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Why the Dodgers Should Treat Potential Playoff Matchups Seriously

Approaching the final month of the season, the Dodgers seem to be experimenting too much

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 10: Manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on prior to a game against the Oakland Athletics e at Dodger Stadium on April 10, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

10 Comments

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  1. Dave Roberts can do whatever he wants, he’s won the last two World Series for the Dodgers, everyone should just shut up and trust his management decision making ability.

  2. Their experiments have purpose and could be preparing guys for different October roles. They are not playing any less hard. They wanted an extra Left handed batter and tried Joc at first. Defensively it didnt work, so they pulled the plug. Muncy was deployed at 2B and 3B and did just fine. Austin Barnes forgot how to hit, they gave Smith a shot, has worked out so far. Giving May and Gonsolin Bullpen tries could pay huge dividends if they are called upon to come out of the pen in the postseason. Again it all has purpose. Rookies Beaty, Garlick, and Rios all have been giving opportunities and they all have had positive contributions.

    No reason to panic. They will be plenty prepared for October.

  3. John Higelin I agree they should go for the best record. But let’s face it they have maybe too many options. A good problem to have should someone get hurt or so far in filling in the spots for a long season to get guys rest and all. So the real questions are the fourth starter and a lot has been raised on DN on that of late. But who’s gonna be our center fielder and left fielder. Is Pollock really better offensively and defensively then Verdugo? Left field is Peterson gonna be playoff hot like usual? What is Kike’s role or Taylor’s. Should Muncy play 2nd or first? I know who’s pitching will play into that but we better get it settled in the next few weeks. Bellinger, Turner, Seager, Smith, Muncy, play everyday with the others platoon I guess. Beaty needs to be in the mix.

    • We will have a much weaker version of this team in October because of seniority and contracts it’s sad but it always happens. The best team would be Verdugo in CF Pollock in LF Bellinger in RF and Turner Seager Muncy Beaty/Freese and Smith in the infield

  4. I think the lineup shuffling is fine until the last couple of weeks of the regular season. What worries me most is that I fear the Dodgers sabotaged their chances to reach or when the World Series by not trying to fix their bullpen at the trade deadline. Just don’t see how they can make a winning run with what they’ve got. Hope I’m wrong, but I believe it will take a perfect storm and the bullpen for them to have a chance.
    — Dodger fan since 1955!

  5. Since June 1, the Dodgers bullpen has the 3rd best era in baseball. Just about every team is having bullpen issues this year.

    • One run lead going into ninth, the seventh game of the WS. How comfortable do you feel with Jansen? At any rate, the Dodgers bullpen has had a decent ERA for most of the season. But it is near the bottom in allowing inherited runs to score, so we need to hope the starters don’t leave any messes to clean up.

  6. I was gonna keep quiet but Manny is making it easy for me, I can simply agree and add that I was wondering the same thing, i.e. could it have something to do with Seniority or Contract Markers??? I sure could point to that as a most likely best guess when taking a Deep View of Player Stats at C and wondering Why we all had to wait SO LONG for Will Smith to take the Dodgers weakest Position, Catcher, despite his Heavy Bat and Golden Glove & Arm

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