With another home run last night the Dodgers improved their record to 62-38 when they hit at least one HR and are 15-26 when they don’t. Now, you can spin that a lot of ways like: “They need to play more small ball,” or the obvious: “They need to hit more home runs.” I suppose both could be true, but it’s hard to play “small ball” when you try and hit home runs. What’s the solution? Well, it’s not simple, but I am going to focus on a few players and what roles I think they should play.
Cody Bellinger was slow to adjust, but he has adjusted and continues to adjust. Most times with two strikes he shortens his swing and just tries to get a base hit. He still hits righties to the tune of .280 and lefties at a .220 clip, but his BAIP of .278 against LHP shows he’s not just a platoon player. He shows the willingness and aptitude to evolve… and the fact that he is doing that on the fly speaks volumes. Cody is hitting .305 with a .348 OB% the past 28 days. This has been a year of adjustments for Cody, who at 23 is still very young. He may not hit 30 HR this year but he will be close. Looking forward, I expect him to be close to a .300 hitter as he continues to adjust and improve against LHP.
Let’s compare Cody with another LH batter: Joc Pederson. Pederson is hitting .256 against RHP and .142 against LHP. His BAIP of .159 against LHP screams that he SHOULD NEVER BAT AGAINT A LEFTY! Joc is hitting .152 with a .259 OB% the past 28 days and yet Dave Roberts continues to hit him at leadoff. You may think that is puzzling. I don’t! It is flat-out insane! Joc will be 27 next season and will never hit LHP. He is a platoon player, PERIOD! If I were FAZ, I would try and find a trade partner… one who overvalues him. Joc is a 4th or 5th outfielder. My opinion is that Andrew Toles would fill his spot nicely.
Yasiel continues to tease us with his immense talent, but I am ready for that show to be over. Yes, I know he had a big hit last night, so this is not a knee-jerk reaction. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and I would not offer it if I were the Dodgers. That leaves his trade value very low, so he could likely sign anywhere. He will be 28 and maybe he will bloom somewhere else. It would be wonderful for Miami baseball to have him as an attraction, but I can’t see a trade happening. The past 28 days, Yasiel is hitting .216 with a .267 OB%. For the second year in a row, he has reverse splits. He is hitting .289 against RHP and .208 against LHP, yet Dave Roberts continues to roll him out there against LHP. More insanity!
I am going to just say right up-front that this is another player I want to move on from. If I were FAZ, I would tell him that they intend to acquire another starting catcher and that he will be the backup in 2019… and then give him the Qualifying Offer. Hopefully, that will motivate him to sign elsewhere (I think he will have several offers) and the Dodgers get another pick. I have been a big champion of Yasmani, but he never has became who I envisioned. Turn the page! Oh, the past 28 days, Yasmani has hit .125. Freaking .125! His OB% of .343 against RHP and .330 against LHP shows he’s really not a platoon player. He’s just not a player I want anymore. I’m done – Goodbye!
Matt Kemp is signed for one more year at $21.5 million. Worst case scenario is that he is the 4th outfielder. Everyone knows that he wants to be a Dodger and mopes and is depressed when he is not, so he shoves Twinkies down his piehole and balloons up to 282 pounds when he’s not. No thank you! He will most likely be a Dodgers in 2019 as he has little-to-no trade value. Again, he actually hits RHP better than LHP, so he should not be in a strict platoon. A leftfield combination of Matt Kemp and Andrew Toles would be nice in 2019. You really can’t look at Toles numbers, as he does not have enough history, but he passes the “eye test” with me. Let Matt retire a Dodger.
I love CT3, but I don’t love what he has done this year. However, I don’t “hate” it either. Baseball Reference has him at 3.2 WAR this year, while Fangraphs has him at 2.1. Either way, he’s no chump. He’s just not the CT3 of 2017, but he’s not that far off. His OB% is down 33 points, but that’s not crazy! Players have down years and I believe this is one for Chris Taylor, but he also has some work to do. The past 28 days cT3 is hitting .196 but his BAIP of .333 suggest he has been OK. Again, he has reverse splits, hitting RHP better than LHP, but he doesn’t drop to the level of being a reverse platoon player. Chris Taylor needs to take a page from Cody Bellinger’s book and learn to adjust… especially when he has 2 strikes. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts by 25% and if he does, the rest will follow. He’s a bottom-of-the-order hitter, not a top-of-the-order one. He has work to do over the winter. He is an asset in CF and will get better is plays every day there.
Patience Grasshopper! One more year! He just turned 27 and has shown growth. The last 28 days, he is hitting .327 with a .409 OB%. After being a LHP killer for years he now has reverse splits (but not by much), so he is capable. I always try and visualize what a player can become and I still see growth with Kike. I think he becomes a regular in 2019. A 2B who hits 25+ HR and bats .250 is my picture.
Next season, I would like to see Cody Bellinger play every game at 1B. His Gold Glove there wins games. Max Muncy will be the DH (it’s coming) and the outfield I want to see is Kemp, Toles, Taylor and Verdugo with Alex hitting in the leadoff spot. Assuming Corey Seager can return and play SS, I would start the season with Kike Hernandez at 2B and Cody and JT at the corners. Where I would upgrade is at catcher and it’s no secret I would try and get JT Realmuto. It makes no sense for Florida to hold on to him. Yes, it would take Keibert Ruiz and a couple of others to get him, but if I were the Dodgers, I would buy out the last 2 years of arbitration and give him a 5-year/$60 million dollar deal. The Dodgers then have Diego Cartaya who could understudy him the last year or so.
- Verdugo RF
- Seager SS
- Turner 3B
- Bellinger 1B
- Realmuto C
- Muncy DH
- Kemp/Toles LF
- Hernandez 2B
- Taylor CF
I like that team a lot! Let Dozier and Machado walk unless there is some crazy-good deal available. Farmer, Barnes and a couple of journeymen (maybe Freese is part of that) subs round out the bench. There are some pitchers who might be available, but I would not make any dope-fiend moves. Patrick Corbin would be nice, but at what price? The free agency period all revolves around Clayton. If I had to guess, I would say that he and the Dodgers agree on a two-year extension.
I am not sure Turner Ward’s approach is the right approach for this team. Part of his approach is working the count, taking pitches and trying to elevate the pitch count. The problem with that is it is likely that one of the sweetest pitches will be the first or the second pitch. The Dodgers are the best in the game at hitting homeruns and the best in the NL in scoring, but they are not consistent. Yes, when you jump on the first pitch bad or good things can happen, but maybe you have to be selective when you jump on that first pitch. With runners on first and second with no outs, you certainly want to stay out of the double play situation, so flailing away then might not be the right thing, but with a runner on 3rd with one out, may be the right time. Maybe it’s time to move on from Turner Ward. Maybe he goes to Miami with Yasiel.
Back to Now
I’d rather be lucky than good and last night was another quality start and another good win for the Blue. Clayton struggled for a minute but delivered, as did the bullpen by committee. Future Ace Strike Buehler goes tonight. Let’s see if he can adapt to Coors. Floro is developing the guts of a cat burgler. I would not be surprised if most of the pitchers who pitched last night, also pitched tonight. This is playoff baseball. It has to make Maeda more confident to get that save. This team is built for the Post-Season. Can they get there?