Dodger Thoughts

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

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Flashback: Dodgers-Astros 1980 NL West tiebreaker

The Dodgers are playing a Game 163 tiebreaker for the first time in 38 years. In this excerpt from 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, relive the story of the last time …

In the 1980 season, from April 26 on, the Dodgers never lagged nor led by more than three games in a taut NL West. Tied for first place with Houston on September 24 with 10 games remaining, they suffered back-to-back 3–2 defeats to San Francisco and San Diego to fall two back. A week later, yet another 3–2 loss to the Giants put the Dodgers three back with three to play. The saving grace was that the Dodgers would be hosting Houston for the final three games of the regular season. But facing starting pitchers Ken Forsch (3.20 ERA), Nolan Ryan (3.35), and Vern Ruhle (2.37), the Dodgers faced a tall task.

What followed was one of the most memorable series in franchise history.

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Rockies are why Dodgers didn’t run away with NL West

In March, Fangraphs projected the Dodgers to win 94 games in 2018. Not 100 or 110, as some are fond of suggesting as a straw man. Los Angeles will end up with somewhere between 89 and 91 wins, not counting any tiebreaker games.

At the same time, Fangraphs projected the Rockies to win 79 games. Colorado will end up with at least 90 wins. (Arizona, by the way, was projected to win 80 and is sitting on 81 this morning.)

I’m not suggesting anyone can’t be disappointed with how the Dodgers’ season has gone so far, but the story of the National League West race isn’t as much about the Dodgers’ shortcomings as it is about Colorado smashing expectations.

Who makes the do-or-die starts for the Dodgers?

On Sunday, Walker Buehler might making the highest-stakes regular-season start by a rookie in Dodger history. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I’m writing about an event that likely won’t come to pass, an event that most Dodger fans hope doesn’t come to pass.

But as their three-game series at San Francisco begins tonight, the Dodgers could soon be facing as many as four consecutive do-or-die games to reach the National League Division Series.

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Breaking down the dilemma Brian Dozier poses for the Dodgers

Brian Dozier’s .763 OPS in August has been followed by a .295 OPS in September. (MLB.com)

Since his most recent home run, exactly four weeks ago on August 28, Dodger midseason acquisition Brian Dozier has been in a horrendous slump: 4 for 52 (one single, three doubles) with four walks, a hit-by-pitch and a stolen base. Translated, that becomes a .158 on-base percentage and a .135 slugging percentage.

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Clayton Kershaw and the value beyond a World Series

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Whether it happens on the first or last day of October, the 2018 Dodger season will end in a matter of weeks, and the legendary Clayton Kershaw, if healthy, will likely exercise his option to tear up his current contract and seek a new one.

It’s not that the $65 million Kershaw is promised from 2019-2020 isn’t a lovely sum. But at this moment, Kershaw is better positioned to go for his next big contract this winter, rather than taking the chance of having a better profile two years down the road.

It’s been six months since I last brought up this topic, and my opinion hasn’t changed. While other teams might engage in serious talks with Kershaw as a free agent, I still think the odds strongly favor him returning to Chavez Ravine on a new or extended deal. I explained why in great detail in the previous post, but to boil things down to a single thought: There is no franchise for whom Kershaw means more than the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it makes sense that their contract offer will reflect that.

It’s that point I wish to expand upon here.

Understandably, there will be no shortage of opinion out there that the Dodgers would be better off allocating their future resources somewhere besides Kershaw’s wallet. Sentiment be damned, the 30-year-old lefty is no longer at his peak, and the forthcoming decline could be anything from disheartening to downright ugly. That’s before considering that, although he has already missed parts of four of the past five seasons with injuries, Kershaw hasn’t had the single knockout blow that has sidelined him for an entire year. How long can he keep dodging that freight train?

I hear that. And I want to state, for everyone to see, that I don’t care. 

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Floro flourishing

In the full month since being called for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad walkoff balk on August 18, Dylan Floro has faced 42 batters in 10 1/3 innings without allowing a run, while stranding all three inherited runners.

Floro has allowed eight hits — all singles — and three walks, while striking out 12.

