I hope you all bear with me. I would like to somewhat continue the FAZ discussion from yesterday. And then to give one last autopsy report on the 2018 WS.
As Mark indicated, FAZ took over a team that had a payroll in excess of $250MM. One would think that a team with that payroll would be loaded. However when they arrived on the scene, the team had only 3 starting pitchers (Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu), no SS, no 2B, no catching, and a totally bereft bullpen, as well as a depleted minor league system. The ownership saddled them with a bloated salary level, which limited their ability to go out and get talent. They were not going to bid on Jon Lester. So, they went out and got three marginal pitchers Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, and Mike Bolsinger. McCarthy was a bust for four years, while Anderson had a decent enough 2015 campaign that FAZ made the mistake of offering a QO to him for 2016 which he accepted. Who Knew??? Before 2016, no player had ever accepted the QO, and then 3 did. Bolsinger was the journeyman everyone figured he would be, but he did pitch 109 innings with 21 starts and a 3.62 ERA. Not a bad return for a minimum salary.
In addition to the pitchers, they traded for Howie Kendrick to play 2B and Jimmie Rollins to play SS. They also traded Matt Kemp and his salary to the Padres for Yasmani Grandal; their very much needed catcher. By the end of the year, the payroll ballooned to $310MM (per TrueBlueLA). The payroll picture can be followed at:
To build up the farm system, FAZ went out and spent an unfortunate amount of capital on international players. But all was not lost. Hector Olivera brought Alex Wood and Luis Avilan (2015). Oneil Cruz brought Tony Watson (2017), Yusniel Diaz brought Manny Machado (2018). Yadi Alvarez and Omar Estevez are still with the Dodgers organization and are included in the Top 30 prospects.
I have said it for the last three years…FAZ can build a team for a 162-game season to get to the playoffs, and then it is up to the players. Many have criticized FAZ for their deadline trades or missed opportunities. They are accused of whiffing on Hamels in 2015. I say they did not, because that would have cost at least Corey Seager. After they whiffed on Chris Sale (IMO their biggest mistake), they did try to improve the roster with Hill & Reddick in 2016. Reddick did not pan out, but we will never know if Hill could have won Game 7 of the NLCS because Kyle Hendricks beat Clayton Kershaw in Game 6. In 2017, FAZ went out and traded for Yu Darvish, Tony Watson, and Tony Cingrani. At the time, the Darvish trade was not criticized, but we all know what happened to him in the WS. But how many remember his game 3 in the NLDS against the DBacks and Game 3 in the NLCS against the Cubs.?
In 2018, FAZ stepped up big and acquired Manny Machado. It was costly, and he did not produce as was hoped. Hindsight is fantastic for those who said the Dodgers should have gone for Steve Pearce instead of Machado. I recognize that most of those comments were in jest, but not all of them. Some like to criticize FAZ just because they can and want to. FAZ also picked up David Freese, and I was happy they were able to re-sign him. He will be a heavy influence in the 2019 clubhouse.
I am not a big fan of deadline trades because most of the time they do not get the desired results. Sometimes they do (Manny Ramirez).
I have also questioned FAZ’s lack of emphasis on the relief game, at least on the ML level. Perhaps that description is less volatile than my “FAZ does not value relief pitching”. However, relief pitching was average at best during the season. At times excellent, but others…WOWwere they bad. This came lo light front and center during the World Series:
Scott Alexander– 1.1 IP, 1 H,2 R, 2 BB, and 2 K
Pedro Baez– 4.2 IP, 2 H,2 R, 3 BB, and 4 K
Dylan Floro– 2.1 IP, 3 H,3 R, 2 BB, and 3 K
Kenley Jansen– 4.0 IP, 2 H,2 R, 1 BB, and 3 K
Ryan Madson– 2.1 IP, 3 H,1 R, 2 BB, and 2 K –Plus 7 inherited runners all scored.
Kenta Maeda– 3.0 IP, 4 H,1 R, 1 BB, and 5 K –Plus 3 inherited runners scored
Julio Urias– 3.0 IP, 1 H,1 R, 1 BB, and 2 K
Alex Wood– 2.1 IP, 3 H,2 R, 1 BB, and 2 K
Where I think the Dodgers missed out on the trade deadline was not picking up a solid reliever. There were a bunch out there, but I was focused on Keone Kela, Ryan Pressly, and especially Jose Leclerc. Instead the Dodgers picked up John Axford, Zac Rosscup, and Ryan Madson.
