Let’s Get One Thing Straight…

OK, let’s get a bunch of things straight!

Not a bad finish for a team that “was just trying to get under the luxury tax.” Yep, I heard that all year. It wasn’t about winning, it was only about Tax Evasion.  Evidently, FAZ wasn’t too bad for guys who don’t care about winning.  But, I do and it was a bitter end to a tumultous season.The Dodgers were beaten by a team who won every playoff series by allowing their opponents to win only one game. The Yankees, Astros and Dodgers won a combined three games to Boston’s eleven games. Obviously the best team won. The sting is still there. Once again, the Dodgers are the second best team in baseball.  That’s not good enough and I think FAZ will push the envelope to get back to the World Series a third straight time.

Analytics

They aren’t going away and the Astros, Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox are at the forefront of the revolution.  Andrew Friedman IS a baseball guy, so if Farhan Zaidi, and they are surrounded byLong-Time Baseball Guyslike David Finley, Ismael Cruz, Galen Carr, Bill Gasparino, Josh Byrnes, Brandon Gomes, Gerry Hunsicker, Pat Corrales, Jose Vizcaino, Ralph Avila, and Raul Ibanez, who has turned down interviewes for other managment and front office positions – he is rising rapidly in the Dodger organization.

These are “baseball guys” who also use analytics. Many of you think they are fine with strikeouts and unproductive outs.  That’s just plain silly. Of course, they are not.  If you truly believe all of that baseball front office accumen is fine with that, well… I am sure there is a straight jacket in your size.  The Dodgers just have too many “all-or-nothing” players:

  • I believe some will improve(Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez and Cody Bellinger, all of whom I believe will evolve and improve – none are far away)
  • Some will move on as free agents(Yasmani Grandal, Brian Dozier, Manny Machado)
  • Some may be traded(Joc Pederson, maybe Puig and sadly,  Matt Kemp, if there is a buyer and there may not be one, the DH may come to the NL and that would help him)

The Dodgers have shown they aren’t afraid of change as half the 2018 roster was changed from 2017. Look for much of the same in 2019. The Dodgers will have to make room for Alex Verdugo, whom they have been loathe to trade.  I think he’s the next leadoff hitter.  He’s a right-fielder who can play center in a pinch and can play LF as well, but his arm is wasted there.  I don’t know if Max Muncy is sustainable. I am not saying he’s not, but I have to wonder.  I think if he went to the guy Kemp did last off-season and then worked on his footwork, he could play 2B!

They will probably re-sign David Freese, but he will be 36 and is not a starter.  He’s a role-player and a great guy to have on the team. Corey Seager will be back and hopefully healthy, but should the Dodegrs hedge their bets?  Gavin Lux and Kaybear Ruiz could be ready at some time next year, but I don’t think you can count on it. There are a lot of moving parts and dominos to fall.

Dave Roberts

I have been hot and cold on Dave Roberts, but I am fine with him staying. He made his share of mistakes as did Cora, but Cora’s players bailed him out.  Doc had no such luck. There is one so-called mistake that I do not believe was a mistake, and I heard a little more about it (actually a lot more) yesterday.  In the top of the sixth inning of the 4th game, Rich Hill spontaneouly sought out Dave Roberts and said something like: “Keep an close eye on me. I’m going to give it all that I have left.” What is interesting is that Rich Hill had never said something like that in the past to Dave Roberts.  Now, you can say “Well, Roberts should have asked him to clairfy what he meant.”PLEASE!In the middle of a pressure packed game, manageing 25 players and all the situations, you don’t engage in small talk.  Hill said something to Roberts for 20-30 seconds and Doc said OK and Hill walked away.

In the next inning, after a walk and a strikeout, Dave Roberts went to the mound with the sole purpose of “Keeping a close eye” on Hill, because Hill had never said that in the past.  We all have seen the video: Rich Hill handed the ball to Doc and walked off. Both parties were wrong in what they assumed.  Roberts thought Hill was saying “I’m done” and Hill thought Roberts was there to take him out because he never came out for anything else in the past.  However, Rich Hill had NEVER said “Keep a close eye on me...” on the past. I put ZERO BLAME for that on Roberts and very little on Hill.  You don’t have to attach blame to everything.  Sometimes stuff just happens, but if it makes you feel better, blame Doc.  Rich Hill should have said it differently if he did not want to come out.  I can see why he brought Alexander in, but not Madson.  That was a big mistake… obviously. There plenty of mistakes that Doc made… you don’t have to manufacture them! Finally, Hill is capable of coughing up the lead… no matter how well he was pitching.  In light of the context, Doc did what he felt he was forced to do.

David Price and Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will most likely opt out of his deal, unless a last-minute agrement surfaces.  If the Dodgers give him a $200 million dollar deal, they are competing only with themselves. Adding $50 to $60 million to his existing contract for two more years would be reasonable.  I think Clayton wants to stay… but you never know.  If he goes to Texas, he will retire with an ERA above 3.00.

Why do I mention David Price?  In 2016, he had a 3.99 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP.  In 2017, he missed major time and only pitched 74 innings with a 3.38 ERA. This season he started slowly and had 3.58 ERA. His post-season ERA is still 4.62 but he pitched in three games this World Series ansd won 2 with a 1.98 ERA. He’s almost 3 years older than Clayton and he turned it around… so there is still hope for Clayton.    Luck plays a part.  Kershaw is 9-10 with a 4.2 ERA in the Post-Season, but his WHIP Is 1.09. David Price has a 1.20 WHIP in the Post-Season.

There are three questions:

  1. How bad is Clayton Hurt?  Back, arm, hip?
  2. Can he get healthy?
  3. Can he re-invent himself like Greg Maddux and  come up with a changeup?

