On Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost just their second series since the All-Star break. While that may not seem like a big deal, the loss came at the hands of a team that the Dodgers could very well face in the postseason, the Atlanta Braves.
Yes, the Dodgers have an 18.5-game lead in their division and no one needs to panic. Yes, that kind of lead affords them the luxuries of experimenting with various lineups, starting rotations, and holding extended auditions for the postseason roster. However, there are consequences to experimenting for postseason roles in very un-postseason atmospheres.
Let’s stick to what got us in 1st. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it
— Bunt to beat the shift (@makingthemmadm1) August 18, 2019
World Series Home Field Advantage
The Dodgers currently have a National League best 82-44 record, the Braves have the second-best record at 74-52. So, barring a 2017-esque late season losing streak, the Dodgers should lock up home field advantage for the NLDS and NLCS with relative ease. However, with the top contending American League teams being power houses in their own right and boasting regular season records similar to that of the Dodgers, World Series home field advantage is still up for grabs.
It’s Houston that the dodgers need to worry about anyways
— Hispanic @ the disco (@im_legal27) August 19, 2019
Yes, worrying about that is certainly putting the cart before the horse, but it must be considered as they get cute with their lineups. Losing that advantage could be huge.
Dodgers need to worry about getting back to the chip before anything else. Teams arent just gonna roll over for the Dodgers.
— Jose (@BlueNGoldJoe) August 19, 2019
Measuring Stick Confidence
Most teams use the Dodgers as a measuring stick for their own abilities. While that measurement is flawed a bit when the Dodgers aren’t fielding their best players or are toying around with the rotation, losses do build the confidence of opposing teams. Instead of steam rolling the opponents and leaving them disheartened, they are left with the confidence that they measure up. Confidence can be a dangerous thing, it leads to belief and belief leads to putting in that extra effort. The kind of extra effort that can catch the Dodgers off guard in the postseason.
Of the remaining 12 series the Dodgers have left, half of them are possible postseason opponents. They will face two potential World Series opponents, the New York Yankees and the less likely, but still possible, Tampa Bay Rays, for one series a piece. Additionally, they will square off against the surging New York Mets once, the Arizona Diamondbacks once, and the San Francisco Giants twice. All three of those teams are within 4.5 games of a wild card spot and therefore, could be postseason opponents.
It’s been said, “you play like you practice”.
The Dodgers need to take these series’ (at minimum) seriously. Play them the way the would/will in October. If runs aren’t coming easy, they need to be playing small ball. If they’re trying to hold a lead, bring in the relievers you can best count on, not a rookie call-up. Play these games like a dress rehearsal.
On the flip side, roughly half of the remaining games are against non-contenders. Teams like the Rockies, Padres, Blue Jays, and Orioles that are dragging towards the bottom of their respective divisions. These games still afford the Dodgers the opportunity to do their experimenting, if they wish, and still win games.
The Dodgers experiments may show a player can or can’t pitch as a reliever, or that another can or can’t hit with runners in scoring position. It doesn’t matter. Those things go out the window in the postseason. The postseason is a different animal, it transitions the game from a marathon to a sprint. With that sprint comes emotions, adrenaline, and a heightened investment in each game’s outcome. Those things can’t be experimented with right now. You can’t inject the “win or go home” emotion of the postseason into a regular season game when you have an 18.5-game lead. So, stop trying.
Adam Kolarek doesn’t need to play 1st, nor does Joc Pederson. If you believe Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin is a potential 4th starter, let them start. With the exception of rest days, the Dodgers need to move ahead fielding their best team every day. Let the team settle into the roles they will be used, not testing where they could be used.