The New LA Dodgers

Farhan Zaidi is the President of Baseball Operations for the San Francisco Giants right here, right now… and while it may never be fully understood what role Zaidi had in in the managing and coaching decisions by the LA Dodgers, I think by the end of the 2019 season, we will find out that Farhan was a micro manager.

Great guy, but he was not good at deligation. He had to call all the shots. Maybe he did not dictate the lineups, but he strongly suggested to Dave Roberts who should play when and where. Simon Sinek says “There are leaders, and these are those who lead.  Leaders hold a position of power or influence.  Those who lead, inspire us.”

I believe that everything we will ever achieve in life is based upon the amount of influence we have with others.  People follow leaders for one of two reasons:

  1.  They have to; or
  2. They want to.

Which leaders do you think are more successful?  Leaders who instill fear into their subordinates or leaders who instill power into their subordinates? The great John Maxwell wrote“There is a 40% increase in productivity when comparing those who want to follow the leader and those who have to follow the leader.” 

40%!  Would you rather report to someone you have to follow or someone you want to follow?  If you have a formal position of authority, look at those following you.  Are they following you because they have to or because they want to?

Another key aspect of leadership is hope.  Let me illustrate the role hope plays in motivating people to do anything.  Several years ago, scientists dropped a rat into a jar of water that had been placed in total darkness (no vision) and timed how long the rat would continue swimming before giving up and drowning. They did this numerous times and discovered that the rat lasted about 3 minutes before giving up and drowning. 

Then they repeated the same experiment but this time, they allowed a ray of light (vision = hope) to shine in.  Under those circumstances, the rat kept swimming for 36 hours.  That is 720 times longer!  Because the rat could see, it had hope.  Hope gave them reason to keep swimming. Hope is not a strategy, but hope is necessary to develop a strategy.  Without hope, our vision is doomed.

Delegating “What to do” still leaves you responsible.  Delegating “what to accomplish” makes others responsible. That is true delegation – the rest is just being a boss.  Anyone can be a boss.  Not many can be true leaders. I believe Zaidi was a boss… not a leader. Andrew Friedman is a leader, and as a leader you have to give your subordinates the ability to “run their own show.” Andrew did and Farhan did. Now, Farhan is gone and he was not replaced for a reason: Andrew Friedman is not going to micro-manage this 2019 version of the LA Dodgers.

  • The old-school hitting coach was replaced withsome young whippersnapperwho has new ideas how to hit and if you are an oldtimer, your are probably going to hate him from Jump Street;
  • Platoons are going to lessen and fat guys and guys who are disruptive and have reverse splits are going to go (Wait! They did!;
  • Players are going to play and managers and coaches are going to manage and coach;
  • There will be a new hitting culture implemented in LA, where strikeouts are not an accomplishment, moving runners is good and bunting is encouraged; and
  • Pitchers are not pulled just because…

What I am most excited about is the hiring of Robert Van Scoyoc (RVS). RVS is a student of Craig Wallenbrock who preached on the importance of launch angle long before it became in vogue throughout baseball. Van Scoyoc preached keeping swing paths through the strike zone as long as possible and lifting the ball in the air. We all know the story, but here’s whatESPNwrote about what RVS accomplished with JD Martinez:

Martinez began working with Van Scoyoc after the 2013 season. Van Scoyoc repositioned Martinez’s hands, put him in a more athletic stance and introduced him to the benefits of launch angle, helping Martinez go from a middling fourth outfielder to a menacing middle-of-the-order bat. The Dodgers hired Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock as consultants from 2016 to 2017, at which point the duo also helped launch the career of Chris Taylor.

“But, he never played baseball”, some say. Will the players listen to him?

“At the end of the day, players want to be good and they don’t care if you had a playing career,” Van Scoyoc said. “All they care about is if you can help them be better.”  That may not be true with all players, but I suspect it is true with the smart ones.

Ryan Braun had this to say about Craig Wallenbrock:

“Craig taught me how to look at hitting as a science. He was the first person to really break my swing down and show me how subtle adjustments could make a big difference in my approach and swing. I wouldn’t be the hitter I am today without his help and knowledge.

There’s one caveat to RVS’s approach: Cut down your swing when you get two strikes and as Ted Williams used to say “Just push the ball.” Over 50% of hitters who go to the plate will end up with two strikes. If they learn to shorten their swing, bunt the ball or hit opposite the shift, imagine how they could cut down on strikeouts, prolong innings and move the runners.

The 2019 Dodgers will not hit as many home runs as the 2018 version, but I think they will score more. See the pitch, hit the pitch and one more thing RVS preaches: With the use of analytics, they will prepare the hitters as to what pitch they aremost likely to see in certain situations.

