Dodger Thoughts

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

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Dodger Scorigami!

If you’re familiar with Scorigami, you’re in for a treat.

If you’re not familiar with Scorigami, you’re in for a treat.

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The Dodgers, Kenley Jansen and the simple practice of warming up relievers sooner

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Let’s start by looking ahead at the Dodger pitching, before we look back.

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Video: Cody Bellinger Postseason Defensive Highlight Reel

Cody Bellinger’s catch Wednesday in Game 2 of the National League Division Series might have been his greatest play in his young but fertile postseason career, but there are several contenders. I put together this highlight reel of five of them.

Video: It is possible for the Dodgers to hit home runs at Globe Life Field

In the video above, you can see five actual home runs that the Dodgers hit in two August nights at the seemingly impregnable new ballpark in Arlington, Texas: Globe Life Field.

They stand in contrast to the five long outs the Dodgers made in their otherwise satisfactory 5-1 victory tonight in Game 1 of the National League Division Series over the Padres.

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Depth sets up Dodgers
for NLDS without off days

Photo: Jon SooHoo

What does depth bring the Dodgers? They can cover the 45 innings* of the NLDS with these 14 pitchers on relatively easy inning loads:

6 Clayton Kershaw
5 Tony Gonsolin
4 Walker Buehler
4 Dustin May
4 Julio Urías
3 Victor González
3 Brusdar Graterol
3 Kenley Jansen
3 Blake Treinen
2 Pedro Báez
2 Dylan Floro
2 Joe Kelly
2 Adam Kolarek
2 Jake McGee

*That’s 45 innings, give or take — but it accounts for the series going five games with two extra innings, if the Padres win their designated home games (Games 3 and 4) without batting in the bottom of the ninth.

Perhaps Kershaw only goes five innings. Perhaps Gonsolin, May or Urías gives you a solid six. Perhaps Buehler’s blister takes him out after two innings tonight, but that leaves him available to give you another two innings three days later. Perhaps one game goes into the 13th, 14th, 15th … you tell me. There’s no predicting the specifics. 

The point is, every one of those 14 pitchers is capable of giving you effective innings. There isn’t a weak spot. You don’t need to lean extra heavy on Kershaw or Jansen. No one would have to throw 20-plus pitches on back-to-back days until an all-hands-on-deck Game 5. 

Jansen might be the Dodgers’ biggest question mark — I discussed him in this Twitter thread last week — but Dave Roberts showed in the opening round that he isn’t opposed to warming up another reliever behind him, and that he is willing to sideline him in the ninth inning if he thinks it’s necessary. The key is to treat Jansen like you would treat any other reliever. Use him according to his effectiveness, his ability to execute pitches in the moment, not his reputation. The same, frankly, goes for Kershaw, who dazzled in Game 2 last week but still was left to his own devices in the eighth inning. The Dodgers have the arms — they don’t need to be shy about exploring all of them. 

A quick thought on Justin Turner and his potential Dodger Stadium finale

Photo: Jon SooHoo

It shouldn’t be. 

As Houston Mitchell of the Times reminded me in his morning newsletter, Justin Turner could be playing his final game in Los Angeles as a Dodger tonight. Should the Dodgers beat the Brewers and advance to the National League Division Series, their remaining games will be played not in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, but in Arlington, Texas. After that, Turner becomes a free agent.

And then, ideally, he’s right back here again next year. 

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Return of the Clayton Kershaw Playoff Chart

Click the chart below to enlarge. 

Green: Ace-level starts
Orange: Two earned runs or fewer in first six innings
Yellow: Mixed bags
Red: Disasters
Light gold: Relief appearances

I created the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Chart two years ago to communicate how Kershaw has been both great and terrible and everywhere in between during the postseason.

The Dodgers’ brief window in the 2019 playoffs didn’t change the narrative. In his first start, he pitched well enough to win but didn’t. Then he had a disastrous relief outing, his first such nightmare out of the bullpen in a decade.

Kershaw has made 25 career playoff starts. Here’s how they break down:

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The nightmares of 2020 force perspective on the postseason

On the final day of January this year, I drove Young Master Weisman to a rehearsal for a cello performance in Calabasas. To bide the hours until he was ready to leave, I went to see the movie 1917 at a nearby theater. Then I drove to the Sagebrush Cantina, the modern-day saloon where I celebrated by 21st birthday on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in 1988. Now, at age 52, I sat at the bar by myself, ordered one beer and watched the pregame ceremony at the first Laker game at Staples Center following the death of Kobe Bryant. And as I watched, I started to cry. 

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Dodger bullpen breaks two National League records

All the short-season caveats apply, but the Dodger bullpen did set two National League records for the live-ball era (1920-on). 

  • Dodger relievers set a National League record for the lowest single-season WHIP at 1.044. The bullpen broke the NL mark held by the 2003 Dodgers, who were led by Eric Gagne, Guillermo Mota and Paul Quantrill. Unfortunately, they just missed the major-league record of 1.003, held by the 1965 Chicago White Sox. 
  • They also broke the NL mark for lowest on-base percentage allowed: .274, also held by the 2003 Dodgers. The ’65 White Sox allowed a .264 OBP.   

While the team only played 60 games, Dodger relievers did average an unprecedented 4 1/3 innings per game.  In fact, so omnipresent was the Dodger bullpen that for the first time in franchise history, relief pitchers had more than half of the team’s wins — 26 out of 43. 

Victor Gonzalez, Adam Kolarek, Jake McGee and Brusdar Graterol each had WHIPs below 1.00. 

Obviously, it’s dubious to suggest these records would have held up over 162 games. But in the realm of 2020, we can say this: Dodger relievers were the best. 

Edwin Ríos could be X factor for Dodgers in October

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Here’s a funny one for you …

Edwin Ríos is in position to set a National League record, admittedly one far, far more obscure than Duke Snider’s.

With two days remaining in the 2020 season, no player in NL history with five singles or fewer has ever had more total bases than Ríos. In fact, the only obstacles for Ríos setting the MLB record are 1) Hunter Renfroe of the Rays and 2) the possiblity of hitting a sixth single. 

This is useless trivia except for one thing. It illustrates the level of power Ríos brings to the Dodgers and their pursuit of a title in October. 

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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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Duke Snider holds a major NL record that no one talks about

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is one of the most hallowed records in baseball history, even though most fans today weren’t alive to see him play. 

But we live in an era with a greater appreciation for getting on base by any means necessary. So while an all-time on-base streak hasn’t built up the cachet of DiMaggio’s 56, it’s worth calling out who holds that record.

In the American League, the titan of touching first is Ted Williams, who reached base 84 straight games in 1949. In fact, Williams owns two of the top three streaks, with his 73-game streak in 1941-42 coming just behind the 74-gamer by DiMaggio that includes his hitting streak.  

In the National League, this underrated record is held by none other than Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider of the Dodgers, who reached base in 58 consecutive games from May 13 through July 11, 1954.

Snider broke a record of 56 consecutive games held by two fellow Hall of Famers — Roger Bresnahan (1904) and Snider’s future Dodger teammate Arky Vaughan (1936).

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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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