If he can get healthy and re-invent himself, he can pitch another 4 to 6 years…. very effectively, but he has to change.  It’s a possibility that he could be too stubborn. I don’t know… If Clayton changes his approach, he could have another Cy Young or two left in his arm.  I truly believe that! He just has to evolve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAtIZafyeHI

Joe Kelly & Nathan Eovaldi

Everyone wants Joe Kelly. That 100 MPH fastball and all his great stuff is amazing… Here’s the problem:Which Joe Kelly will you get?  The Joe Kelly of 2015 with an ERA of 4.82? The Joe Kelley of 2016 with an ERA of 5.18?  The Joe Kelly of 2017 with an ERA of 2.79, the Joe Kelly of 2018 with a 4.39 ERA or the 2018 World Series Joe Kelly with a 0.00 ERA and  a 0.67 WHIP?  Relievers are fickle.  Someone will gve him a big deal… probably… and maybe he will be Smokin’ Joe the rest of his career… or he could be Joe Smoked.

On the other hand, Nathan Eovaldi is the real deal, with his cutter and new fastball grip.  He’s in line for a $100 million dollar deal.  He may be worth it…  He would be a great starter or awesome closer, but at that kind of money, you have to pay him as a starter.  If Kershaw leaves, then I would make a run at him.  At 28, he’s worth the risk, even though he’s had two Tommy Johns’ – he should be good for 4 to 5 more years.

The Dodgers have a lot of young pitchers in the minors who could help NEXT SEASON:

  • Dennis Santana– Missed a lot of the season and doesn’t have enough pitches to start, but could be effective in relief.
  • Caleb Ferguson– See Santana.
  • Mitch White– Outside chance he could pitch in the pen, but he has a lot of pitches – he just can’t command them all. Maybe if he just focused on two in the pen…
  • Tony Gonsolin– I see him as a starter, but he could pitch for a year out of the bullpen.
  • Marshall Kasowski– Strictly born to be  reliever… and I think a good one.
  • Jensen Therrien– He’s working with that “Rat” Eric Gagne and allegedly has filthy, if not overpowering, stuff.
  • Yadier Alvarez and Yasiel Sierra– Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed… but what talent!

Gripes

  • Watched too many called 3rdstrikes. Indecision may or may not be part of the Dodger hitters problems.  It’s hard to be patient and aggressive at the same time.  Is Turner Ward part of the solution or part of the problem?
  • In the playoffs, more than ever, teams pitched the Dodgers up in the zone and that produced a lot of fly balls and pop-up due to the improper launch angle.
  • The Red Sox had two of the Top Offensive Players in the game in Betts and Martinez and the Dodgers pretty well shut them down, but as I said before, who would have thought trading for Steve Pearce whould have been better than trading for Manny Machado?
  • Sometimes it’s just who get hot… when – Kelly, Eovaldi, Price, Porcello, Pierce, Rodriguez!  Sometimes it’s just luck… or call, it whatever.

Arizona Fall League

  • Kaybear Ruiz is hitting .316 in the AFL, with a .396 OB%. Maybe his development is accelerating.
  • Jordan Sheffield is smoking hot as a reliever 5 IP/2 H/0.00 ERA.

What Happens Next

If you subscribe to The Athletic, then you already know about their amazing content, and if you don’t, then here’s an exerpt of what you are missing.  I can’t say it any better thanPedro Moura of The Athletic:

As​ his Dodgers have come a collective 10 wins short of​ a dynasty in​ his​ three years​ on​​ the job, Dave Roberts has proven he can reason in real time better than most major league managers. He has served as an ideal spokesman for the organization: thoughtful, cheerful and measured in his remarks. Players have repeatedly responded to his persistent positivity.

But the 2018 World Series could break anyone. Presented with the toughest of competition, Roberts deployed his bullpen in debatable fashion and attracted the metropolitan area’s ire. In the minutes before Sunday’s fifth and final game, he received hearty boos from the home fans. Hours earlier, one of his veteran players requested a meeting with him, seeking to clarify the previous night’s events.

Rich Hill had told Roberts during Game 4’s sixth inning to keep an eye on him, to monitor him batter by batter as he attempted to hold a four-run lead in the seventh inning. Roberts had treated that information as an alarm, as anyone in his shoes would, and replaced Hill earlier than fans wanted — earlier, too, than he wanted, it seems clear.

After the decision blew up and the victorious Boston Red Sox thrashed every reliever he tried, Roberts chose to disclose the details of his discussion with Hill during his postgame press conference, alleviating some of the blame accumulating on him. Had he not, the context of their conversation would never have become public. Hill would never have felt his competitiveness impugned.

Closer Kenley Jansen said the widespread criticism of Roberts this series was unfair, noting he could have re-structured the narrative by pitching better when called upon in relief of Hill. Third baseman Justin Turner said it was “stupid” to question whether the team wanted Roberts back.

Outside, he saw Kershaw. The two men embraced and shared a few words. Roberts pounded his ace’s chest in appreciation and walked away. There is a good chance the two will reunite for the future in pursuit of redemption. There is also a chance that Game 5 was it. And it was not much. Kershaw fought through seven innings, beaten three times for home runs. His teammates failed to generate a hit after the third inning or a ball in play after the seventh. Boston bounded ahead three minutes after the first pitch and forever held the lead.

The next several days should shape the course of the Dodgers’ offseason. Kershaw has three days to decide whether to exercise his opt-out clause. Roberts, too, has some leverage, with some managerial openings remaining.

Pedro end with this:

“You have to realize that we are a really good team to get to go to the World Series two years in a row,” Kershaw said. “It might not be a personnel thing. It might just be a ‘play better’ thing.”

Hill did not know Roberts had not yet signaled for a reliever. We will never know how this series would have gone if Hill had been a bit more arrogant and insistent. Soon, we will know if it will affect Roberts’ future with this team.

The Atheleticis incredible!Pedro Moura has a Q & A session today from 4-6 PT.  Check it out.  I’ll talk more later about what I think will happen… or what I would like to see happen this offseason (JT Realmuto). Keep the faith!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ph7oZnBH05s

This article has 102 Comments

  1. We need offense. We have money. Sign harper to a monster deal with an opt-out after 4 years. The rest will be done on the margins.