Overall as a Dodger, Floro has a 1.33 ERA and 0.85 WHIP (his WHIP is below 1.00 against both lefty and righty batters), with one homer allowed in his 27 innings.

Update: OK, I just had it in my head to do a quick and dirty post on Floro. But simultaneously, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs was working on a much more thoro take on Floro, that frankly shamed me. But you know, I don’t do this full-time anymore …

The Dodger pitching pecking order for the stretch run

Ross Stripling remains an X factor on the Dodger pitching staff. (Ryan Meyer/MLB.com)

Considering what a mess the Dodger bullpen was a month ago, seemingly undermining every strong effort the starting pitchers made, you might be surprised to see the Los Angeles pitching staff has coalesced more than a little bit. The relief corps still won’t frighten any opponents (yet), but there is some order in the court.

Honestly, this staff can do the job in a vacuum — the question will be, can it do the job in a tornado?

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For the first time since facing Matt Adams, Clayton Kershaw returns to St. Louis

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Sometime around 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Thursday, Clayton Kershaw will throw his first pitch in St. Louis since … that one. 

It has been 47 months since Kershaw’s last pitch at Busch Stadium, 47 months since the curveball that Matt Adams pulverized for a three-run home run that cost the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the fourth and ultimately final game of the 2014 National League Division Series.

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Pedro Baez — yes, Pedro Baez — shows why he belongs

Someday soon, Pedro Baez will give up a run — a meaningless run or a critical run — and Twitter will erupt anew with demands for his release and querulous queries of how he could possibly still be on the Dodgers?

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Why baseball defies your expectations

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Baseball is inherently — and obviously — uncertain.

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59 since ’59 — Remembering Sandy Koufax’s record-setting breakout game in Los Angeles

Sandy Koufax wasn’t unknown when he arrived in Los Angeles from Brooklyn, but it was on this date in 1959 that the fans out West caught their best glimpse of the future Hall of Famer.

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The Dodgers might not have a 10-game winner this year

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitcher wins are a nuisance as a measure of success and basically only qualify as trivia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be interesting or deeply weird trivia.

And it’s interesting and deeply weird that for the first time in franchise history, the Dodgers might not have a single pitcher win 10 games this season.

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Would you have fired Tommy Lasorda before the 1981 season?

Beginning his much-sought managing career in 1977, Tommy Lasorda won two National League West titles and two National League Championship Series in his first two seasons as Dodger manager.

The team fell both times in the World Series to the Yankees. In 1978, the Dodgers lost their final four games in a row, and were wiped out by a combined 19-4 score in the final two.

The 1979 Dodgers were a disaster — in last place at the All-Star break before rallying to finish third in the division, but still with their worst record in more than a decade.

The 1980 Dodgers were a competitive team in a thrilling division race, but on the brink of completing an historic comeback, dissolved in a 7-1 defeat that makes Game 7 of the 2017 World Series look ultra-close.

So after four years at the helm, the 53-year-old Lasorda averaged 91 wins per season, with two division titles, while extending the Dodgers’ drought without winning a World Series to 15 years, the longest gap in Los Angeles history.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that if social media had existed back in October 1980, the cries for Lasorda’s head would have been deafening. I can still hear faint echoes from talk radio.

So — and this is a sincere question — should Lasorda have been fired before the 1981 season?

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Dodgers need to stop playing below their heads

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Look, I know everyone’s in a panic over their recent collapse, but despite their three-game losing streak, I still think the Boston Red Sox will make the playoffs.

Oh, you were asking about the Dodgers?

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Interview: Carl Erskine speaks about the Dodgers and his life in baseball


In November 2016, Carl Erskine, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1948-59, spent an hour with me on the phone for my first interview after I signed the deal to write Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition. The conversation was wonderful — something for all baseball fans to enjoy — and offered so much more than I could present in the book. Carl offers incredible detail about what it was like to come up with the Dodgers at the dawn of the Boys of Summer era.

Here is an opportunity for you to hear the conversation in full. It is, technically, the first episode of a podcast that I planned to start about four years ago (but obviously, never got around to) called Word to the Weisman. You can listen to it below, or you can click here to find it on iTunes.

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter.

Enjoy!

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