Questions and Perceptions

I do not look at skeptics as a negative.  I think we are all skeptics.  I think everyone is asking what the Dodgers could do “IF”…  The difference is that while the questions are the same, it is how most of us perceive and respond to those “IF” questions.  MT, 59inarow, and Bobby do not see many negative outcomes of any of the questions, if any at all.  MT sees a 36-year-old catcher who is seemingly wearing down and hitting sub-Mendoza as a prime candidate as another Comeback Player of the Year, while a 33-year-old pitcher with a top 3 CY vote in 4 of the last 5 years (winning 2) as starting to go downhill.  Now if Martin was still a Blue Jay and Kluber was a Dodger, I think those beliefs would be a tad different. MT projects Joe Kelly and Scott Alexander as both having HUGE years for the Dodgers, even though there is nothing in their resume that indicates they will. 

Dodgerrick does not see Russ Martin as having a renaissance year in 2019, and questions Joe Kelly’s control problems.  Is he wrong.  Trends certainly indicate he is closer to correct than MT.  I am somewhere in between MT and Rick.  I think Martin will play better than he did last year but will not make up for the loss of Grandal’s power.  However, I do not see any other catcher possibility that could have helped the Dodgers other than a tremendous overpay for two years of JTR.  So what are they supposed to do?  Should they have spent $18MM for one more year of Grandal when he wasn’t good enough to start during the past two WS?  I can be patient with a very good defensive catcher in Austin Barnes until Smith or Ruiz are ready.  With respect to Kelly, I understand Rick’s concern, but I also recognize that Kelly has abandoned his worst pitch (slider) to concentrate on his 4 seam and 2 seam fastball and curve.  He has shown that he has control over those pitches, and he was nearly unhittable in the postseason concentrating with those pitches.  Will that continue?  MT says unequivocally yes, Rick is not convinced, while I lean to Kelly having a good year. But Rick is not wrong with his looking at the metrics and casting doubt.  Rick has never said that Kelly will not be good, only that he questions those of us who think he can be.

MT sees Kike’ as a potential JDM.  While I do not remember Rick responding to that specific projection, I find that extremely hard to fathom.  Kike’ is a super utility player, and nothing more. 

Some believe Muncy will have a repeat year of 2018.  There is nothing to indicate that he will, and it is just as likely that he will regress as CT3 and Belli did from 2017.   Are those who think that Muncy will not repeat somehow not Dodger fans?

AJ Pollock’s health has been questioned, but apparently very few are concerned about Hyun-Jin Ryu’s health, and much larger annual salary.  Because Pollock’s injuries have not been structural, and Ryu has had a significant shoulder surgery, I tend to lean towards Pollock having a much better shot at a healthy year over Ryu.  But it is conceivable that both will remain healthy and both could spend significant time on the new IL.

Some look at the Farmer trade as a salary dump, while others look at it as moving players that would not be a big help for the team, thus opening it up and subsidizing for others including someone like AJ Pollock.  I know many question the potential of both Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, but both are top 10 Dodger prospects in at least one top prospect poll (Keith Law).  We have learned that you can never have enough pitching or middle infielders who can become valuable multiple position players.  I do not get the impression that Rick places a lot of faith in prospects, even though he does value the depth that it does give the Dodgers.  He would rather have players that will benefit the ML team this year rather than prospects who cannot impact the 25 man until 2020-2022. I do not agree with that, but I also do not see it as a negative.

Rick does not need me to defend him, but I do not see Rick being negative at all.  I think he is all about planning for what can go wrong rather than counting on everything going right.  MT, 59inarow, and Bobby do not see much going wrong and believe the already ever-present depth is more than enough to ward off any injuries or poor performances.  I do not disagree for the 162-game season but do question the potential playoff rosters.  Most of us are somewhere in between, with some leaning more to the overly optimist, and some leaning towards the seemingly pessimist. 

During the week, Idahoal asked Dodgerrick what he would do different.  I have asked Rick the same on multiple occasions, and each time he has either ignored the query or responded that the roster is not his job to create or fix.  But he does have the right to question how it is put together.  I have only come to learn that he truly likes Clayton Kershaw, but do not know of any others.

The funny thing is that IMO, AF is also somewhere inbetween. 