  2. The issue behind the plate needs to be addressed. Smith or Ruiz? Not ready? Who will the Dodgers have as their catchers in 2019. Your thoughts please.

    1. sign a free agent to a one-or-two year deal. by that time smith and/or ruiz should be ready. barnes is a perfectly fine back-up.

      1. I think they offer Grandal the QO. There’s not many catchers you can trade for who would be an upgrade over Grandal. I would trade Smith or Ruiz for Realmuto with Cartya being 3+ years away. I know it would take other prospects.

        1. i’m hearing rumors they might not offer it to him. make a clean break. same source tells me they may offer ryu a multi-year deal.

  3. “Now, you can say “Well, Roberts should have asked him to clarify what he meant.” PLEASE! In the middle of a pressure packed game, managing 25 players and all the situations, you don’t engage in small talk. Hill said something to Roberts for 20-30 seconds and Doc said OK and Hill walked away.”
    Seriously Mark? You consider that small talk when the World Series is hanging in the balance? Roberts and Hill should have straightened it out, then and there.

    1. Totally disagree! That’s not how converstaions go in sports and the guys who play agree. I’ve listened to and talked to plenty. What was he supposed to say “Are you sure, do you want to get into your safe place? Hey, come back!”

      And… if Hill had given up a HR, the same people would have blasted Roberts for that.

      Hill told Dave to watch him carefully, so when Dave came out and Hill handed him the ball, should Dave have grabbed him?

      1. By the way, the National Media is totally in Doc’s corner on this.

        The only people who put the blame on Doc are bitter Dodger fans who blame everything on him anyway.

        1. What makes you think people who question decisions are ‘bitter’? I’m not bitter. You’re the wishy-washy one here with regards to Roberts, not me.

        2. Dude, that is not correct. I watched pretty much every minute of each game and pregame and postgame. Doc sucks, he needs to stop sucking and that’s what you get when you hire a yes man with no managerial experience. Even Hairston and Garciaparra were questioning his moves. All the announcers were questioning the all right handed lineup. Hell, he should be fired for batting Kike Hernandez third in an elimination game. He should be fired for not playing Kemp, his best hitter with RISP all year. FAZ wants to extend Roberts because he’s their puppet. Walters better get involved here and tell FAZ to stop interfering with game management, and maybe they need to hire a bench coach to protect Roberts from himself. You can’t say it isn’t Roberts fault when most of his moves don’t pan out. Taking out Baez after he strikes out two guys to bring in another cold lefty reliever after Baez retired 32 straight lefties? Every freaking move he made sucked. Bring in Madson with runners on after he allowed runners on to score in two previous games? Man, you are making me red just reliving this. Leaving Caleb off the roster for Alexander? Why not Wood. Just over-managing again and again and again. Insanity…

          Wow, that felt good to get it off my chest. Someone better get fired.

          1. Thank you. Your post included about 25% of the things Roberts decided wrong. The other 75% would just take up too much room. Saying Cora and Roberts had equal amount of horrible decisions is slander against Cora. 59inarow the things you mention Roberts did in game 5 were so right on I found myself clapping while I read your list.
            Let’s be honest here. Roberts managing in this World Series was beyond horrible, beyond atrocious, beyond incompetent, they were even bad in comparison to last years World Series! They were so bad that if he is not fired, that would be a decision even worse than one of Roberts managing decisions!!

          2. Yup… pretty much agree with most of that. As the saying goes, it’s the definition of insanity.
            And you’re right… if it’s left up the Friedman and Zaidi of course they won’t fire Doc… it would be like firing themselves.

        3. Does the East count in national media? Some writers
          here have begun to see a pattern in Dave’s playoffs.

  4. I have been hot and cold on Doc, but I never thought his job was in danger. I do not agree with many of his lineups, and I do not agree how he manages the bullpen, especially in the WS. I do not know if the stage was too big for him at the time, but he is learning. AJ Hinch was a bust as a DBacks manager before he became a genius as an Astros manager. Or maybe Jeff Luhnow went out and got players. I know Alex Cora did it in his 1st year. He made some critical mistakes, but his team was built to beat those mistakes. I think I could have won the WS with that BoSox team. I am happy for Alex, but would he have won the Division with the Dodgers? Could he have kept the DBacks in the race better than Lovullo? We will never know. But we do know that the 2018 Boston Red Sox team was one of the very best in MLB history.
    .
    Doc will get the extension, and he will be a Dodger manager for the foreseeable future. He is exactly what FAZ wants. But I would like for him to take responsibility for some of his decisions that do not work out. He initially let everyone believe that Hill said he was tiring. That is not what he said. Was there a miscommunication? Absolutely. But whose fault is that? It is not the player’s fault if the manager did not know what was meant by what was said. And yes Doc should have clarified the statement right then and there. What was more important than understanding what your starting pitcher in Game 4 of the WS had just said. Hill has shown up Roberts before (remember no hitter when he was pulled?) and he did not want to show him up on this stage. Roberts has always come and taken him out on his visit so why would this time be any different? This was Game 4 of the WS not Game 78 of the regular championship season. Check the egos and get on the same page, and if that is not the manager’s job then I do not know what is.
    .
    Even with the warts and all, Doc has guided the team to 3 consecutive NLCS series and 2 consecutive WS. AJ Hinch did not do that. Tito Francona did not do that. Joe Maddon did not do that. If you do not want Doc, who are you going to replace him with. I love Chase Utley as much as anyone, but do you honestly believe he would be a better manager than Doc right now? Based on what? Because he hustles down the line? Because he is Dad to everyone? He is a great mentor and teammate, but that does not always translate into being a great manager.
    .
    Which brings me to Kershaw. I read a lot of comments about if Clayton opts out the Dodgers should just let him go and spend the money on others. WHO???? Manny Machado? Bryce Harper? Patrick Corbin? Dallas Keuchel?
    Josh Donaldson? Clayton is a competitor and stubborn with an ego. He is not looking for another $200MM contract. He would take it, but no team is going to offer him one. I do not see a team offering him Yu Darvish money. Clayton will opt out, and will leave if his desire is to raise his family in Dallas (as has been rumored). But for those who do not want to see the Dodgers re-sign Clayton if he opts out, is there a contract that might be reasonable? What if he accepted 2 additional years for a total of $100MM with payment structured no matter how he wants it? That is an AAV of $25MM which is a $5MM AAV savings. Or are you saying that Manny Machado is worth Clayton’s $25MM for 10 years, and that is where the Dodgers should spend their money? Or save the $25MM and bump it to $30MM for Bryce Harper? Count me as one who wants FAZ to sign Kershaw to a 4 year $100MM with a $25MM option and $5MM buyout. I will leave it to the lawyers/agents to muck it up with incentive laden clauses to make the option automatically vest. $125MM is not too much for someone who has been more important to this organization not named Sandy Koufax.

