In the last thread, Tylerdurden31 stated that “If it clear we are one if the best five NL teams. We could be the best right now (even after an abysmal start). Between now and October we will experiment, test, and look for new ways to get production. Occasional failures like today must be tolerated in order to locate the growth potential in our roster. Win games? That’s last year. This year we are searching for The Formula.” Certainly logical, and something I might have said. For the last few years, the Dodgers have routinely experimented and tested in April and May, especially with the bullpen. By June they were ready to go. In 2016, Joe Blanton started out as the long man, but by June he was the setup guy (and used a lot). In 2017, Brandon Morrow was in OKC to start the year and did not become the setup guy until late June (and used a lot). This year they have already experimented with Baez, Stewart, Alexander, Garcia, Cingrani, Liberatore, Hudson, Chargois, Venditte, Goeddel, Font…and none of them are up to the task. Right now the most reliable is Fields and now he is out. I submit that the reason that Buehler pitched Thursday was because Fields went on the DL, and it was… “Okay let’s see what Buehler can do, because we know none of the others at OKC can get it done.” Buehler as a reliever failed last year. He is a starting pitcher. It takes a different warm up routine to get ready to start than it does for relief. I am sure he can learn to relieve, but do the 2018 Dodgers have that time. Buehler may not be able to get warm in a hurry as is required for relief. Plus he was already in OKC scheduled to start and was then summoned to LA and did not get to LA until Thursday AM for a noon game. And he is called before Ferguson? I think this speaks volumes about what the front office feels about their bullpen.
The season is half over after Friday’s game. Why do they still need to experiment? If the Dodgers want to continue to experiment and test in July and August, they may not make the playoffs. I still do not think Kershaw is completely healthy. His fastball is nowhere near it was when he dominated. I did not see the game live, but per Gameday he was relying on his 87-89 MPH slider with an occasional four seamer and curve. Pre 2018 (and in a non-playoff environment), there is no way Addison Russell gets a 2 out single to score Baez in a 2-0 game. The Dodger Ace right now is Ross Stripling and he started out as the long man in the bullpen, and was arguably the most reliable reliever until he joined the rotation. For AZ, Ray and Greinke both just had strong shutout performances in back to back games. Sure it was against the Fish, but then again the Fish beat the Dodgers 4 games to 2. In addition, Corbin is a solid #3, and Godley is a competent #4.
I do not get overly concerned about RISP stats. I wish they were better, but the Dodgers have generally relied on pitching and defense to win games. Five runs should be enough runs if there is good pitching and defense. This year they are lacking in both areas. Muncy is not a good defensive 1B. That fourth run does not score with Bellinger at 1B. For all the talk about Puig being a GG, he is a negative RF this year. He has a -1.1 UZR and a -4.1 UZR/150, and a -3.9 dWAR per fangraphs. Neither CT3 nor Kike’ can play SS with Seager. Kemp is not a problem in LF but he is certainly not a GG. Logan is not as dependable at 2B as he was last year.
The Dodgers pitching depth has kept them competitive (and FAZ deserves considerable credit for that), but is probably not enough to beat AZ. In addition, the Giants will be getting Cueto and Samardzija back soon. Maybe the LAD starting rotation rounds out by August, but maybe not. Their bullpen is a mess, and can only get better if (BIG IF) the rotation gets healthy and set, which was Mark’s premise and a logical one.
Washington is currently behind LA in the wild card race, but they have already shown that they plan to go all in this year. They would be silly not to. They are already over the luxury tax and will be losing multiple FA, so they might as well go for it. And with Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, and Roark, why not? Murphy is just getting back, and Harper isn’t going to hit .210 all year. If I am Washington, I bite the bullet and move Robles to get Realmuto. That move makes them an immediate considerable favorite to win the NL. They may not have a next year to point to. The Braves, Phillies, and Cardinals are not going away, and all three teams appear to be looking to improve at the deadline and have the prospects and cash to do it. The Brewers are the best team in the NL, and may be getting Jimmy Nelson back. They did not spend $$$ on Cain and prospects for Yelich to stop now. We know the Cubs will play Let’s Make A Deal at the deadline, and while the Cubs may not be better than the Dodgers right now, they are at least equal to them. The Cubs will spend what little they have in prospects to get back to the WS this year.
I will give FAZ credit. Nobody has any clue what they are going to do. They keep everything very close to the vest. So maybe they are in on deGrom or some other difference making starter. Maybe they are in on 2 or 3 lockdown late inning high leverage relievers. Maybe they are in on a better offensive 2B. We will know in about a month. But maybe the question should be, will they be buyers or sellers in a month?
One final note. I do not blame FAZ or Roberts or anyone else. This all started after Turner went down, and then Seager, and then Kershaw. They lost three other starting pitchers, and really the 5th one should have been on the DL as well. You can always point to games that were mismanaged, but the team plays well for Doc. They are not built to play situational ball that many of us would prefer. They are built for power, and that is exactly how they got back into it. We know Belly is a 30+ HR guy, but is Muncy? Kemp, Kike’, Grandal, and Joc are all in 20+ HR range with Puig and CT3 just outside 20.
Maybe Tylerdurden is right and FAZ and Roberts will continue to test and experiment, and ultimately find that winning formula in time. As Dodger fans we all hope they do. I do not believe they can get there with what they have now, and I do believe the other contenders will become buyers. Will the Dodgers spend some of that prospect capital for this year, or just keep holding to stay in contention for the next several years? At some point isn’t appropriate to say “____ it. It’s time to go out and win it this year and not worry about 3 years from now”. They are close enough to make a significant move, but are they willing?