  • I think he has concerns about how many innings each of his SP can go but will have 6 starters on the 25 man with 3 or 4 or 5 in OKC or extended ST just waiting. 
  • I think he would rather have a better offensive catcher, but not at the expense of Lux, May, and either Ruiz or Smith. 
  • I am sure he is concerned about Seager’s health, but he is comfortable with CT3 and Kike’ as fill-ins and has AAAA Daniel Castro at OKC along with Gavin Lux if need be.
  • I am sure he has seen all of Pollock’s medical records and is convinced that he is very capable of playing 140 games, which coincidentally is also about the same number of games we can expect out of JT, who also seems to have his share of injuries.  Very few seem to bring that up.
  • I am sure that AF has spoken to Honey about Joe Kelly’s new pitch repertoire, and both have spoken to Kelly and are comfortable with his response.
  • I am sure he tried to get a difference maker for the team, but it takes two to agree to a trade or to accept a “fair” and “reasonable” FA offer. 
  • There were no sure thing relievers available in the FA market.  I would still like to see if Clay Buchholz would accept another minor league contract.  He would be another depth SP or a potential quality RP.  But if he does not want a minor league contract, where would he sit on the current 25-man roster.  I think Buchholz wants to continue to start and he may also see that he would be behind multiple Dodger potential starters.  So, while there may be interest, there probably is not a spot.  Remember just because AF or the fans may want a specific player, that someone has to also want to be a Dodger.

Off the top of my head, I have listed 30 Questions going into ST.

  1. What SP pitchers will be healthy?  Will there be a need for 7 or 12 in the depth chart?
  2. Will Kershaw’s back and hip hold up?
  3. Will Ryu’s shoulder hold out for 150 innings? What is the over under on starts?
  4. Will Doc finally believe in Rich Hill to go thru the order 3 times?
  5. When will Buehler actually take the torch for being the Ace?
  6. Where will Urias start the year?  Dodgers bullpen?  OKC starting rotation?  Extended ST?
  7. How long before Stripling or Urias take over for Maeda, with Maeda moving to the bullpen?
  8. Will Caleb Ferguson go back to starting or continue to be a superb reliever.
  9. When will Corey Seager be ready to fulfill his MVP destiny?
  10. Who will be 2B?
  11. Who will play more games, JT or AJ Pollock?
  12. Will Max Muncy repeat 2018 or regress a little?
  13. Will David Freese get enough AB’s to be impactful?
  14. Will Austin Barnes or Russell Martin become the primary catcher?
  15. Will Barnes get closer to his 2017 season or 2018?
  16. When will Jesen Therrien make his LAD debut?
  17. Will Joe Kelly be comfortable staying with his 4 seam/2 seam/curveball?
  18. Will Pedro Baez be El Gasolino or the lockdown reliever he was for the last two months in 2018?
  19. Will Tony Cingrani come back healthy?
  20. Will Scott Alexander become what MT thinks he will be, or just a good ground ball specialist?
  21. Will the Dodgers break camp with a 12 man pitching staff or 13 man?
  22. Who will break camp as the relievers?
  23. How long before Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Gavin Lux, and Mitchell White make the OKC roster?
  24. How long before Dennis Santana makes the 25 man?
  25. Will Yadi Alvarez or Josh Sborz make any noise?
  26. What happens to Brock Stewart and Yimi Garcia?
  27. Is Kevin Quackenbush ready for a renaissance of his own? 
  28. Will the Dodgers need to rely on Adam McCreery or Jaime Schultz anytime during the year?
  29. Will Doc abandon the seemingly endless lineup changes?
  30. We are all Dodger fans, but who are the optimists and who are the pessimists?

Some of those questions will turn out positively while others not so much.  But the more important questions will come approaching the trade deadline. Because the answer to those questions just might mean a WS championship or another good season…better luck next year.

This article has 60 Comments

  1. That’s a head full, AC! I wouldn’t attempt to tackle 10% of the issues you write about, at least not in 1 post, so I’ll confine my comments to the predictions on Kelly and Martin.

    Martin is beyond his prime but was a very good player during it. One could toss a coin about this upcoming season and whether he will exceed expectations or be adequate behind the plate. All signs point, imo, to him being adequate, a defensive catcher that will hit moderately. Nothing points to him having an allstar year, ala Kemp. Why anyone would think that seems like wishful thinking. He should be adequate and that is why I think AF brought him in rather than tying up the family jewels longer than he has to. There is also no sign that Barnes can somehow regain his hitting prowess of two seasons ago, but Barnes is a youngster compared to Martin and because Barnes did have a good season two years ago, there is always the possibility he will return to that form. I think a betting man would take the odds of Barnes over Martin to have a good year. But, I can see others feeling both will fall flat, offensively.

    Kelly looked damned good during the WS. Hopefully, he did not party too hard and wear himself out during the offseason to regain that form. Isn’t he better than anyone we had in his role last season? I don’t see any reason that Kelly will not have a good turn with us. That’s as far as my crystal ball will take me.

    What concerns me more than these two players is whether the platooning will continue willy-nilly, plus the endless lineup changes we saw last season. And, perhaps the biggest question of the coming season is whether Seager will return to form and nail down the SS position to anchor the infield.