Leclerc– In 59 games, he was scored on in only 6, none since July 25.
Kela– 16 games with Pitts – scored in only 2 and one of those he had 4 runs scored bloating his ERA.
Pressly– 26 games for Houston 23.1 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 3 BB, and 32K. The cost was Jorge Alcaia RHP, and CF Gilberto Celestino. Good players, but a price the Dodgers could certainly have covered. Salary would certainly not have been an impediment.
Kela – $1.2MM
Pressly – $1.6MM
Leclerc – $552.3K
Ryan Madson made more than those three combined. Who would you rather have had on the mound…Madson or any of the three? Andrew can spin it any way he wants, but failure to pick up a legit late inning reliever hurt the team’s chances. I am not going to say that the Dodgers would have won the WS with one or two or all three, but it sure would have been longer than 5 games, and then who knows.
With the post season analysis by Zaidi, it was mentioned that the player development people will be directing their minor league affiliates to use starting pitchers in relief, and starting position players off the bench, to train them to be flexible in multiple roles. This is insane to me. How can you expect starting pitchers to go 7+ innings at the ML level if they are being trained to be relievers? How can you expect batters to hit both RHP and LHP if they are being trained to come off the bench and learn to be role players as well? I do not agree with this approach, and I would welcome Zaidi to move on to SF if this is his brilliant plan. But it is clear that this is the intention as this is who the Dodgers are drafting after the first couple of rounds. I also recognize that drafting as late and as often as the team does, really hurts the chances at drafting a top of the rotation guy. But Jacob deGrom was a 9th round pick. What might have happened to his ability to go late in the game if he were told in his development to learn how to relieve so he could become more “flexible”. Most of the recent pitcher draftees are either relievers or are projected to be. That was my comment with regards to Stephen Kolek. That is not a negative on Kolek or any of the other recently drafted pitchers now employed by the Dodgers. Get used to seeing starting pitchers go 5 innings and no more than twice thru the lineup, and then an Andrew Miller type high leverage reliever coming in the 6th to face the top of the order for 1-2 innings and then a setup and closer. Get used to the platoons and multiple utility players with only 2-3-4 full time starters. Right now that might be Corey, JT, and Belli, and I am not sure about Belli anymore.
While the pitching outside of Walker Buehler and Rich Hill was pathetic during the WS, it was the offense that Friedman blamed for the WS loss and not the bullpen. I am of the opinion that it was offense, starting pitching, relief pitching, defense, and managerial decisions that cost the Dodgers the WS. Realistically, the Dodgers had a chance to win if all of those components were exceptional, but they were not and the Red Sox were by far a superior team. Looking at the offense there were but two players that seemed to come to play:
David Freese– (.417) – 5-12
JT– (.333) – 8-24
There were a couple of others that were at least not absent:
Max Muncy– (.235) – 4-17
Puig– (.250) – 5-20
But where were these guys?
That is a combined 12 for 97 for a spectacular .124 combined batting average. For those players around for the 2017 WS, they were not much better. Of those who played in both years, only Joc hit well in the 2017 WS. Charlie Culberson and Logan Forsythe were the other two that hit well, but they were not on the 2018 roster. The team had 65 strikeouts in the 2017 WS. If they want to WIN the WS, the offense is going to need to change in personnel and/or philosophy.
By the way, I agree with Mark that relief pitching is not an exact science, and that one year does not necessarily reflect the next. But at the deadline, one can generally look at relievers that have been successful during the year and finishing strong. All three of Kela, Pressly, and Leclerc finished strong as well as Brach. I am also on record as to not being a huge advocate for Joe Kelly or Nathan Eovaldi based on their WS exploits. I believe the Dodger hitters made those two look better than they may have been. I think if you were to ask Cora, he might say that Matt Barnes was their best reliever not named Kimbrel.
After this final autopsy report of the 2018 WS by me is in the books, I am going to put 2018 behind me and look towards 2019. I want to study the MLBTradeRumors top 50 FA and see realistically who might help the Dodgers in 2019. It is inconceivable that FAZ would pay $420MM for 14 years for Bryce Harper. It is also inconceivable that the Phillies will plop down $390MM for 13 years for Machado. They are simply projecting that neither Boras or Lozano will let Giancarlo Stanton’s ridiculous contract remain the most lucrative deal.