Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Postseason (Page 1 of 10)

Dodgers hint at roster for opening round of playoffs

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Dave Roberts told reporters Friday that the Dodgers don’t plan to take more than 13 pitchers — and might bring as few as 12 — to the three-game opening round of the playoffs.

This surprised me, because drawing from their quality pitching depth has been fundamental to the Dodgers delivering the best record in baseball this year and the best winning percentage in franchise history. They have spent most of the season with 15 pitchers on their active roster. 

Even in a three-game series bracketed by off days, the Dodgers don’t have the kind of guaranteed innings from their starting pitchers that would likely forestall needing a bevy of relievers.  

Based on his 2020 performance, Alex Wood is an easy cut. But making a second cut means losing someone like Joe Kelly or Adam Kolarek — someone who has made noteworthy contributions this season, however intermittently.

A four-man bench has been sufficent for the Dodgers this season, so the question is whether two more position players would make a difference. One certainly could — adding a third catcher in Keibert Ruiz would mean that Will Smith could start at designated hitter on his non-catching days without needing to also serve as Austin Barnes’ backup. (If a designated hitter enters a game at a defensive position, the team loses the DH and the pitcher enters the lineup.)

If they added another position player, the leading candidates are Matt Beaty or Zach McKinstry. In a three-game series, neither would get a start except in an absolute emergency. Both are left-handed hitters, so one scenario you might see them in would be if the Dodgers started Joc Pederson, pinch-hit for him with Kiké Hernández and then wanted to hit for Hernández. The Dodgers might also have McKinstry in mind as a pinch-runner. 

Here’s how the Dodger roster would appear to shake out for the first round (players at each position are listed in alphabetical order): 

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Gonsolin? May? Urías?
How about all of the above?

Photo: Jon SooHoo

If Walker Blister Buehler makes it through his Thursday start without a hitch, you can safely assume that he and Clayton Kershaw will start the Dodgers’ first two postseason games next week. Kershaw has earned the Game 1 start based on his 2020 performance, but by pitching Friday, he would actually be a slot behind Buelher in the rotation. The Dodgers have the following options: 

Option 1

  • Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Buehler on five days’ rest
  • Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Kershaw on five days’ rest

Option 2

  • Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Kershaw on four days’ rest
  • Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Buehler on six days’ rest

Given that the Dodgers could have gone with Kershaw on Thursday and Buehler on Friday this week, it would appear that they might actually be leaning toward Option 1. Again, this depends on Buehler’s Thursday start. 

But that’s not actually the subject of this post. Rather, it’s to tackle the question of how the Dodgers would approach their third postseason game, whether it’s an elimination game of the best-of-three opening round (gulp*) on Friday, October 2 or the opening game of the best-of-five National League Division Series — a potential matchup with the Padres — on Tuesday, October 6. 

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Previewing the Dodgers’
2020 postseason roster

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Because MLB rosters will remain at 28 players for the postseason, there shouldn’t be too much drama for the Dodgers in determining theirs — but that’s not to say there won’t be any. Let’s take a look …

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Baseball fans, are you ready for the tiebreakers?

A totem of things gone wrong. (Photo by Jon Weisman at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, July 14, 2019.)

In an ongoing Twitter thread, I have been tracking the potential 2020 National League postseason matchups on a nightly basis. Remember — this year, eight teams from each league will make the playoffs, which will open with best-of-three series that aren’t quite sudden death but close enough.

The three division winners are seeded No. 1-3 no matter what, followed next by the three second-place teams, then finally by the teams with the next-best records, regardless of division. By some margin the best first-place and second-place teams in the NL, the Dodgers (No. 1) and the Padres (No. 4) have been locked into their seeds for quite some time. But the other six seeds have been flopping teams like fish on a sidewalk.

In announcing this format for 2020, MLB made it clear there will be no tiebreaker games, instead setting out a set of tiebreaker rules. On the final night of August, we got a glimpse of just how crazy things could get. 

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With a dominant bullpen, Dodgers’ postseason salvation could be 28-man rosters

Photos: Jon SooHoo

Last week, I wrote about how the 2020 Dodgers are talented, but October is scarier than ever. Now, let me balance it out with some good news about this particular postseason that could really play into the Dodgers’ favor. 