  2. AC, all very good questions, none of which I would try to answer now, many will be answered in ST, others as the season progresses. I also want to see what the Dodgers do with Toles and Verdugo. What would the Dodgers do if both outplayed Pederson?

  3. Nice article AC. Those are all good questions. This is what AF has to prepare for. There will be injuries. Some players will have a down year. Some will have a great year. These are all givens. AF prepares a roster for depth so he can handle these unknowns. I think AF knows after ST who will replace any starter if they are injured. He has a plan A, B, and C. Most teams, if they have two or three injured players, they are done for the season. I think AF assumes he will have two or three injured players. He just does not know who. I believe he is ready for any injury that may happen. He has a plan. The only time AF did not address a problem was in 2017. He traded for a starter and we needed bull pen help. That is on AF. In his first years he signed some pitchers that were not good. However, he had issues with the trade with Boston. AF is pretty sharp. I am looking forward to a very good season for the Dodgers as I always do. I am going to see ST in Arizona for the very first time.

  4. Fun read AC. You covered everything from A to Y leaving out Z with Z being Harper. This site seems split between the for or the against.

    Both Martin and Barnes will supply great defense. I think Barnes has a better chance to be adequate offensively.

    I will watch Ferguson and Stewart with the most interest. Both need to perfect a third pitch and if they do they will be rotation challengers. Stewart would most likely have to make the team in the bullpen due lack of options but Ferguson could pitch in OK to start the season

    1. Good points Bums, it just seems it is the team who was not interested in either Bryce or Manny no matter what the fans thought, It makes me think they will not be in on Arrenado next year either, just not their style. Stewart and Garcia have an uphill battle to stick around past final cut down, but I have seen them keep a Hatcher or Font around for awhile longer for exactly that reason, don’t want to lose them for nothing.

      1. I have been on record and will continue to do so that I think Aernado would be a disaster in LA. Just look at his splits outside of Coors.

        Colorado will likely give Nolan a $200+ million extension. No way he is worth that for us. Them? Maybe, but I think they will be sorry.

      2. I like the chemistry the team has now but if Machado were not a distraction worry he would be great to have on the team. Turner is probably strong for two more years and then the team might wish they had Machado. If Muncy and Taylor have strong years then Machado would be a luxury this year.

    2. Latest rumor had it that Bryce was about to sign with Philadelphia. Where he signs is a good question, I just did not believe that Harper was a legit option for LAD. But 59inarow is correct…he hasn’t yet signed so he is an option, albeit very remote (IMO).

  5. AC, I appreciate your take on Dodgerrick. I always enjoy what he brings to the table. I hope he continues to play Devil’s Advocate to those who believe everything is fine and dandy. We are all Dodger fans and want a championship or three. We just differ on the best path to achieve that goal.

  6. Russell Martin: People mocked me when I predicted Kemp to be the comeback player of the year last year. There’s something about returning to your roots that energizes you… at least for a half season. That and read the article in The Athletic and you might understand why I see good things for Russ:

    Alexander & KellyAC articulated why Kelly could be a stud in the Dodger pen. The Dodgers are working with Alexander to smooth out his mechanics and if he can throw more strikes, he’s unhittable. History shall show us.

    KikeI doubt that he will be JDM, but there similarities. He doesn’t strike out a lot and I see improvement every year. I look for another step forward this year.

    Like every team, there are questions, but I like the Dodgers questions a lot. Some players will improve, some won’t and some will regress. All in all, I like this team more than the the 2017 and 21018 teams.

  7. I am optimistic about the 2019 Dodgers if only that they aren’t the 2018 Dodgers. Every team is flawed.

    I think the biggest flaw of the 2018 team was that they didn’t start playing until summer.

    That post WS hangover last spring was horrendous. Coming out is ST very few were ready to play. Not to pick on Kenley, but he had barely pitched when the season started. He was not alone.

    Early comments I’ve read out of ST are encouraging. They still have to perform on the field but I am encouraged we won’t see a replay of the 2018 funk.

  8. Epic post today AC! You covered so much I will pick and choose what to respond to:

    I will miss Puig, and they should not just hand RF to Verdugo. If he falters it will be Cody or Kike manning RF not Joc or Toles. But there will be a battle for the final OF spot and the loser of Joc, Toles and Verdugo goes to OKC. Barring injury there is one open spot among position players.

    They should not have given the QO to Ryu. Talk about an injury risk! I would rather have a Buchholz or 2 at a fraction of the cost than Ryu. Signing Ryu limited other options at other positions, I take the under on 25 starts.

    I like AJ and Kelly for their style of play, a little fire and scrap to replace Puig’s. They will both contribute on and off the field this year. Martin is a longer shot but behind the plate and in the clubhouse he will be fine.