    1. I am of the opinion that Clayton will be a Dodger next year. I can’t see hiom pitching for a re-building team and I can’t see him going anywhere except Texas or LA… even if Philly offered him $200 million.

    2. Doc has been lucky to have a leg up in a mediocre NL west.

      The others you compared hin to, not so much.

      Agree big time about Chase.

      When you get a chance, please explain to Mark when he screams the FO
      is not responsible for the swings and misses who actually, like, y’know,
      obtained those very same players in the billion-dollar splurge.

      1. And this year, Doc had essentially a walkover with the not-quite-ready
        young Braves, and the pitching-damaged Brews took him to seven games,
        on a fraction of the last four years team-building budget.

  5. I would give Grandal the $17.9MM QO. I do not expect that he would accept the QO as he will undoubtedly get more of a guarantee elsewhere, and because in the last two WS, Grandal has a total of 10 PA while Austin Barnes has 37 PA. The only reason that he would accept the QO is if he believed he would have a much better year to increase his marketability. I doubt that he gambles on that. But if he did, then that is one year more for Smith and Ruiz to develop, and the Dodgers would not need to go out and find another catcher.
    .
    Ryu is another QO possibility. $17.9MM is a lot for a pitcher that has had injury issues, and while he pitched a stellar game against Atlanta (NLDS), he did not fare very well against Milwaukee (NLCS) or Boston (WS). Scott Boras is his agent, so I would not think he would accept the QO. However, again if he did, that would give the Dodgers another year for development of Dennis Santana and maybe Caleb Ferguson if he wants to start. That would also make Alex Wood much more expendable, not needing both LHSP, especially if Clayton does come back (as I expect him to do), Julio Urias, and Rich Hill all penciled in as starting pitchers.
    .
    There is an upside to both accepting the QO, but I do not see either one doing so. By giving the QO the Dodgers would get compensatory draft picks. To me it is a win-win.

    1. The only reason the National media is in Robert’s court, is because he is a nice guy and they know that this front office is managing this team, and because of that, Roberts doesn’t do anything this front office doesn’t want him to do, for example, like the extreme platooning.

      And really, the the National media is a sleep most of the time when the Dodgers play anyways, so they don’t know what Roberts does from game to game.

      And I have never been a Roberts hater, but he needs to put his foot down sometimes, because he is the one that really knows all these players, and he has played Major League Baseball before, so he is very aware how hard it would be to hit, with these constant and extreme platoons for example, like this team used, at the end of the year.

      That move was terrible because Hill was dealing, and Alexander does exactly what a reliever should not do, almost every time he comes into a game, and that is walk a hitter and give them a free base, and Alexander had just did that in the game before, and almost lost that game.

      And Madson should have been the last pitcher in that pen for Roberts to go to especially with two runners on base, not only because he had already allowed every runner he inherited to score in this World Series, he also gave a free base to two hitters he faced in the three games he appeared in, in this World Series.

      Like AC said, Hill has never been allowed to stay in a game after Roberts went out there, and because of that, Hill has had to hide his desire to finish games, because he is a team player.

      Why was Kershaw allowed to stay in an elimination game, after he gave up a two run HR, yet Hill is removed after he pitches 6 plus innings of one hit ball, and he had just struck out his last hitter, on three strikes?

      How can anyone have any credibility after making these two decisions in back to back games, in the World Series?

      The reason Roberts is still getting a multi year contract after that, is because he is doing everything this front office wants him to do, including when he took Hill out of that game.

      That is probably the same reason Roberts put Hill under the bus to the press, because he was not only protecting himself, he was protecting this front office too.

      And by the way in that same article in the LA Times yesterday, Friedman said he didn’t regret not getting a better reliever, at the trade deadline.

      And he said the reason the Dodgers lost this World Series, was because they picked a bad time, to have a bad week.

      1. I’ll answer just one of those questions:
        Why was Kershaw allowed to stay in an elimination game, after he gave up a two run HR, yet Hill is removed after he pitches 6 plus innings of one hit ball, and he had just struck out his last hitter, on three strikes?

        Answer:I’m guessing that Kershaw didn’t go to Roberts and say “Keep a close eye on me…”

    1. That’s a very good point! The Red Sox hitters really responded. Of course, some of that can be put on JD Martinez who some say is the best hitting coach in baseball.

      1. Agree, Mark. Excellent point by Rudy. John S. had great praise
        for Hyers during game 5…. I like John S. Talks a little much, but
        name me a current booth “expert” who doesn’t. And the stuff
        about him being partisan? No sale in my house…

  6. Thanks Mark for taking the side of rational thought – not emotionalism. Sure we are all disappointed and pissed. If we weren’t we’d hardly deserve to call ourselves Dodger fans. It’s clear that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Dodger’s approach to offense. Whether it’s launch angle homeritis or not, it was extremely frustrating to watch these good athletes repeatedly make the same mistakes. For instance, Cody Bellinger looked like he was changing his approach against Milwaukee, only to fall into the same bad habits hitting against Boston. This kind of thing is ultimately on the players – but you have to wonder why coach Turner couldn’t get through to these guys. Maybe firing is too severe, but a message needs to be sent.

