Does It Really Matter How You Lose 62 Games?

The real is answer is “We don’t know.” 

It’s likely that the Dodgers will win 100 games this year and the NL West (they will have to go 4-6 to do that). That’s an improvement of 8 games in a Division that is dramatically better, as at least one, and maybe two other teams will be NL Wild Cards.  This version of the 2017 Dodgers has been both the hottest team in baseball and are now one of the coldest teams in baseball, going 5-20 in their last 25 games. It’s not any fun being a Dodger fan right about now, but does it really matter?  “We don’t know.

The fact of the matter is that the Dodgers have been “coasting.” Since late August, they have been in that mode. They were about 20 games ahead in the division and Doc decided to rest some players.  They held Kershaw out way past the time he was ready and the sense of urgency evaporated.  When you lose that sense of urgency, it’s hard to get it back… maybe impossible.  But, can they just flip a switch in the playoffs and re-gain it?  “We don’t know.

I think that the conventional wisdom is that they can’t just flip a switch, but conventional wisdom is often wrong. “We don’t know.”  Sports and especially baseball, are littered with “rags to righes” stories.  When things look like doom and gloom, the human spirit can overcome just about anything.  Can the 2017 Dodgers do that?  “We don’t know.

What we do know is that the league has “caught-up” with the Dodgers in the way that they are pitching them.  Some of that is the Dodgers fault.  Tom Verducci of SI.com explains it best:

High fastballs are their Kryptonite

The Dodgers love to hit the ball in the air. The Mets and the Padres, both well under .500, are the only teams in the league that hit a greater percentage of fly balls than Los Angeles.

The way to combat fly-ball hitters, who love to hit the bottom third of the ball, is to attack with velocity up in the zone. The Dodgers this year have seen a greater percentage of four-seam fastballs than any team in baseball (40.5%), and they rank 23rd against those pitches in batting average (.262).

If we look at only high four-seamers, L.A. is the fifth-worst team in baseball (.195), behind only the Brewers, Rays, Mets and Cubs (the league average is .228).

During the 1–16 stretch, the Dodgers have been even worse against high four-seamers (.176), partly because they have been giving more plate appearances to Curtis Granderson and Enrique Hernandez (filling in for Corey Seager), both of whom have swings that are vulnerable to high fastballs. The Los Angeles hitters most vulnerable to high fastballs are Granderson (.146), Hernandez (.156), Yasiel Puig (.156), Joc Pederson (.167) and Yasmani Grandal (.182).

OK, that can be fixed:  Curtis and Kike will not be in the lineup together, Joc will be gone, Yasiel should just hit 8th (on the season he’s hitting .187 in the 5-hole) and Yasmani should lose playing time to Austin Barnes. I think that Austin should be the starting catcher and hit leadoff.  Chris Taylor should move to the #5 spot to protect Cody.  Or, in the alternative, Utley and Forsythe can platoon at 2B and leadoff.  The Dodgers’ #5 hitters have been deplorable all year.  According to TrueBlueLA.com, they average just .213 from a very critical spot in the batting order.  FIX IT!

Verducci goes on to talk about their coasting:

Los Angeles has been in spring training mode for too long, playing with the luxury of a big lead. The Dodgers’ current NL West lead of nine games is the lowest it’s been since the All-Star break, and it peaked at 21 games ahead on Aug. 23.

Manager Dave Roberts has started a pitcher on four days of rest only seven times in the second half of the season, down from 34 in the first half. Presumptive playoff starters Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Rich Hill have thrown just two combined starts on “normal” rest in the second half. Their 41 team starts on four days are the fewest in baseball.

Right about now, Doc needs to keep his Big Four in a 5 day rotation.  Clayton and Yu will get two more starts that way and should be ready for the playoffs.  Will that work?  “We don’t know.” What we do know is that the Dodgers had better change up their pitching methods come playoff time.  Again, Verducci says this:

The irony here is that the Dodgers’ pitching staff was an early adopter when it came to throwing high fastballs as a counter to the Launch Revolution by hitters. Looking at possible postseason opponents, the Rockies and the Nationals now look like difficult matchups for Los Angeles: They rank first and second in the league, respectively, in throwing the highest percentage of high fastballs.

In the playoffs, the Dodgers need to pitch down in the zone against teams that hit the high fastball successfully.  Look, the Dodgers know all of this and could deliberately be doing some of this to obfuscate what they intend to do later.  They have that luxury. “We don’t know.

They might “flip that switch” and win out or maybe their “coasting” cost them the championship.  “We don’t know.” However, we are going to find out!

P.S. Once a Knucklehead, always a Knucklehead: Raul Mondesi sentenced to 8-years in prison for corruption and mishandling of public funds while serving as mayor of his hometown of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don’t do game recaps or such things — lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don’t think they are the “end-all-be-all.”. This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We’d like to hear your voice.