    Muncy would be a huge bargain even if he DOES regress a bit. How can the team risk letting another team have that on the come? His bat plays ladies and gents, and his glove is not that bad.

    The real camp battle is for the bullpen but there is only a spot or 2 in reality and it will be fluid as many on the bubble have options and could go up and down a lot this year. Stewart and Garcia plus Quackenbush have no options left and are trade or DFA candidates.

    My glass is always half full, or more with the Blue but in spring we all wear our rose colored glasses a bit more. The issues of new hitting coaches, less platooning, starters going deeper and L/R matchups ad nauseum are there but time will tell. The saving grace is the state of the NL West which will help tons getting back to the post season again.

    1. They have missed a couple of times on QO. I think they were trying to get greedy with another draft pick AGAIN. I am semi-certain that in their discussions it was determined that there was no way that Boras would let Ryu accept a QO. Hopefully this miss will turn out better than the Brett Anderson miss.

      1. I think the Dodgers wanted Ryu to help ease Urias and Stripling into the rotation. He could be very helpful in the first half and then either help in the second half or be traded for a missing ingredient. I think he will be healthy all year. Why? I just do. He is a great fit for the Dodgers because they have pitching depth.

  9. Wow! Lots of questions. Spring must be around the corner. My perspective is pretty simple. Going into spring training, this is the most loaded, talented Dodger team I’ve seen in decades. Friedman doesn’t see any weaknesses and I find no logical reason to debate that point. Everything depends on health, of course. There are a couple of certainties when it comes to the Dodgers. No matter how well the season is going, the Dodgers will work hard to upgrade the team at the trade deadline. The other certainty? The Dodgers will lead Major League Baseball in attendance. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.

  10. Martin is not going to suddenly become a hitter. To compare him and kemp in any way is just a waste of time. Kemp has always been a quality hitter. Martin has a good eye and might matchup against a certain pitcher but anybody who can throw a breaking ball for a strike will get him. At best Martin might get a clutch hit here or there and maybe a decent obp. A new league maybe see more fastballs but it won’t last. Martin could be a good defensive backup albeit expensive for a backup. When la couldn’t get realmuto they signed Martin as the way to survive to Ruiz and smith. I believe Kelly will provide innings and be great at times yet struggle with consistent command. He will be a plus allowing Baez to have less pressure in early innings. Turner will have some issues but mainly because pitchers pitch him inside but la has freese to help who is also a clutch hitter. Pollack will be injured just what injury remains to be seen. If he can avoid a major injury then what will he produce? He could get on a roll and carry la like kemp did for awhile. He is good defensively, can steal bases, can hit with some power, but what has he done lately? I would rather play bellinger in center. The starters do have injury risks but the quality depth can withstand some injuries. I would like Clay Buchholz as well. I do think the farmer trade was a way to dump some players, get some financial flexibility, but I am very happy we got a couple of prospects. Every time there is an opportunity we should grab prospects because we will not get to draft high. These are good prospects who could be really good and we didn’t lose anybody we couldn’t replace. If Stewart’s velocity comes back put him in the bullpen. I do believe Therrien will debut although it will be tough because we have a loaded bp with many options. I would be looking to send fields somewhere as he is expensive and is replaceable. Cingrani might be next as he is one of the higher salaries and an injury risk. I think the Dodgers have enough quality starters and relievers to use the injury list judidiciously. Everybody could be fresh for playoff time. Seager will be semi regular for a couple of months and I would be surprised if he makes opening day. I would like Harper but no way, I still think Castellanos is possible at the trade deadline. I believe we will need a hitter before it is over. Buehler will be our number 1 if management will allow it. If healthy urias could be our number 2 behind buehler in the end. I predict bellinger to be great, seager great when healthy, turner the heart, Taylor rebounds, kike had 806 ops huge for a reserve, joc continues to hammer righties.

    1. It’s almost like people are too lazy to look up stats to back their arguments. For one thing, you can’t compare an outfielder’s bat to a catcher’s bat. The point with Kemp vs Martin is that MT thinks Martin will improve, just as Kemp did. Career OPS – Martin = 749, Grandal = 782, Barnes = 735. Not as big of a difference with the bat as some might think. There is way too many aspects to catching to dumb it down to hitting, framing and throwing out base runners. Grandal is gone, he didn’t want to come back after being benched the last two post seasons, and there just wasn’t a lot of options out there. Not to mention, he sucked in the last two post seasons. Why people want him back is beyond me. He simply didn’t work out. He as good. We wasn’t someone to build the team around.

