Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Dodgers (Page 2 of 63)

The Dodgers, Dave Roberts and the human element

Dave Roberts (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

In front of an emotionally eviscerated Dodger fan base, in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2018 World Series on October 27, Kiké Hernández came to the plate at Dodger Stadium.

Only an hour earlier, a thrilling glow suffused Chavez Ravine. Having survived an 18-inning Game 3 marathon, Los Angeles had taken a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox. The Dodgers were eight outs away from evening the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

Then their world collapsed around them like a dream in Inception. Nine Boston baserunners crossed the plate, the final four in the top of the ninth, obliterating a beautiful consciousness.

In that soul-darkening ninth inning, Hernández stood at the plate as a symbol of star-crossed Octobers. Coming off the most successful regular season of his major-league career, Hernández homered in his 2018 playoff debut, the Dodgers’ 6-0 trouncing of Atlanta in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. The multiposition master, baseball’s Swiss Army knife, then went 12 consecutive games without a single extra-base hit or RBI.

Hernández couldn’t hit right-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit left-handed pitching. He couldn’t hit, period. Entering the gloom of Game 4’s waning moments, Hernández had made 30 outs in his past 33 at-bats.

As another fallen hope stood on first base in the person of Brian Dozier, Hernández took two fastballs from Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, then let rip at a knuckle-curve and launched a fly ball to deep left-center for a two-run home run. Except for the fleeting sliver of hope it kindled in those who could conceive the greatest miracle postseason comeback in Dodger history, it was a footnote. The Dodgers lost the game by the score of 9-6 instead of 9-4.

The next day, in a game the Dodgers could not spare, Hernández was in the starting lineup against Boston lefty David Price, batting third.

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Which free agents might fit with the Dodgers?

Mikey Williams/Los Angeles Dodgers

Amid the flurry of warm, nurturing advice over the past week that followed the Dodgers’ World Series defeat, there was the Facebook commenter who had all the answers, perhaps most notably: “Sign FOUR no. 1 ace starters.”

That seemed like amazingly good counsel, but whether it’s feasible, I wasn’t quite sure. So I decided to check the lists of top 2018-19 MLB free agents and explore — not only in pitching but among position players as well — the top names that might help the Dodgers.

Keep in mind that the Dodgers will always be looking for under-the-radar gems, but that doesn’t mean they might not grab a headline ballplayer or two …

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When aardvarks took over baseball

Photo: Honolulu Zoo

When the aardvark revolution came to baseball, progress was slow at first.

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The Dodgers and the line between failing and sucking

Mikey Williams/Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s one thing, if it’s your standard, to call the 2018 Dodgers failures for not winning the World Series. It’s another thing — and a counterproductive thing — to call the 2018 Dodgers a bad team.

Put another way …

Say your marching order for the Dodgers is “World Series or bust.” And now they’ve busted. Does it make sense to lump them with the other 28 teams who busted as well?

Yes, it’s true that if you don’t bluntly assess the weaknesses of a team, even one that won 92 regular-season games, eight playoff games and a National League title, you are at risk of underreacting. And that can be harmful toward the goal of winning the World Series next year.

Were the Dodgers miles behind the AL champs? Some think the Dodgers were a worthy opponent who played badly. Others think the Dodgers were overmatched from the get go. For my part, I am not under any illusion that the better team in the World Series lost. I want the Dodgers to get better.

But if you can’t, even in the throes of disappointment, understand that, while failing, the Dodgers had the ability and approach to win those 100 games and a pennant, you are at risk of overreacting. And that can be just as harmful.

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On Clayton Kershaw’s future with the Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw, October 28, 2018 (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I did a short Twitter thread that recapped my season-long stance on the future of Clayton Kershaw, who can opt out of his contract with the Dodgers this week. In case you missed it, here it is …

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Thoughts about John Smoltz, in five parts

I’ve had a lot to say on Twitter about John Smoltz over the past 12 months, to the extent that columnist Tom Hoffarth sought my two cents for his recent column in the Times on the Fox Sports baseball commentator. I wanted to collect my thoughts in one place, so here they are.

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After 99 wins and a pennant, Dodgers enter World Series
as underdogs to believe in

Matt Kemp races to celebrate the Dodgers’ NLCS Game 7 victory as Clayton Kershaw leaves the mound. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I give the Dodgers about a 45 percent chance to win the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox.

In the starkest, most objective terms, that makes me a pessimist. My glass isn’t quite half full. Perhaps, if you’re more cynical about the Dodgers, you think my 45 percent makes me an optimist. It doesn’t really matter. That’s not my point.