    Again, thanks Mark for hosting this blog. It is by far my favorite and I look forward to your offseason suggestions and speculations.

  7. Saying Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are baseball guys redefines “Baseball”.
    I like the guys, well I like Freidman, Zadi not as much, but maybe we need a definition of “Baseball Guys”which I don’t offer up because its more an understood concept not one with a hard definition.

    Freidman played baseball in HS, went to Tulane on a baseball scholarship where he mostly was injured, after graduation was an Analyst for Bear Stearns, then met Stuart Sternberg of the Rays and their relationship evolved from there.
    Zadi grew up in the Philippines, went to MIT for his undergraduate in Science, then on to UC Berkeley for a PhD in economics.
    I fail to see the baseball guys connection in either one.

    In fact, I think it would serve the Dodgers well if someone hired Zadi away and a real Baseball Guy replaced him to bring balance back to the over analytical Dodgers.

    1. baseball’s not that hard to understand. probably easier to learn than physics or abstract mathematics. i’m sure he gets it just fine.

      1. Only experience can teach someone the subtleties of the game.

        It isn’t something that someone just picks up.

        1. ok, but if the premise that Zaidi doesn’t get baseball, i think that’s a flawed analysis. i mean, does michael jordan automatically become a great executive because he was a great player? i think even if Zaidi lacks the “feel” of a true baseball lifer, he’s probably surrounded by enough of these guys to make the issue moot. for the most part we have handled some of the thorny personnel issues quite well: bellinger being exposed by advanced scouting and pitching; grandal stopping being effective; puig’s lack of following directions; injuries to core players. i think we’ve most things well but just haven’t closed the deal. if that were truly that easy to do . . . long story short, i think FAZ inherited somewhat of a mess of a roster due to ned colletti’s incompetence but that’s just a personal hobby horse for me. overall, we’ve done well. how to drown in two feet of water basically.

          1. I was not a fan of Ned and Logan’s work. But at a fraction of
            the bucks, they had the Ds either in or close to the playoffs
            yearly, with some pretty odious ownership. So I don’t buy
            the “mess” descriptor. Limited, flawed? Yup. But so have the last
            two Ds rosters been. See your number 3 hitter in the last game:-).

  8. I would NOT have blasted Roberts if he left Hill in the game, and then Hill gave up a HR. Why? Because I had determined in my mind at the time that Hill should not be removed. It would have been the height of hypocrisy to then have criticized Doc after agreeing that Hill should remain in the game.

    And I don’t care how conversations go in sports. The rational and thoughtful thing to do would have been to take another 30 seconds to clarify the situation. I expect my manager to be able to think out of the box and think on his feet. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    All that said I agree with most everything else you said. And if there is anything I disagree with, I have no desire to scroll back up on this phone 🙂 .

    1. Brooklyn exactly!

      I was on record here with my comment even before that seventh inning started, because Roberts had Dozier standing on deck to hit, if Barnes was able to get on base, because there was already one runner on base.

      Because I didn’t think giving Dozier an at bat with runners on base with two outs, was worth losing Hill in this game, with as dominant as he had been.

      And after Hill went out there and barely walked the first hitter, and then struck out his next hitter on three pitches, I never thought for a minute, that I would trust Alexander or Madson over Hill, to finish the seventh inning.

      And how can anyone think Madson is a good option with two runners on base, after he had allowed every runner he inherited to score in this World Series, not to mention, he had also walked two hitters after he first went in to two of these games?

      And Alexander does anything but help, most of the time he comes into a game, just like he did, in that game before!

      1. Agree with Bklyn and MJ, with a small twist. In the Ryu exchange
        in Boston, I was fine with taking him out. But NOT for Madson.
        In this game, I would have been ok (just ok, I thought Rich was showing
        signs of tiring, but not serious ones) with taking him out, and did not have
        the same problem with the choice of Alexander as I had with Madson.
        I simply hated it. Hated it. Hated it….

  9. The Astros GM:

    Jeff Luhnow (born December 29, 1966) is the current general manager and president of baseball operations of the Houston Astros, serving in the role since December 2011. He worked for the St. Louis Cardinals in their scouting department from 2003 through 2011. Prior to working in baseball, Luhnow was a business entrepreneur.

    Luhnow joined the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003. Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. had noticed what the Oakland A’s had done with their Moneyball tactics and was looking to run his team in a more analytical, data-driven manner when he first hired Luhnow as vice president in 2003. Luhnow knew DeWitt’s son-in-law from working at McKinsey & Company and from there, Luhnow met DeWitt and landed the job. Luhnow’s hiring initially raised eyebrows, since he had no previous experience in baseball and had not played the sport since high school. He was derided with nicknames like “the accountant” and “Harry Potter.”

    Luhnow began as the Cardinals’ vice president of baseball development, as he established a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic and extended the Cardinals’ scouting in Venezuela. The Cardinals promoted him in 2005 to the role of vice president of player procurement, which made him the director of amateur, international and domestic scouting. He was named vice president of scouting and player development in 2006.

    During his time with the Cardinals, he developed a reputation for scouting and player development, and he is credited with having a key role in the team’s successes in the minor leagues. The Cardinals won five minor league championships under his watch, and had the best system-wide minor league record in 2010. From 2005 to 2007, the first three Cardinals drafts overseen by Luhnow produced 24 future major leaguers, the most of any team during that period. Several players who made important contributions to the Cardinals’ victory in the 2011 World Series, including Jaime Garcia, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Lance Lynn, were drafted during Luhnow’s tenure.