      The team is deep. There’s plenty of talent on the roster. All the projection systems have us at the top of the NL. What more do people want? A Harper signing would push us up over the top of all the rankings. Beyond that, there wasn’t a whole lot on the free agent market that was going to make us a lot better. We were very fortunate to get Pollock. Will Muncy regress, will CT3, Belli, Barnes return to 2017 form? No one can answer those questions. Not even the GMs who get paid to do so. Sure it would have been great to trade for Goldy, or Cano. But, at what cost? It’s pretty obvious that Lux, May, K-Bear are untouchable to Friedman. I don’t blame him for hanging on to those guys at any cost. All of those guys have all star written all over them. After that, we don’t know how others value the next tier. Two to tango and all that.

      Other than that, I’m always overly optimistic at this time of the year. We have our team. There’s only one free agent out there that would improve our roster and no one is making any more trades right now. This is what we have. I’m behind it and very excited for Spring to start. I’m also excited to see if there will be a pleasant surprise like Muncy last year and Belli the year before. Maybe it’s Verdugo this year. Maybe Joc starts hitting lefties with new hitting coaches. Maybe Rios steals a job with Mammoth blasts all Spring. Maybe CT3 drops his strikeouts like Trout did. How freaking fast will Muncy be with all those lbs lost? Can he be a base stealing threat?

      This team is very exciting. CT3, Seager and Turner will be a nightmare for pitchers to start the game. Belli, Pollock and Muncy will have a lot of opportunity to drive in runs. Then you still have to get through Joc / Kike and the catchers who have a knack for getting on base and extending innings.

      Maybe our starters will be healthier and pitch deeper. Maybe they’ll be rested more with all that depth. Maybe Stewart breaks out and becomes a shutdown long reliever to pair with Stripling in the same role. Two innings at a time every other day bridging to Baez / Kelly / Kenley. Floro and Alexander stranding baserunners with heavy sinkers. This team has it all! Belli was 14-1 in stolen base attempts. Can he 30 / 30? Pollock, CT3, Seager, Muncy all stealing bases this year with a new baserunning coach? Two shortstops up the middle with CT3 and Seager. They won’t be Cora and Izturez, but we will be treated to some jaw dropping double plays. Will we have 7, 8, 9 dudes with 20 homers? Muncy, Bellinger, Turner, Kike, CT3, Pollock, Pederson are all good candidates to complete that feat. Bueller, Kershaw and Ryu with 200 innings? That might be a big ask, but not impossible.

      The glass is easily 3/4 full.

  11. Let me be clear. I did not want grandal back Martin or no Martin. Grandal could carry you for a month or so during the regular season but in the post season wilted. Roberts had him batting 3, 5 in the order. We can do better. Martin may improve and hopefully but his best days are over. In short spurts such as the playoffs he could give us what grandal couldn’t. We shall see. We could have managed maybe the contract of Harper had we taken the ryu and pollock money and placed on Harper. So AF decided to spread the risk short term. That is if a deal could have been made for Harper. We have a very good team as is. We shall see as we move forward what we need. I do expect Barnes to be an improved hitter.

  12. Great post AC! Since you took the time to ask, I will go out on a limb and answer your questions:

    1. Kershaw, Hill, Buehler, Maeda, Ferguson,
    1.a. Yes
    2. For the most part
    3. No; 22 starts
    4. Sometimes
    5. Not yet
    6. OKC
    7. By May
    8. Starting
    9. Next year (2020)
    10. Muncy/Taylor
    11. Both about the same
    12. Regress slightly
    13. Yes
    14. Initially Barnes
    15. Closer to 2017, if not he’ll be on on a short leash
    16. September 2019
    17. Yes
    18. Both
    19. Yes and he will be good
    20. Somewhere in between
    21. 13 man
    22. Jansen, Kelly, Baez, Cingrani, Alexander, Stripling, Fields, Floro
    23. All will make it this year
    24. Next year
    25. Sborz yes, Alvarez no
    26. OKC shuttle to and from LA/then traded
    27. To be determined.
    28. Only if they’re lights out in OKC
    29. Somewhat
    30. Definitely an optimist!!
    Bonus questions from me:
    31. who will be the primary right fielder? Bellinger, unless Verdugo lights it up in ST
    32. What happens to Verdugo? Probably back to OKC and then traded. (Although my hope is he stays and turns into Tony Gwynn)
    Just for fun, my sleeper candidates are: Kyle Garlick and Edwin Rios

        1. I would appreciate if you would include the questions with your answers as I am interested in your take but not enough to scroll back and forth.

  13. AC great job, with defusing the situation here, and asking all the reasonable questions that most are concerned with, with this roster.

    Rick I consider myself as a healthy skeptic, but I also believe like Mark, in the human spirit too, so just wait until the season begins, because this is the roster of players we have for now, so we are going to have to roll with these players on the roster now.