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The Game 7 saviors: Sandy Amoros and Chris Taylor

You won’t see two better and bigger Dodger postseason catches than these …

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Dodgers-Red Sox historical tidbits

The Red Sox and Dodger franchises last played in the World Series 102 years ago, in 1916. We’ll obviously get a lot of history from that series. Here’s a bit of it …

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Machado, Bellinger and Puig: The bunt and the bops

Manny Machado’s shock-the-world, Ahmad Abdul Rahim-style, two-strike bunt to start the second inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series was like manna from heaven for the small-ball starved crowd, and as a guy who’s not part of that crowd, I couldn’t have been happier.

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Your CLUTCH NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers

So many times this year, the theme of the 2018 Dodgers was how they were not a clutch team. They were sluggish. Underwhelming. They couldn’t get a hit when they needed one. In discrete moments, this was true.

But every single time the Dodgers needed a win — when they needed to get off the mat after a 16-26 start, when they needed to chase down the Arizona Diamondbacks, when they needed to fend off the Colorado Rockies for the division title, when they needed to survive and conquer the nationally beloved Milwaukee Brewers bullpen — every single time they needed a win, really needed a win, they got it.

I don’t know what will happen against the Boston Red Sox. As I predicted in July, the Dodgers are NL champions and World Series underdogs. But at this moment in time, you cannot find a more clutch team than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Dave Roberts went all in to win and reaped the rewards

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

If not for the double plays that his team grounded into during the seventh, eighth and ninth innings Saturday, Dodger pitcher Kenta Maeda would have been batting in the ninth inning of an absolute nailbiter in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

If not for the 4-3 lead the Dodgers had taken despite those double plays, Maeda — or a pinch-hitting Clayton Kershaw — might have been batting to keep the Dodgers alive.

If not for the Dodger bullpen’s work in holding that 4-3 lead, scheduled Game 4 starter Rich Hill would have taken the mound for Los Angeles to start the bottom of the 10th inning.

If not for Austin Barnes avoiding any injury that could have come in the final hour of the game, Max Muncy, who has never played catcher professionally, would have had to go behind the plate.

Any of these scenarios would have exposed Dodger manager Dave Roberts to toxic criticism. Instead, Roberts sashayed home to Los Angeles with a well-earned split of the first two NLCS games.

I’m here to tell you that even if the Dodgers had lost the game, Roberts made the right moves.

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Yasmani Grandal in desperate need of playoff redemption

On a quiet Wednesday between the National League Division Series and Championship Series, I looked up Yasmani Grandal’s career playoff stats.

I knew he wasn’t doing well this October, and that he had been benched last October, and that there had been issues in previous Octobers, but I hadn’t really put it all together until they spilled out before me on Baseball Reference.

Heading into the NLCS, in his postseason career, Grandal was 5 for 59 with 25 strikeouts. He did have 14 walks and two home runs, including one in NLDS Game 2 against Atlanta, but he was 2 for his last 45, lowering his playoff OPS to .447.

I shared these stats with Eric Stephen of SB Nation, who took things a step farther. Grandal’s .085 batting average, Stephen found, was the fifth lowest in MLB history among players with at least 50 plate appearances, and two of those lower than him were pitchers.

  1. Bill North .051 (3 for 59)
  2. Marv Owen .061 (3 for 49)
  3. Greg Maddux .073 (4 for 55)
  4. Whitey Ford .082 (4 for 49)
  5. Yasmani Grandal .085 (5 for 59)

That’s all to point out where Grandal stood before what has been an absolutely miserable start to the NLCS.

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Possible NLCS roster changes for the Dodgers

Ross Stripling (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

While Los Angeles will mostly dance with the Dodgers who brought them to the National League Championship Series, there is talk of change near the edge of their postseason roster.

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Why MLB players don’t bunt against the shift

The field view when Max Muncy came to bat Monday in the fifth inning of NLDS Game 4 at Atlanta.

You’re a person looking at an empty field, or to be more specific, an empty left side of a major-league baseball field.

You could be a major-league hitter in a major-league baseball game, or you could be a fan looking at a major-league hitter at a major-league baseball game, or you could be a member of the media, perhaps a former major-league baseball player, perhaps named John Smoltz, looking at a major-league baseball game.

As you gaze at the pitcher, the area to the right side of second base is filled with defenders. The area to the left side of second base is bare, or nearly so.

Why, you might ask, shouldn’t one bunt to that left side?

Or why, you might instead ask, for the love of all that is holy, don’t you bunt to that expletive deleted left side?

Here’s why.

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