    I’d say he less of a baseball guy than Zaidi… and he’s been pretty dad gum successful! I’m not in love with Farhan but I don’t dislike him either. I think every decision is ran by the entire “Braintrust.”

      1. With one out and Hill still in that game in the seventh inning, our odds for winnng that game at that time, was 95 percent.

        1. those percentages are historical and not predictive. nobody knows what’s going to happen because the future hasn’t occurred yet. Bayesian statistics can attempt to account for new information but in sports it is imperfect at best. just because an event is unlikely to happen doesn’t mean it won’t.

          1. Dionysis

            You might be right, but where is the common sense with this bunch?

            The numbers along with the most recent history against that team, didn’t justify their moves, or justify them, throwing Hill under the bus.

            And their arrogance doesn’t allow themselves, to learn from their mistakes.

          2. i’m largely with you, MJ. the tell that they don’t have complete conviction in their methods is that they will abandon them at a moment’s notice if things aren’t working well. bullpen management has been abysmal in two straight postseasons and possibly three if you count the year we rode kershaw like a rented mule just to reach the NLCS! i’m not real happy with the team but i keep coming back for more. like the guy in “house of games” says: “Thank you, Sir. May I have another!”

  10. almost a lock that the phillies will sign either machado or harper

    i’d like to see machado there

    1. Dionysis

      I am just a glutton for punishment too.

      But we weren’t alone after that game, I think everyone in Baseball felt this way, and that is why I am still mad that I missed High Heat, on Sunday!

  11. Mark, you have a great post today – lots of things to ponder.

    1 – Analytics are here to stay. And why wouldn’t they be? Information is power and more is always better. The Dodgers are alleged to have the largest analytics organization in MLB (20!). The question is what you do, not only with what the nerds come up with, but how you blend it with what the baseball guys say. I think that is where the rubber meets the road and where many (myself included) have issues.
    2 – Strikeouts! The World Series ended fittingly with the last 6 Dodgers striking out. I have to disagree with you on this issue. The baseball nerds don’t believe that strikeouts are a problem for hitters, even though they are good for pitchers. I had a lengthy post on this the other day. They believe that high K guys are high slug guys and are therefore better offensive players. If you believe that the Braintrust is really smart, then you have to assume that it assembled the roster that it did on purpose. They are looking for HR hitters, launch angle guys, high slug guys.

    Here is an excerpt from my post the other day:
    ” If you want to be a star hitter you have to walk a lot (or else you won’t have a high OBP) and you have to hit the ball hard (or else you won’t have a high SLG). Making contact isn’t the goal. Doing damage and producing runs is the goal.

    Where the high whiff crowd pulls away is in slugging. The whiffers hit the ball much harder than the non-whiffers. It makes sense, the harder you swing the less likely you are to hit the ball, but when you do hit it you tend to do some real damage” (from a St. Louis Cardinals blog)

    And “In addition, more and more batters are tailoring their swings to hit home runs by launching the ball hard in the air. As a result, pitchers are less likely to stay in the strike zone: As a group they threw 52 percent of their pitches in the zone in 2006 and were targeting the zone just 43.4 percent of the time entering Friday night’s games. Meanwhile, hitters have become less afraid of chasing those pitches. Twelve years ago, hitters swung at 23.1 percent of pitches out of the zone; that has jumped to 29.6 percent in 2018.” (from the Washington Post)

    The ‘Trust assembled a roster of guys to hit HRs and “do damage”. They eschewed contact guys in preference for “slug” guys. The strikeouts are the logical product of this roster construction. You can’t have it both ways.

    3 – Roster issues. Kike has been there for a few years and he is what he is – a complimentary piece who’s flaws are exposed with too much use. He has pop and is a versatile and valuable defensive performer, but he will not likely ever hit much above .250 and he will always K too much.

    Taylor had his career season in 2017. The league has caught on to him. It was interesting listening to John Smoltz talking about Taylor’s “grooved swing” from a pitcher’s perspective – Taylor is looking for a certain pitch in a certain place and if he doesn’t get it he won’t hit it. His unbelievable K numbers, especially his K’s looking testify to this. He is like Kike – valuable but limited and exposed with overuse. I wonder how many guys like this they need?

    Bellinger is a real concern. He was exposed by the Astros in the ’17 Series and hasn’t been the same since. He has a really long swing and problem with plate coverage – big holes in the swing. He is also valuable for his power and his defensive versatility. I don’t know that he’s ever going to be the start that many thought he’d be after is 2017 season.

    They will need a new catcher in 2019. If the team doesn’t have the confidence in Grandal to play him in consecutive World Series, that speaks volume. I can see making him a qualifying offer but by no means do they make him a long term commitment. Barnes is no better than a back-up. The catchers in the minors reportedly aren’t ready for prime time yet. A short term rental is in order but I have no idea who. It won’t be Realmuto. The Fish want a king’s ransom in prospects for him.

    The OF glut needs to be addressed. They have Taylor, Kike , Bellinger, Puig, Joc, and Kemp on the 25 man and Verdugo and Toles ready to go. They won’t be able to unload Kemp so he’s there for another year. The Braintrust loves its utility guys to Taylor and Kike stay. Bellinger still has the potential for stardom so he stays. That leaves Puig and Joc as guys to go. Puig has come up big for the Dodgers many times but is slated to make almost $12MM in his last arb eligible season and Joc is cheap. The Braintrust loves the slug guys and Verdugo and Toles aren’t that. Verdugo is younger than Toles and has more potential. I’m guessing that either Joc or Puig and maybe Toles are gone.

    I can’t see making Ryu a qualifying offer. He is just too fragile. He was good in his 70 innings last year but $17.9MM is a lot for 70 innings and they have lots of other pitchers. I’m guessing he’s gone.

    Kershaw will opt out and/or will sign an extension. He’s not going anywhere. I think he has better days ahead. His arm is sound and his back will come around.