    But at least we will have more resources to work with and know what we really have, once the trade deadline approaches.

    1. Palmdale

      Is this team more like the teams from the 70s that went to the World Series three times, and finally won it all in 81, or the 88 team?

      1. I’ll go with 81, although that’s stretching the practical limits of my recall. 88 was a true “bolt from the blue” and will likely never be duplicated.

  14. the 2017 Dodgers were astounding at times. From May through August, I wondered if they would ever lose. Even with a tailspin in September, they still won 104 games. Last year’s version won 91 games in regulation. Pythagoras said they should have won 102 games based solely on run differential. When expectations do not meet results, I try to figure out why that is, and then try to fix it.

    2018 started out with some very bad luck and this resulted in the Blue starting the season in the hole. Remember when 3/4 of the starting INF (Turner, Seager and Forsythe), Puig, and 4/5 of the rotation were on the DL at the same time? Part of last season’s W – L record can be attributed to injuries and a 16 – 26 that was the result. But that’s not the whole story.

    As has been well publicized last season, the 2018 Dodgers were one of the least clutch teams in baseball history. This conclusion is based on a couple of stories in Fangraphs in August which concluded based on the numbers that the Dodgers were, up to that point in the season, the 4th least clutch team in MLB since the beginning of the 1974 season.

    And this is why Pythagoras doesn’t tell the whole story.

    The Dodgers had a penchant for losing close games and winning blowouts. If you win 10 – 1 and lose 2 – 1, you have scored 11 and given up only 2 but you are still only .500.

    Last year’s bullpen was 2nd in blown saves. Last year’s Dodgers were horrible hitting in the clutch, especially with RISP. These factors are why the Dodgers struggled. They ended the season tied with a much worse Rockies team; they struggled against the Brewers in the NLCS and were overmatched by the Bosox in the Series.

    So, my hopes going into this offseason were that these problems would be remedied. As we get closer to the start of the season, I don’t have confidence that they have.

    I have mostly given the Dodgers a pass when looking at the starting rotation. As I see it, the quality and depth of this group bodes well for the regular season. I am more concerned about the post-season – here, I share AC’s take. Having another ace-quality starter could make a huge difference in a short series.

    The bullpen is mostly the same group that underperformed in 2018. To this bunch the Dodgers have added Joe Kelly. Our host and others here assure us that Kelly is going to be great and that the group that pitched so poorly so often in close games last year will be lights out this year. My skepticism about Wild Man Kelly is already known here – in 3 seasons as a full-time reliever, he has averaged 4.2, 6.3, and 4.4 BB/9. As a result, his WHIP last season was over 1.3 – an unacceptable figure for a late inning reliever. Pitching the 8th, you simply cannot allow that many baserunners. His WHIP was worse than all other Dodger relievers last year except Yimi Garcia.

    While I don’t like some of what the SABR revolution has wrought, the fact of the matter is that the average baseball game in 2018 had almost 4.5 relief pitchers per team. Bullpens are far more important than they used to be. Teams like the Brewers brought in relievers in waves. I am not satisfied that last year’s underperforming group, plus Kelly, will perform in a way to solve last season’s clutch pitching problem.

    This season’s offense will be better at the start of the year then last if Turner and Seager are present. I’m not too sure about Seager – no one is. He isn’t throwing across an infield yet and isn’t facing live hitting. Given 2 major surgeries last year, the jury is out on whether he comes back 100% ever. If he does, it’s not clear when this will be. I agree that between Taylor and Hernandez, the Dodgers can cope with his loss short term, but note that much of the optimism here is based on the supposition that Seager will be the Cory of old most of the year. I hope that this is true – but don’t share the certainty of others here.

    Last year’s real deficiency was another part of the SABR revolution – trying to hit HR every time up, and eschewing making regular contact. SABRphiles have told us for years that the singles -hitting table-setter was an anachronism. Everyone should hit for power, we’re told. And forget about speed and basestealing – not important, and besides you are giving up outs. (With thinking like that, the Dodgers of the 60’s never would have made the World Series. )

    The result? No leadoff hitters, no SB, no creating multiple-hit rallies that allow runs to score without HR. And painful-to-watch Dodger games, viewing the likes of Chris Taylor K 178 times in 604 PA.

    With everyone trying to hit a HR every time up, the Dodgers didn’t knock in many baserunners.

    Part of the reason for this appears to have been another SABR revelation – the launch angle revolution. Except having an extreme uppercut swing limits the amount of time that the bat is in the plane of the ball, limiting the chance for contact. Ted Williams talked about a “slight” uppercut, but watch the likes of Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger last year and tell me whether their “angles” are a slight uppercut.