While this is a shift in strategy, I do not believe it is radical. It just makes sense: Look for your pitch, stay in the zone as long as possible and shorten up with two strikes.

Every year it’s the same thing! Since Friedman was hired the fans complain about the team construction, make fun of my predictions and NLDS, NLCS, followed by two World Series appearances. I have said it before and I will say it again: “If you are good enough to get there, you are good enough to win.” The 1988 Dodgers were outclassed, but they won anyway.

If Friedman gets the Dodgers there again for an unprecedented third time in a row, are the whiners going to stop? I doubt it!

This article has 48 Comments

  1. I hope you are right. Some things I saw last year defy common sense. Kike batting third. Removing starting pitchers after three times through the line up when they are pitching very well. Putting Bellinger in a platoon. Watching the Dodgers play last year was not enjoyable. Only Bellinger tried at times to hit against the shift. I firmly believe you have to take what the other team gives you. You must bunt against the shift almost every time or learn to hit against the shift. We will see if Doc is a robot manager or will he manage with his eyes. The information is good, but you still are managing human beings.

    1. Okay for now but if players consistently do that, the shift would allow teams to turn Willie Mays into Richie Ashburn.

      1. Richie Ashburn would have hit 350 every year if he got that giant hole to hit through. I’ll take that! Rod Carew used to make his own holes in the infield with the threat of bunting. I’ll take his production as well. Three true outcome baseball is boring as hell to watch. If you hit through holes and run the bases aggressively, there will be runs.

  2. I said it many times last year that you don’t need a rule to counter balance the shift. You need players to work on hitting though that gaping hole. When this happens, the shift will go the way of the dinosaurs. It will be refreshing to watch our team beat the shift into oblivion.

    Great reads across the blogsphere that a right handed bat is the primary focus for our team. “We aren’t done yet” is music to my ears. Let’s hope this happens soon. It’s almost February for Christ’s sake!

  3. From The Athletic:
    When​ Alex Cora was​ home in​ Puerto​ Rico recently,​ he had lunch​ with one of​ his most treasured​ mentors,​ Sandy​ Alomar​​ Sr. Cora, like many of us, has long wondered why a man who had such a brilliant baseball mind and raised two of the most intelligent players of the last 30 years never managed — a symptom of baseball’s slow ascent into international understanding.

    “He told me that one of the reasons he thought things went so well for us in Boston was that I gave the players the power to make their own in-game decisions,” says Cora. “He jokingly said ‘if they’re making decisions, they can’t second-guess you.’ But what he really meant is that he believes the more players are empowered, the more they prepare, the more they buy into the work we do with the coaches and the scouting and analytics staffs. They want to win, and if they’re accountable for decisions in the game (when to try to steal, hitting in counts, etc.) the more they’re prepared, the more they study everything within the game.”

    Players like Robby Alomar, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Chase Utley and Ricky Henderson didn’t need red lights and green lights, take signs and hit-away signs; opposing players marveled at Henderson’s ability to be on first base and run on breaking balls, not because he was getting signs from the bench or upstairs, but because he could read catchers and had a remarkable sense for knowing when a breaking ball was going to be thrown.

    One of the issues with development in the game today is over-coaching and over-control. Too many college coaches call signs from the bench, which not only creates an interminable chain of signs from benches to catchers to pitchers, but does not allow catchers or pitchers to develop instincts for reading hitters and situations. There are cricket matches that take less time than University of Virginia baseball games.

    When Mookie Betts breaks to steal second against a team in a shift loaded to the right side of the infield, it’s his sense and vision of the situation that allows him to pop up and keep going to third when he senses no one is in position to beat him to the bag. Cora’s philosophy is that stopwatches and stop signs are fine, going first to third and first to home are better.

    “Given some freedom, players may make mistakes, but they learn from them because they are their mistakes, not someone’s orders,” says Cora. “Players win games. They want to win games. Sandy Alomar is a great teacher of situations and how to think out the game. That allows the players to react and do what they think is right.”

    1. Rudy

      I saw Mookie Betts do excactly that when he first came up, and I knew I just watched a baseball player.

  4. Peter Gammons from The Athletic this morning:

    “…there was some misunderstanding of who Andrew Friedman has been since he first became GM of the Rays in 2005.

    The biggest contract he has given out to a free agent positional player from another team was two years and $16 million to bring Pat Burrell to the Rays. And they got burned.

    Friedman’s biggest pitching deals? Scott Kazmir (3/$48M), Brandon McCarthy (4/$48M), Yaisel Sierra (6/$30M) and Joe Kelly (3/$25M).

    He has opened the vault for players who have played for his teams, like Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen.”

    So – forget about Harper, Pollock or any other positional free agent costing more than 2/$16MM?

    1. That article has the winning quote on Friedman:
      `
      “He still is upset by the Burrell contract,” says one Dodger official.