This article has 54 Comments

  1. 1. Utley/Forsythe 2B
    2. Seager SS
    3. Turner 3B
    4. Bellinger 1B
    5. Taylor CF
    6. Barnes C
    7. Granderson/Hernandez LF
    8. Puig RF

    Roll with it!

  2. Seagers elbow? How bad. Obviously it’s affecting his hitting. Will he need surgery. The Dodgers are flat as the proverbial board. Not a sure thing but I can see the graffiti on the wall. Done. The real news is how long do they let the young shortstop play hurt and will this roll over to next season or beyond?

    1. I think it’s pretty bad. They will let him rest and proabably give him an injection just before the playoffs. We don’t know what it is, but worse case scenerio, he may have to move to LF. He’s LH so he can’t play 2B, and if he has a bad arm, he can’t play 3B. The Dodgers aren’t going to tell us anything… nor should they!

        1. Bobby

          I am glad your keeping patience, and you still have a good sense of humor, about all of this!

          That is the best way to approach, I have seen!

          1. you have to laugh at this comedy we’ve been watching the last 25 games.

            I won’t laugh come Oct 6, but for now, nothing else I can do

        1. Bobby

          That is usually my go to, too!

          I agree, when everything starts going wrong, it is a time to bring in, some good sense of humor, especially in this crazy, of a year!

  3. I like the batting order and lineup. Barnes needs to be the starting catcher. Now we need to move Ryu and Maeda to the bull pen for the last week. May have to give Beuhler some more opportunities. The bull pen is all that is left for the Dodgers to figure out.

    In play offs the starting pitchers do not last long if they get into trouble. It would be nice to have two pitchers, maybe even three who could pitch multiple innings. Ryu, Maeda and Stewart could be the ones.

  4. Some of our players swing at high fastballs, when they don’t have to!

    If the umpire is not calling those high fastballs for strikes, there is no reason to swing at a high fastball, especially when our hitters, are not able to hit those pitches for hits, or hit them hard!

    I see Corey foul off a lot of high fastballs, and sometimes those pitches are just not strikes, so our hitters, need to be more patient.

    Also how come our starters seem to be pitching hitters, much more effectively, then our relievers are, and our starters are pitching effectively for 5 and 6 innings, unlike the relievers?

    Our relievers need to stop giving free bases, to the other team, too!

    Avilan put the go ahead run on base, with a walk, and he is not the only reliever who has done this lately.

    Why can’t our relievers keep their concentration on their hitters for one inning, and make the pitches they need to make, it is ridiculous that they can’t do that for just one inning, especially when one of our starters, is pitching 6 innings, without doing that much damage.

    To me, Stripling looked stressed when he came in that game, so I think Roberts went back to him to soon.

    And I also think Roberts is pulling his starters to soon, especially when they are pitching well, and don’t have a high pitch count.

  5. I have amended my priorities for this season. I”m just hoping the Dodgers can overcome the magic number of 2 and get another div champ. After that I hope they don’t do anything stupid to endanger Seagers career. We lost Urias, please take care of Corey. After that I just don’t give a efff. Anything else good is just gravy.

  6. They have the be the most chokingest team in major league baseball history. Right now they couldn’t hit their way out of a paper bag

  7. I can usually spin negatives, but not last night. Alex Wood has one tough inning, & then settles down to retire 13 in a row, including 8 ground outs, 4 strikeouts, and 1 line out. He throws only 84 pitches. He certainly was not struggling. The bullpen is gassed, especially Stripling. Wood could have gone seven, brought in Morrow in the 8th and finish with Jansen. Okay, you want to keep Wood as fresh and confident as you can, bring in Buehler. He is on the roster for a reason. If he is not going to be used, then why bring him up? He has great stuff, but needs to pitch. He is certainly not gassed. Have Jansen ready if Buehler gets in trouble. Morrow can finish if Jansen is needed in the 7th. If you are auditioning for the playoffs, then treat the game as if it is a playoff game (strategically). What difference does it make if Jansen gets critical outs in 7th and 8th? Now they do not even get to the 9th to use him.
    .
    To Verducci’s point about regular rest for the starters, I agree. They have a routine that they are used to preparing for four days rest…not five. Occasionally, okay, but not like the 2nd half. Today would be Rich Hill’s turn with normal rest. Maeda could have been used last night in relief. If he is going to be used in relief in the playoffs, why not audition him in that role as well. Is Ryu the #5 or not? He could have started against SF on Friday followed by Kersh and Yu. Now everyone is getting an extra day rest, and all of the routines are off. By winning the Division the team does not play until Friday after a Sunday game. How much rest do they need?
    .
    I am sure if asked, there are reasons behind this strategy. We may not agree, but there is a reason. I better make sure I continue to take my anti-depression medication or I will be in trouble.