    So – now we are told that by losing the GM to the Giants and the hitting coach to the Reds and hiring a new hitting coach (one who has never played or coached baseball by the way) that the Dodgers’ offensive approach problems will be solved. I for one doubt that the departed Farhan Zaidi ever espoused a position that was inconsistent with that of the rest of the Braintrust or that Turner Ward coached inconsistent with the team’s philosophy.

    And, I would note, last year’s top clutch hitter was – Matt Kemp – who will be wearing a red and white uniform next year.

    So – I don’t think that the Dodgers have done enough to solve the reason that they underperformed last season.

    As an aside, I did look at all of the catchers who I thought might be available on the trade market and made several observations about trade options. I concluded that Yan Gomes, formerly of the Indians and now with the Nationals, was likely the best available option, assuming that they couldn’t pry Realmuto lose from the Fish. Russell Martin’s numbers have been in decline for several season as befits a 36 year old catcher. Not only did he hit only .190 last year, he only threw out 22% of runners attempting to steal. He is not going to solve the problem caused by the loss of Grandal.

    My take on 2019? The Dodgers should win a weak NL West easily enough (but I thought that last year too and look what happened). I question that they have done enough to solve last year’s problems.

  15. My favorite baseball team has gone to and lost the last 2 WS. My favorite football team went to and lost the SB this year. My favorite hockey team (Vegas Golden Knights) went to the SC Finals and lost last year in their 1st season, and my lifelong team the Kings were the last LA team to win it all (twice.) Only the Lakers are still in a rebuild mode but have LeBron and a bunch of young talent. Other than the Red Sox/Patriots juggernaughts what other city has had that level of success? Would you rather go to the dance and come up just short or stay home and watch on TV? The Dodgers as constructed are set up to compete now and into the future and have depth that most teams envy. The GM and 3rd base coach were poached and last year it was Kapler and AA poached, that tells me other teams are trying to emulate Freidman and what he is doing. Same with McVay and the Rams, teams are poaching coaches trying to duplicate what they did. I would not trade places with any other team in baseball as far as being a fan of the product on the field and prospects for the future.You can’t tell me there is not a WS trophy on the horizon.

  16. Jim Bowden on Jeter Downs:

    The Dodgers acquired Downs in the offseason trade that sent Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds. Downs is an underrated prospect and has the potential to become L.A.’s everyday second baseman. I really like his bat; he has a solid approach and a short, quick stroke. He also has surprising pop and can steal bases at will. This will be one of those under-the-radar pickups that people talk about in three years.

    1. That would be awesome. Maybe Lux stays at short and Seager eventually moves to third. Maybe Lux, Downs, Seager, and Bellinger will become the Cey, Garvey, Lopes, and Russell.

      Add Smith and Ruiz to that foursome and the Dodgers could a Yeager/Fergusson catcher combo to complete a 10 year infield.

  17. Are we really now dedicating posts to discrepancies between some poster with the name Always Compete and another named Dodgerrick?

    1. Bluto, If you have a problem with it, don’t read it. Or better yet, why don’t you stick your neck out and write one.

      1. AC

        Some people can’t appreciate people who are not only good with numbers, but are also good communicators too.

        Especially if some don’t usually put themselves on the line, in this way.

        Mark I guess this is a perception thing, because I don’t think your being skewered here, I think AC is pretty fair, most of the time.

        And AC’s point was that not everyone sees things, in the same way, and you have admit that you are the ultimate optimist, at least until the season begins.

        1. I can take it. It’s OK.

          However, lately I have to be optimistic almost all the time.

          Have you seen what the Dodgers have done the past few years?

          1. Mark

            I am a fast study if you know what I mean, because I do know the Dodgers have done in the last couple years.

        2. MJ, you are correct. This was not meant to skewer anyone. Quite the opposite. I appreciate opposing views, and I know Mark does as well. He has much thicker skin than me.
          I wrote my fourth blog post nearly two years ago (March 30, 2017), and today’s was somewhat reminiscent of that one. The questions are different but many of us still look at the same thing differently. Below is that post I wrote in 2017.

          1. One of my comments from that day in 2017:
            “The Dodgers were 23rd last year with RISP at .250. In 2015 they were 21st at .249. They were 1st at .286 in 2014, 16th at .252 in 2013, 18th at .252 in 2012, and 20th at .246 in 2011.

            This has been a weakness in the current bunch for years (2014 appears to be an outlier) and since they have largely the same group as last year (Forsyth excepted) I have no real expectation that they will be any better.

            The Earl Weaver theory about playing for the 3 run HR seems to be in play, but it rarely results in good BA with RISP. I suspect that it is part of the Moneyball way of doing things.”


          2. AC

            That just proves it is how one perceives another, or another’s thoughts.

            That is why I told Mark that was not any knock on him.

