From the time when Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi (“FAZ”) came to the Dodgers, I was their biggest proponent. I have admired what they have started and accomplished, including the hiring of Dave Roberts whom I believe is one of the best managers in baseball. I was never the biggest proponent of analytics and sabermetrics but I grew to see the value of using it. However, the past two games have exposed a real flaw in their plan and if they don’t fix it soon, the Astros are going to take this World Series. If that happens, the blame will be shared by the front office and the manager.
The use of analytics, splits, match-ups and a number of stats and formulas the average fan has no clue about is what helped this Dodger team get to their first World Series since 1988, so I can’t be outraged, but I am upset. The flaw is that FAZ and Doc have overused analytics in the World Series. I’m not saying they aren’t important during this time, but I am saying that sometimes, on the big stage, you have to use your eyes and not your analytics.
Case-in-point: A.J. Hinch had several opportunities to remove Lance McCullers, Jr. during that game, when he was in trouble, but he was not as concerned with the “match-ups” as he was with what he saw. McCullers battled for 5.1 inning before giving way to Brad Peacock who should have been a middle man or a long man if you look at analytics. Brad Peacock has a 5.00 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP (after his great outing), but Hinch didn’t look at the analytics – he trusted his eyes and saw a guy dominating the Dodger hitters with mostly his fastball, and he left him in there for 3.2 innings to finish the game and get his first EVER save.
Dave Roberts sticks with the plan: Starter, Maeda, Morrow and Jansen. Maeda went in for Rich Hill way too early and Dave didn’t allow him to pitch long. Last night Maeda went in for Darvish and was again pulled too early. With the DH, there was no reason to take him out so soon. He is burned for today’s game so why not see if he can go 3 or 4 innings?
It’s very obvious that Yu Darvish pitched like crap and Lance McCullers, Jr. was outstanding, and then Peacock was lights out the rest of the way. Analytics be damned – AJ Hinch managed with his eyes and gut. The fact of the matter is that the Dodgers Front Office and Field Manager have had their asses handed to them the past two games. Live by analytics and you die by analytics because humans play this game and sometimes you need to trust your gut and not the great numerical holy grail. I am not saying that analytics are not important, but it is important to trust your eyes.
Now, you can say “Well you can’t win when you only get 4 hits.” That is generally true, but the Dodgers know that they hit some pitches right on the screws last night… right at someone. That will even out. The Dodgers first 5 hitters were 2 for 18, but other than Cody Bellinger’s 4 strike outs, the rest of the team only struck out 3 times. Cody Bellinger is going to have to adjust to that down and in pitch… like now. So far, the Astros have figured out he cannot hit that pitch. It’s way past time for an adjustment. He has shown that ability to adjust in the past – he needs to relax and let the game come to him. In think he will!
Here’s what the Dodgers are facing: The bullpen is not very rested. Morrow might give you an inning. I would not want to count on Jansen for more than that either. Meada likely can’t pitch. Stripling might give you an inning, but do you want him? That leaves Fields, McCarthy and of course, Cingrani and Watson as situational guys. The reason I mention this is that Alex Wood goes for the Dodgers today, and the bullpen is tired after last night. Alex Wood was great the first half of the season, but his velocity is way down and so is his ability to pitch deep into games.
Hopefully, Wood will be dominant and pitch 6 or 7 strong innings, but I am not confident in that. However, I was more confident that Yu Darvish would do that and that was a disaster, so I guess you never know. It is a crap shoot and someone has to step up. Those someone’s could be Brandon McCarthy and Yasmani Grandal. You never know. What I do know is that the Dodgers need to bring out their big sticks tonight – that can cure everything.
BTW, Alex Wood has pitched one game at Minute Maid Park, back in 2014 when he went 7 innings and allowed 3 hits with no runs. You just never know.
BTW2: I was interviewed on The Balance Sports Talk Show today. Click HERE to listen.