          1. I didn’t want to push it with Mark.

            I am still upset that McCarthy was allowed to be on the World Series roster.

            But I think that was more Zaidi because of their A’s connection.

  5. Agree – sign Manny if 7/190 gets it done.

    Don’t trade Hill. He’s been our best Post Season Pitcher, although underused.

      1. Watford

        I agree about Hill, he has pitched better then Kershaw in the post season the last couple years, so we need him.

    1. Hill would be missed in the post season but he would save $16M if traded and that and a cheap Manny keeps the Dodgers under CBT threshold.

  6. It is my personal opinion, and I am trying to respect so many people that, in my opinion, are so &% $ # to think like who wrote this article!

    ”There’s No Excuse for the Dodgers’ Disappointing Offseason”

    https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2019/1/22/18192483/los-angeles-dodgers-slow-offseason-yasiel-puig-bryce-harper

    And by the way, it’s a good option to edit the comments, I just do not think it takes 5 minutes, I think with 2 or 3 minutes would be enough….

    1. the article should be titled “disappointing……THUS FAR”

      It’d be a fairer article if things on March 28 are exactly as they are now.

  7. The Dodgers don’t need to produce as many runs, homeruns or an equivalent OPS as in 2018.
    They need to reduce the exceptionally poor timing/situations of their production that resulted in perhaps the worst gap between wins and projected runs in MLB history.

    Without this disparity, they would have had about as many wins as in 2017.

    This had to be more than bad luck; I suspect the peculiar emphasis on launch angle and against adjusting with two strikes were largely to blame.

  8. Yankees sign Bryce Harper and trade Gioncarlo Stanton to the Dodgers for Rich Hill and DJ Peters.

    Dodgers sign Manny Machado.

    Marlins trade JT Realmuto to the Dodgers for Austin Barnes, Will Smith, Joc Pederson and Dustin May.

    1. Taylor CF
    2. Seager SS
    3. Turner 1B
    4. Machado 3B
    5. Stanton LF
    6. Realmuto C
    7. Muncy /Hernandez 2B
    8. Verdugo RF

    Bench: Freese, Martin, Toles

    Then I rolled over and woke up…

    1. Did you know what Gammons said about Friedman – never signing a position player free agent (other than his own) for more than 2/$16 MM? Amazing after 15 years running baseball teams, isn’t it?

      1. What’s even more amazing is that he has won the division every year in LA and is favored to win this year and has been to two straight World Series and was at another World Series as the GM of the Rays. That’s what is impressive!

        1. What is really impressive is the millions they spent on Cubans:-).

          And even you might have scored the Big Prize if we handed you
          a playoff roster and gave you between a billion and a billion and a half
          and four seasons to take the last step. Instead, Stan Kasten’s Braves’
          redux.

          See how the Friedman-less Rays did in a much tougher division this
          year.

  9. Dodgers discussing JTR swap with Marlins with Ruiz as centerpiece. Have to figure Barnes would be included too.

    Markakis signs a very team friendly deal with Braves-1 year $4M and either $6M or $2M buyout in 2020. I guess that ends Joc to Braves talks.

    1. The way I read that information is that the Dodgers are still interested in JTR and the Marlins are still insisting on Ruiz. That doesn’t necessarily mean that AF is discussing a deal with Ruiz in it. It just means that Andrew hasn’t walked away completely yet but still probably isn’t willing to include Ruiz. My guess is that at some point (and that could be any time between now and early February, the Marlins will contact all 4-6 of the teams still interested and have them give their best offer. They will then pick a couple and play one against the other with the idea that they’ll make a trade before ST opens.

      1. Hope so! I don’t think 6-7 years of Ruiz is worth giving up for 2 years of Realmuto.

  10. I would be shocked if Ruiz is traded. I think he may be beter than Realmuto. Friedman is not going to give up 6 years of control. Of course, Verdugo will have to win the RF job, but Puig was expendable for 6 years of Verdugo. Next year, Ruiz can be controlled for 6 more years.

    The Dodgers will trade Smith in the right deal, but not Ruiz. It ain’t happening.

    The Marlins will come down in a month or three, but the Dodgers may not need Realmuto. I would start the season and see what Martin and Barnes have. I can’t see someone paying what the Marlins want… unless there’s an injury. So, there is that!

    Next, is Lux… probably next year.

    I like the way this is heading… I just want Castellanos, but the Tigers are asking way too much.

  11. 2020:
    1. Lux 2B
    2. Seager SS
    3. Turner 3B
    4. Bellinger 1B
    5. Castellanos LF
    6. Ruiz C
    7. Verdugo RF
    8. Taylor CF

        1. You have Castellanos in left Mark. How much and for how many years did we sign him? He’ll be a free agent after 2019.

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