      2. I know what I know, AC, and it’s not baseball.

        The truth is I like most of what you and the other guy comment. I just feel this is a bridge too far.

        I could write about movies!?!??!??!

    2. Rick and Mark sort of capture the half full and half empty takes so AC created an interesting post that used those differences. I think the post was more Mark v Rick than it was Rick v AC.

    1. That’s an if question. And there’s too many variables to decide without going through Spring Training.
      Muncy has to hit better than Taylor / Kike to play second and The Joc Platoon and Verdugo have to hit enough to send Belli to first. That’s a lot of ifs. Judging by the interviews so far, coming from Roberts who is always clear as mud…

      C – Marnes
      1B – Muncy
      2B – Taylor
      3B – Turner
      SS – Seager
      LF – Kike Pederson
      CF – Pollock
      RF – Bellinger

      Depending on who hits and gets injured or isn’t ready to go this can all change. Hell, it can all change on a daily bases knowing our manager. But, I think you already knew this when you asked the question.

  18. It shouldn’t be anybody against anybody and I don’t think it is. There are people like MT, AC, and DC who work hard to provide info and good topics for discussion. If anything more people should post, share their thoughts, to have a variety of ideas and opinions. I don’t think people should be placed for or against because we are all for the Dodgers. I think the fans have a right to explanation of what the front office is doing. The fans pay for the product and without those dollars the business is not a business. I don’t think the Dodgers have gone all in to win a World Series and that’s my opinion whether you agree or not. However, I am happy to be a dodger fan and it is a great time to be a dodger fan. W,e are going to be in the hunt in the foreseeable future. I don’t align with or against any poster. I enjoy reading all the posts. I think Vegas makes a lot of good posts and I love reading Peter j’s even though I have to work to understand them. Hopefully, anyone can post their opinion without feeling under personal attack because they are outside what a half dozen people think. Maybe, I don’t get it. Mark , are there rules you have to go by to post? If so, I guess I missed them. Please review the goal of ladodgertalk if necessary. I just thought it was a fun, informative way, to follow the Dodgers.

    1. I think the Golden Rule is enough. There are no rules. Its been a couple of years since I banned anyone. No one is even close to that. Disagreement is encouraged. Have at it!

      However, if you have a different opinion, be prepared to defend it. 😉

    2. 100% agree with more people posting. It is not easy coming up with ideas to write something new every day. I like to read all opinions (from all Dodger sites) and hopefully a topic will germinate that will hopefully elicit discussion. My post tomorrow will be based on a reply from someone last week.
      Also 100% agree that this is a great time to be a Dodger fan. The Dodgers should contend for the foreseeable future, and hopefully they will win a WS or ten along the way. It is hard being in Northern California amongst the enemy. Regardless as to how bad they may be right now, they just point to 2010, 2012, 2014 and there is not much come back.
      So keep all of the opinions coming.

  19. Earlier today I ran into an article about Stetson Allie being an NRI to keep an eye on. And then again I just noticed an article about him on the Dodgers website. Apparently he was drafted as a pitcher some years back in the 2nd round by the Pirates, was converted to the outfield, and now the Dodgers have the 27 year old back on the mound, and he’s hitting 101 mph.

    I recall him being in spring training as an outfielder with the Dodgers a couple of years ago. I don’t know how the Dodgers feel about him, but was wondering if AC and/or DC have any thoughts about him.

    1. I have watched him and he pitched 42 innings last year in A, AA and AAA. He does hit triple digits with regularity.
      In those 42 IP, he struck out 59 and walked 31 while giving up 35 hits. He has the arm… hopefully the control will come.

      James Loney is also making a comeback as a starting pitcher. Stay tuned….

  20. Here’s the article I read earlier today regarding NRI’s. Jesen Therrien was also mentioned.

    Mark, command and control are vitally important, as are movement on the fastball and effective secondary pitches. But it’s always intriguing when a pitcher can hit triple digits, especially if he can do it consistently. I’m not predicting anything, but it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised by both Allie and Therrien. It’s fun to dream. And it’s nice to know that the Dodgers have those arms and others in camp.

    I’ll be rooting for Loney, unless he somehow manages to make it back to the big leagues, and pitches against the Dodgers. Not holding my breath, but you never know.

    1. Brooklyn, I have been touting Therrien for more than a year. I cannot wait to see him pitch.
      You cannot teach what Stetson Allie can do. Triple digits is legit. But he does need command. That has not always been there for Stetson. Stetson will be 28 this year, so he has time to get that command. If he does, he could be a tremendous reliever, maybe along the lines of a Josh Hader. I also worry that as hard as he does throw, sometimes his pitch may flatten out (as does Hader’s). He is absolutely someone to monitor. He was pushed hard last year, and he is being watched.

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