    They don’t have to resign Freese – he has a team option for $6MM next season.

    Muncy and Freese will be the corner infield equivalent to Taylor and Kike – guys who play multiple positions and can be exposed with too much playing time but are valuable in part-time roles. Don’t look for Muncy to have another season like 2018 though.

    4. Roberts – he’s not going anywhere. He never was. He manages the way the Braintrust wants him to. He takes the data and does with it what the ‘Trust wants – matchup and platoons, early hooks of starting pitchers, etc. The team is what the ‘Trust designed and Roberts is exactly what it wants to run the team – less of a field general than a guy who will take the data and direction and pass it down to the troops. He is more a middle manager than a field general. Can you imagine an Alston or a Lasorda listen to the point-heads in the front office tell him who to play or when?

    Free agents – I don’t think that Machado or Harper will be wearing the Blue next year. The Dodgers have guys who play their positions and I don’t see the Braintrust giving anyone a 10 year $300MM contract. The big need in my view is in the bullpen but the ‘Trust has a long-maintained preference for cobbling together a ‘pen out of failed starters, AAAA guys and youngsters and since that is what they have done every season, why would they do anything different this season? The question is what guys who finished the season with the Dodgers will be there by the end of next season? That’s where the bulk of the changes were that Mark referenced. The team will rotate several guys in and out of the ‘pen before settling on their 7 or 8 guys. My crystal ball isn’t nearly good enough know who will be left in the bullpen carousel.

    1. Logical and insightful post.

      I keep hoping the brain trust moderates some of their analytical ways that you mention above, but that may be somewhat delusional on my part.

      I will say the product presently on the field, filled with lots of strikeouts and an inability to hit with RISP is a boring and very frustrating product to watch.

        1. Second Bruce’s motion. Bring back level playing field. Stop
          penalizing (mostly lefties) offensive skills honed in a lifetime
          of work. Talk about changing the rules in the middle of the game!

          Simple. Seven catcher’s boxes in the most appropriate places
          infield and out. Fielders must have a foot in before pitch, can
          head anywhere they like after release:-). The geniuses (I’m
          lookin’ straight at you, Joe from Hazelton) who must win at all
          costs, even the pleasure of good offensive displays a few times
          a week, must grow up. Winning is not the only thing….

    2. Rick: re: #1. I’ve been singing that tune since Bill James came
      out with his “revolutionary” extract. Many of whose principles
      made sense to me as a kid in Bklyn in 1955 (when I loved Gilliam’s
      walks – contris to his OBP!). Le game, as so many human acts, best served
      by the marriage of art and science.

      Re: #2. I posted that above, before reading your excellent work here.
      MT seems to want to admire the FO, no matter how often faced with a
      moderate-to-poor bang-for-buck performance relative to a dozen other
      MLB teams. In this org, even more than others, the hitters are not
      striking out, at record paces sometimes, without the express design and
      continued approval of the Billion Dollar Boys. That mean they like the
      Ks? Nope. But they do like the long ball enough to steel themselves to
      them.

      And MT, agree with much of your opener above – but Ds were not even
      close to the second best in the game this year.
      And the pudding says
      they were not all that deep (again, Kike hitting #3, and Madson first
      critical choice out of pen, for just two examples), and not designed as
      much for the post-season as a certain Kike’ fan swore they were all
      year. They got by an easy mark in the Braves, and struggled to seven
      against a wounded Brew Crew. Not all that, before being taken to school
      by the Sox, even with, to put it generously, modest contris from the
      Sox hitting stars. I’d go so far on my contrarian horse to say they were
      better designed for the marathon season than the final crucible sprint.

      The glass was, after all, with full 20-20 foresight, half empty:-).

      Thanks to almost everone here for a fun few days.

  12. Was everyone aware that Kershaw not only had back problems when he went out, he also was having shoulder problem too?

    1. Yes. He has back, hip, and shoulder concerns. I don’t know which came first, but they are all intertwined. But my guess is that the shoulder problem emanated from the back/hip issue.

      1. off-topic, but if we had to put together a Wizard of Oz cast of characters for our team, which player would be which character?

        1. Joc as Dorothy
          Clayton as The Tin Man
          Doc as Toto
          Yasiel as the Lion
          FAZ as the Wicked Witch
          Chase as the Good Witch

          1. Haha! I’m sorry MJ, I will try to give more of a Chase Utley type of effort instead of a Manny style effort on the next one.

    2. Bicep tendinitis too which makes me worry about his labrum. However, that is why Kershaw thinks his velocity will tick back up on his fastball.

  13. so i did almost no research on this but wilson ramos is a free agent and we need a catcher. what i know about him: he’s 31 y.o. and from Venezuela. he had 382 PA’s last year and batted a very respectable .306/.358/.487. he hit 15 HR’s with 70 RBI.
    *
    i have no idea about his defense but i’d give him a two-year deal and we could the position solidified with him and an excellent back-up in austin barnes.
    *
    i think ramos is my new #1 free agent target.

  14. Jeff Berry, the agent for J.T. Realmuto “I think he will definitely be wearing a different uniform by the start of spring training.” Berry made clear that Realmuto won’t sign an extension with the Marlins

    1. I would move quickly for Realmuto.

      I’d offer Smith, but probably have to move to Ruiz.

      I’d give the Marlins a choice of 3 more:

      Toles
      Peters
      Alvarez
      Kendall
      Rios
      Wong
      Beaty
      Sheffield
      Estevez

      … providing they can sign Realmuto to a 4 or 5 year deal.

        1. I wonder if we could get one of Miami’s relievers in some JT deal. I”ll trust AC on this one, as he’s been dead on about relievers this year

    2. Plus Moustakas and Soria have declined their mutual options with Milwaukee. Not that I would be interested in either one, but I wonder what it might mean for Milwaukee.