    1. They hit for Wood down 2 to 1 after Utley had a PH triple. Kike came through to plate the tying run. They ended up scoring 3 that inning and Wood stood to be the winning pitcher if they hold the lead. I can’t fault Roberts for hitting for a pitcher top of the 7th when down a run on the road. The bullpen just did not come through.

  8. DOES IT MATTER HOW YOU LOSE GAMES? You are right, Mark, we don’t know. We don’t know because we can’t see the future, no one can see how it will turn out in the next month. We usually look at the past to make predictions for the future, but they are just prediction. For me, the question is DOES IT MATTER WHEN YOU LOSE GAMES? The answer to that is, absolutely! You can’t play poorly when the playoffs start. My guess is that all/most of us would rather have this season turned around. Lose early and end on a great winning streak leading into the playoffs. That wouldn’t guarantee a Championship, but we would all feel better about our chances if we were as hot going into the playoffs as we were 25 games ago. I think games matter, all games matter. They set the stage, determine attitudes, define confidence, bring a team together—every games matters, and right now I would guess that our attitudes and confidence are at a low ebb for the year and that’s not good. I’m still anticipating a championship, but not as confident of one as I was a month ago, because it matters when you lose games.

  9. Why take maeda out. Bullpen will blow it. 1b seager 2b Utley ss taylor 3b turner c barnes lf ethier cf bellinger rf puig that would be my starters

    1. Those runs are on Utley. He had plenty of time to get up. Once he double clutched, it’s time to get the out at first. A flair that the LF let drop, and an error set up that inning. Hard to blame Fields.

      1. Me too. I don’t really care about Granderson’s HR. I’d prefer more Andre in LF. Not sure if he can physically handle it though.

          1. Hawkeye

            I am worried about Dre in left too, but hasn’t he had a problem, with hits, close to the wall?

            I didn’t see that play he had trouble with, up against the wall.

          2. Hawkeye

            Your right about that, just like. with Reddick!

            I hope the front office doesn’t plan on trying to revive, every player, they make a trade for, at the trade deadline!

            Sometimes it is better, to just admit, the deal just didn’t work out!

            Of course I would love to be wrong, and Granderson does get some very big hits, for us, in the post season!

          3. He pulled up on a ball down the foul line near the wall the other night. It was probably a combination of protecting himself and rustiness.

  10. Ethier should still make the post-season roster. He would be a good pinch-hitter and he should still play in the OF as far as I am concerned.

    1. Hawkeye

      Thanks because I didn’t see that, but it is obvious he is the best hitter, of our choices.

      And they needed to play him more, so he could get better in the outfield.

    1. Hawkeye

      Remember you were saying he might be the guy, who makes the post season roster?

      We also have him, for another couple of years!

      1. He was so bad with the Reds so I’m not sure what to believe with him but he’s forcing his way on while Baez and Stripling are blowing it. They have seemed to have gotten to Cingrani about throwing his slider and using his fastball differently yet can’t get through to Baez. It makes me wonder if that’s why there were no mound visits the other night.

  11. Today ended up being a bullpen game and the pitchers used: Maeda, Avilan, Fields, Buehler, Morrow, Cingrani and Jansen just may be the playoff bullpen plus Watson or Ryu.

    21 players were used today and it was the 24th game in 24 days-1 off day and 1 DH. That is a brutal stretch in heat and humidity and it’s understandable some players might be tired. A long flight home and some rest before tomorrow’s home night game against the Giants, Hill against Shark. 6 more games until the next off day then a 3 game trip to Coors that ends the season and then some welcome rest for the weary before the playoffs begin.

    Ethier, Utley, Kike and Barnes seem to handle PH ok. Grandal and Forsythe do not, jury is out on AGon. This is not based on any stats just my eye test.

    1. I think you’re correct but I don’t believe Ryu makes the team for NLDS as a reliever. Reading Honeycutt’s quotes in LA Times makes me believe it is a long shot.

  12. Interesting article on ESPN.com

    Here’s an excerpt:
    “Taken individually, considering the Dodgers’ place in the division and the historic pace they were then on, each move could be defended as measured and well-considered. Cumulatively, though, they amounted to a backfire caught in a shifting wind; it created something it was intended to prevent, and something they were powerless to stop. As the losses accumulated, my mind went back to something Roberts said in Detroit: “We’ve turned over every stone looking for a potential weakness.” As one player described it, “It wasn’t broke, but we fixed it anyway.””

    http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/20765887/inside-los-angeles-dodgers-clubhouse-where-two-streaks-define-season

  13. I don’t remember where I heard it but it sounds like Grandal is having some serious issues with his knees. Don’t know if it’s effecting his swing but it’s probably impacting his mobility. I think Barnes is going to see significant playing time in the playoffs. Should we be rooting for the Brewers to pass the Rockies for a wildcard spot? They’re only a game back.

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