now because it considers the moment with the outcome.

When looking at who had the least cWPA, three Dodgers made the top six, and they were all players the Dodgers needed to produce.

Joe Kelly came in as the least valuable player, decreasing the Dodgers’ chances by 11.5%. If you deleted it out of your memory, Kelly allowed the grand slam in game five, giving the Nationals a 7-3 lead.

It’s a long way off from his 9% cWPA added in 2018, making him the 14th most valuable player. The Dodgers likely hoped he would continue that into this season.

Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seaver come in as the fifth and sixth least clutch players this postseason, decreasing the Dodgers chances by a combined 14.9%.

For Kershaw, he pitched 6 1/3 innings in the NLDS, posting a 7.11 ERA and allowing back to back home runs to tie the game in the eighth inning of game 5. It further pushed the story that Kershaw can’t produce in October.

Seager hit .222/.290/.370 in the postseason after getting 6 hits in 31 plate appearances and striking out with runners on multiple times.

Combined, those three players decreased the Dodgers’ chances by 26.4%. A team isn’t going to do well when three of their players are that bad.

A.J. Pollock was also among the least clutch players, hurting the Dodgers’ chances by 4.1%. For the Dodgers regular season MVP Cody Bellinger, he ended up posting a -0.021 cWPA (-2.1%).

Even though it didn’t end up mattering, the Dodgers did have some players who showed up.

Walker Buehler was the eighth most valuable player, posting a 0.79 cWPA (7.9%). Enrique Hernandez (4.9%), Kenta Maeda (4.9%) and Max Muncy (4.8%) also showed up in the top 25, ranking 17-19th respectively.

Justin Turner (4.2%) and Russell Martin (3.2%) also made significant contributions to helping the Dodgers’ chances. Everyone else made a less than 1% contribution or a negative contribution.

Here is the complete cWPA list for the Dodgers, courtesy of The Baseball Gauge.

CWPA Dodgers

It seems to be a recurring problem every season for the Dodgers as their best players fail to show up in the playoffs. Maybe one year the Dodgers will have their best players show up when needed.

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

9 Comments

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  1. When all analysis is done as to why the Dodgers are watching the WS instead of playing in it and winning it, the issue that stands out to me is plain. They play into the analytics that teams have on them instead of playing against them to beat it.

    It’s like willingly betting into a poker hand you know you can’t beat and your opponent can’t be bluffed out of.

    Analytics are great if you know how to use them against your opponent as much as you use them to aid your player. But you need to use them also to aid the TEAM and the Dodgers don’t do that well at all.

  2. The Dodgers need to learn how to NOT play into the analytics used against them.

    The Dodgers need to learn and teach their players how to take advantage of an analytic being used against them.

    The Dodgers are like a poker player who plays into the hand they can’t beat and the opponent cannot be bluffed into folding.

    The familiarity other teams have on the Dodgers is knowing the Dodgers won’t sway against that familiarity/analytics.

    • Exactly, Robert. And that Aerosmith song will be repeated over and over and over again in 2020 and beyond as long as Roberts is the manager and we have the same 1 dimensional players and a lack of balance within the roster.

  3. Dodgers need to eliminate players with first names that starts with a “C”

    Because “Clutch” is a word that also starts with a “C”, therefore “Clutch” OWNS players that have first names with a “C”.

    Let’s go through the list: Clayton, Cody, Corey, Chris. These are all players that have choked in the post seasons, especially in “Clutch” situations. Clayton lost in every elimination game. Cody, Corey, Chris couldn’t drive in runs with RISP.

    Remove these four players from the roster, Dodgers win the World Series next year. How’s that for ANALYTICS, Andrew Friedman.

  4. Sadly, most…not all… of our Dodgers did not show up for the post-season. We can point out Roberts’ managerial deficiencies including, but not limited to, his late inning Game 5 pitching choices. But the bottom line is that players we were relying on had cold bats and missed opportunities. Buehler pitched a great game. And we were effectively competing with the Nationals until that 8th inning “hot mess” (that should have warranted a pitching change to our “Soto specialist” after the Rendon home run.) Unfortunately, our post-season fate was sealed after the Soto home run. None of our bats heated up and we allowed Kelly to come in for a second inning to give up a grand slam. But it is what it is….I love the Dodgers and hope (perhaps futilely) that moving forward we stop relying so heavily on analytics and can learn to make better decisions about who to play when it counts the most. Although I do agree that the Astros are a superior team, the Nationals are showing when it counts that they really want this. Moreover, the Nationals are clicking at the right time and coming through in clutch situations. Something we seemed to lack in our brief post-season.

  5. Im so sick of analytics….One does not need analytics to see what, who and why the Dodgers lost. Good grief, use common sense.

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