    1. I am like Mark on this one. It is not that I dislike Farhan as a GM. He has been fine. Actually more than fine. I am more apathetic on Zaidi. But I might prefer someone with some more scouting skills/experience to go along with the Byrnes and Friedman analytics. I think he would do well as President of Baseball Operations if he had a good GM. He is smart, organized, and knows his way around baseball operations. Just like the team does not need CT3 and Kike’, the front office does not need both Friedman and Zaidi.
      .
      If Farhan does take the Giants job, does that open the door for Kim Ng? She has been on the short list for many teams for several years. You know Billie Jean would be pushing for her. She would not be my first choice (or second), but I think she would get more than strong consideration. She was the Dodgers Asst GM under a very underrated GM (IMO), Dan Evans. She was an assistant GM before Farhan Zaidi. I still prefer a GM who can scout and see talent rather than run algorithms. But you can certainly do much worse than Kim. I do not think she would trade Pedro Martinez for Delino DeShields like non baseball guy Fred Claire did.

      1. I have always thought that Dan Evans did a really good job for the Dodgers. But wouldn’t Kim Ng be the ultimate non-baseball person as GM?

      2. I would take Farhan Zaidi any day of the week over Ned Colletti, who I thought was the most over rated GM(possibly why he has been unable to get another front office job). Like you AC, I thought Dan Evans was one of the better GMs the Dodgers have had. I still steam over the fact that he had a deal in place to bring Vlad Guerrero to the Dodgers, only for fricking McCourt to step in and nix the deal.
        .
        I’m not as sold on Ng. though I have nothing to base that on. I think she might just be Farhan, part 2. My problem with Farhan was that it seemed like every doggone trade had to be a complicated algebraic equation. Couldn’t just trade player A for player B. It was necessary to get several teams involved and as a result, we ended up with several deals that produced little to nothing. (i.e where are Trace Thompson and Micah Johnson these days).

        1. I am not sold on Ng. I just predict she would be on the short list with strong consideration if Farhan moves on. She may be overly analytical like Farhan, but that seems to be what the Dodger brass likes. I don’t know what the Mets are doing with Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM, but they said no to Ng and Watson. There are some excellent baseball oriented assistant GMs that will jump at the chance to join the Dodgers FO.

    2. Just nobody tell Farhan how many home runs the Giants hit this season… he’ll never take the meeting.

    3. This would be GREAT for the Dodgers as his replacement MIGHT be a baseball guy to balance out Freidman

  15. I was reading MLB Trade Rumors and this comment about try to trading for Realmuto really made me laugh !!

    1 hour ago
    ”Dodgers probably aren’t interested in Realmuto. He doesn’t strike out enough to fit with their offensive philosophy.”

    Ghost of Chase Utley59 mins ago
    ”I just spit up my coffee. Best comment today.”

  16. Mark, I agree 100% with you on your take about analytics. I believe Kike and Taylor improve by playing less. Kike is not an everyday player at least not at a high level offensively. It seems to me that each time Taylor had a couple days off this year, he came back with good games.
    ~
    One thing I wholeheartedly disagree with is Roberts handling of Hill. The video showed them talking in the dugout. All Roberts has to do is clarify then and say I’m looking at keeping you in through Holt. No mound visit necessary then. The video showed them looking at the lineup card. Communication breakdown and that’s on the manager.
    One other problem I have with Doc is the handling of Yasmani all year. He’s a solid to plus big league player and I’ve beat this issue to death, but how in the world could he keep penciling in that type of player in the 5-hole? He’s not going to advance runners, he’s not going to give you contact when you need it, he’s not the guy you want up after your top 4 hitters. At the end of the year he finally had him hitting 7th or 8th, but each time Yasmani did something well he would instantly move him up the 5 spot to watch him fail there again. He started the Atlanta series there, then got moved down, and then couldn’t get on the field.
    ~
    You’re 100% right when it comes to pitching players up with extreme launch angles. I try to teach my player if your hands aren’t higher than the baseball you’re aren’t going to hit it or you are going to pop it up. Should Turner Ward be the one to correct this or do our players just need to lay off that pitch? These guys shape their swings with their own hitting gurus in the off-season. It’s not like Turner Ward is telling them all that they have to have a 30 degree launch angles.

    1. But in the video as Doc walked out there, Rich handed him the ball and walked off. Should Doc have tackled him?

      Rich Hill said “You know what, maybe I should have phrased it better.” I just see it as a perfect storm…

      I don’t blame either party/// stuff happens.

      1. No… but if Mark Prior could have tackled Madson as he attempted to leave the bullpen that night, I would have given him a raise and Honeycutt’s job right then and there.

    1. Mark

      Everything would have been very different, if it was Baez instead of these two pitchers.

      Like you already said, Madson was definitely a bad idea.

      1. Honestly, it could have been those two pitchers and everything was fine if Hill pitched to 1 more batter. Hill to Holt, then Madson to the righty, then Alexander to Moreland. It doesn’t equal three runs that way.

    1. Lots of accusations…

      Short on proof.

      I am interested in substance.

      Now, if you wonder about value… well they got screwed!

  17. If Kershaw is in fact hurt, then why did they start him in the first game. Hill is the one with the most rest. This is where I find Doc at fault. I think Doc feels he has an obligation to let Kershaw pitch the first game. Kershaw has been the the stud and he owes it to Kershaw to have him start the first game. Hill could of started game one. Kershaw could of started game two on normal rest. Then you have Ryu and Striker for the home games. Both Ryu and Striker pitch better at home. I will continue to say Doc has favorites or locality to certain players. That is the only way I can explain some of his decisions.

  18. A lot of talk on Kershaw as he might opt out. If he has no loyalty to the Dodgers let him go. The guy will be a HoF’er and has been a great Dodger. BUT, He has a very checkered playoff history, is in decline, and the past few years has had constant injuries, and appears to be very stubborn to adapt. If he opts out, it’s time to move in a different direction.

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