With the past two years of trade deadlines ending in the likes of Yu Darvish and Manny Machado, fans were expecting some other big name to don the Dodger Blue today. Well, that deadline came and went with nothing but sounds of flittering moth wings and the occasional cricket chirp from the Dodgers front office telephones. Those chirps came in the form of lesser known names Tyler White, Kristopher Negrón, Jedd Gyorko, and Adam Kolarek.
Meanwhile, potential post-season opponents, the Braves, Nationals, and Astros all upgraded more significantly. Disappointing? Absolutely. However, things are not as bleak as they seem.
The key, at least in part, to the Dodgers success since Dave Roberts took the helm has been playing the game one day at a time. The approach is the same whether they win or lose, record a save or blow a save, strikeout or walk off. They mourn the loss or celebrate the victory on the day, but either way they show up to prepare the next day. Seems simple enough to say it, but these players believe it. Roberts has clearly indoctrinated the philosophy in every player’s mind as can be heard in every player interview and seen in their confidence from game to game.
Dave Roberts grade of the #Dodgers over the first 99 games?
"A solid B"
How they prepare each day?
— Elisa Hernandez (@EHernandezTV) July 20, 2019
Luxury of a Large Lead
The Dodgers may not have made a splash, or even a ripple, at the trade deadline, but playing with this philosophy has rewarded them a 16-game lead in the NL West. With 51 games to go, they can play .500 baseball the rest of the way and still win 97+ games this season. In case you are wondering, they won the division with 92 wins last season.
The point is, this team has the luxury to experiment and work through kinks to improve their lineup and bullpen. We’ve seen some of that already in the form of Joc Pederson at 1st base, Tony Gonsolin in a starter and a 4-inning relief appearance, and next we’ll be seeing top pitching prospect Dustin May make his MLB debut on tonight.
Both the Astros in 17 and Red Sox in 18 bolstered their pen from within (starters turned relievers). Without shipping off May/Gonsolin for unpredictables (all receivers are unpredictable), we have some stellar options to do the same with those 2 + Maeda/Strip/Hill.
— Lindsay Adams (@LAtweets22) July 31, 2019
With the Dodgers unable to add significant value to their bullpen they should focus on what they can do from within. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin can very well be key elements of the Dodgers bullpen and they have a full 2 months to get dialed in. Fans can continue to expect these types of “experiments” as management assesses and tests their depth in new ways which, frankly, is a luxury most teams don’t have.
Preparing for the Post Season
While many fans and teams alike are fretting over the Astros adding Greinke to their already stacked starting rotation, the Dodgers rotation is pretty loaded too. The likely starting rotation for the Dodgers in the post season will likely consist of Ryu, Kershaw, Buehler. The fourth spot will likely be filled by Kenta Maeda or Julio Urias. Rich Hill may be an option, but with his unknown time table for return, his arm may not be built up enough to start yet. Regardless, that’s a strong starting rotation and the bullpen will also get a boost by whichever 2 don’t end up filling that fourth spot.
In terms of how to score runs on any of those Astros pitchers, the Dodgers offense must continue to do what they’ve done best this season, be selective. They must not get over-eager, they have to make the pitchers throw strikes and do not expand the zone for them. Take the walks, work the count, get those pitchers tired. Not necessarily to knock them out early, let’s face it their bullpen is strong too, but each inning push them 20+ pitches in hopes to force a mistake over the plate.
I still believe Chris Taylor's safety squeeze last night was more exciting than any of his 2 homers tonight #Dodgers
— David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) June 20, 2019
Additionally, run manufacturing will be more important against this Astros pitching juggernaut. With their firepower, the Dodgers need to rattle them and add pressure as quickly as possible. Bunting against the shift, stealing bases, safety squeeze, and sacrificing runners into scoring position will be crucial. Fortunately, the Dodgers are 5th in the MLB in productive out percentage (29.4%) and 2nd in sacrifice hit percentage (86.7%). Perhaps even more impressively, is their 4th lowest percentage for grounding into double plays at just 7.9%.
It can’t be overlooked that this Dodgers team is not only good, but as proved by holding down 1st place since the 20th game of the season, they’ve been consistently good.
— Jack Barber Jr. (@JackBarberJr) July 31, 2019
Yes, they’ve had an Achilles’ heel of a bullpen, but despite that, they’ve still been very good. The bottom line is, things are not as bad as they seem. The Astros, clearly afraid of the way this Dodgers club is performing, are trying to buy their way to the World Series. The Dodgers, whom nobody wants to reasonably trade with, have two months to fix and experiment with their bullpen and fine tune some in-game strategies. Winners don’t worry about what others are doing and the Dodgers are only worried about tonight’s game.