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The Dodgers are talented, but October is scarier than ever

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Flying high with a seven-game winning streak, the 18-7 Dodgers have the best record in major-league baseball and in a 162-game season would be on pace for 116 victories. 

Thanks to this year’s shortened, 60-game campaign and the expanded playoff format that will invite eight teams from each league to the postseason, the Dodgers will need to finish with only about 30 victories to clinch an entry into October. It’s quite possible they’ll do that by Labor Day. 

For the rest of September, they’ll be playing for an eight consecutive National League West title and a high seeding in the playoffs. Both will be more ceremonial than ever. 

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Corey Seager, a slider and the Dodgers’ October bubble

Carrie Giordano/Los Angeles Dodgers

It was drowned out by the Howie Kendrick grand slam, by Juan Soto teeing off on the fattest pitch of Clayton Kershaw’s career, by Anthony Rendon taking a golf swing at a Kershaw pitch near his shins.

It was smothered by a National League Division Series Game 5 that tore the Dodgers and their fans apart.

But before NLDS Game 5, there was Game 2. And in Game 2, there was one inning, arguably one pitch, that speaks as much to the Dodgers’ Job-like journey through the Octobers of the past seven seasons as any other.

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Dodgers’ winter of discontent gives way to auspicious spring

It feels like 10 years since I last saw a Dodger game. 

It feels like we’ve lived through an entire era of baseball in the four months and three days the Dodgers last walked off the field, heads bowed. It feels like we’ve aged a generation. 

As I hibernated with other activities, I watched Dodger fans descend in to a deep well of anger and despair. The winter of our discontent barely seems adequate to describe it. Behind center field, offseason construction tore a hole in Dodger Stadium, delivered directly from Metaphors ‘R’ Us.  

The bitterness of the Dodgers’ shocking Game 5 loss in the National League Division Series lingered like a slow-acting toxin, blackening the rose petals of fandom.

The unrequited pursuit of big-name talent, Gerrit Cole in particular, generated a sense of Kafkaesque imprisonment, blinding the reality that none of the Dodgers’ top rivals except the Yankees had improved their rosters. Then again, if the Yankees become the team to beat, isn’t that anguish enough?

Then the earth trembled, the ground beneath our feet cracked open and the void opened. 

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Gleyber Torres and the myth of Dodger passivity

Gleyber Torres has never played for the Dodgers, but he has come to have a peculiar place in Dodger lore. 

People keep saying that the Cubs’ July 25, 2016 trade of Torres, then a 19-year-old mega-prospect, with three other players to the Yankees for super reliever Aroldis Chapman is an example of what the Dodgers need to start doing in pursuit of an elusive 21st-century World Series title.

Supposedly, Torres is the canary in the Dodgers’ coalmine of caution.

“Their organizational philosophy prevents them from making the kind of the deal the Chicago Cubs did in their championship season in 2016, ending a 108-year drought,” wrote Dylan Hernandez in the Times this weekend, though he’s far from the only one to make such an argument. 

Here’s what this theory ignores: 

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Home-field advantage in the World Series hardly matters

Mike Williams/Los Angeles Dodgers

If there’s a World Series Game 7 this year, I’d like it to be at Dodger Stadium. 

But I’m much more interested in the Dodgers working on ways to make their team World Series champions without playing a Game 7. 

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1981 World Series MVP Award Presentation: The wrong Steve

Mike Littwin/Los Angeles Times

It was weird enough, after the Dodgers won the 1981 title, when they split the World Series Most Valuable Player Award among three players.

It became weirder still when Bob Uecker and MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn included the wrong man, Steve Garvey, in the award presentation. It was Steve Yeager, not Garvey, who had been voted the winner alongside Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero.

Howard Rosenberg/Los Angeles Times

Garvey expressed heartfelt gratitude for the award that he wouldn’t get to keep. Yeager, hovering in the background at the outset, eventually got to the microphone, though he is never named as a tri-MVP winner. Guerrero got a big hug from Al Campanis, but no chance to speak at all. 

Enjoy the presentation above, in all its awkward glory.

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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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.

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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