This is not a reactionary column to another poor outing by the Dodger bullpen, but it is about the season-long problems with the bullpen. The team is still on pace to win 105 games so at this point we only care about the wins in October.
I’ve followed Keibert and watched him climb up the Dodgers prospect ranking to take the number one spot this spring. Many names have been bandied about to help the Dodger bullpen but far and away the best name and option belongs to Felipe Vazquez of the Pirates.
Via the Fangraphs Custom Date Tool, here the best relief pitchers via fWAR from 4/1/2017 – 7-17-2019.
|Felipe Vazquez||185.2||5.8||11.63||2.67||0.53||46.4 %||2.37||2.96||2.13|
|Josh Hader||175||5.3||15.17||3.34||1.13||29.0 %||2.65||2.57||2.31|
|Roberto Osuna||140.2||5.2||9.92||1.34||0.45||42.1 %||2.24||3.28||2.82|
|Blake Treinen||195.2||5.1||9.75||3.27||0.55||52.9 %||3||3.4||2.76|
|Sean Doolittle||135.2||5||11.14||1.79||0.73||30.1 %||2.44||3.62||2.45|
|Edwin Diaz||175.2||5||13.88||3.13||1.13||40.9 %||2.93||2.83||3.13|
|Aroldis Chapman||138.1||4.8||13.99||4.03||0.46||46.5 %||2.26||2.8||2.73|
|Kenley Jansen||178.2||4.6||12.19||1.61||1.21||35.6 %||2.85||2.88||2.52|
|Kirby Yates||161.2||4.6||13.64||2.51||1.06||39.6 %||2.67||2.77||2.51|
|Joakim Soria||160||4.4||10.46||2.81||0.51||43.1 %||2.61||3.45||3.71|
Josh Hader, Osuna, Treinen, Doolittle, and Chapman are all on teams the Dodgers might have to beat in Oct to win a World Championship. Diaz was an elite bullpen arm but has given up three runs or more in four games this year and may not be the guy you want to mortgage some of your future for. Just ask the Mets. Kenley Jansen is, of course, our guy. Kirby Yates might be available but I think he’s going elsewhere. Soria is the final guy on the list and the A’s aren’t moving him.
This leaves the best pitcher and the best option. Felipe Vazquez. The Pirates have a fighting chance at the Wild Card but not a very realistic one. Their team simply isn’t that good. To get Vazquez we can look to recent mid-summer deals for elite bullpen arms in the last few years.
In the summer of 2018, Brad Hand was dealt from the Padres along with Adam Climber for the Indians top prospect Francisco Mejia. That was the only prospect the Padres got. At the time of the deal, Brad Hand was in the middle of a contract that would keep him with the Indians through 2021. The Indians were swept in the ALDS by Houston with Brad Hand pitching in two games, getting five outs, giving up three hits and two earned runs. The Indians gave up their top prospect and got nothing from him in the postseason that would have prolonged their season. They still have Brad Hand though, and maybe this year he will be the difference-maker in October. It is a trade I would have made.
On July 25th, 2016 the Cubs traded multiple prospects including Gleyber Torres to the NYY for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman appeared in 28 games for the Cubs during the regular season. The Cubs would win the World Series with Chapman as their closer but it wasn’t like he was Mariano Rivera. Chapman was good enough that he only gave up runs in four of his eighteen games, but two of those games were games six and seven of the World Series. The Cubs got what they wanted when they traded for Chapman, a World Series. They also gave up one of the best young players in baseball.
Headed into this spring Keibert Ruiz was considered the Dodgers top prospect. The previous summer at just nineteen years old he had acquited himself quite well in AA. He had a successful stint in the AFL. The switch-hitting catcher was generally considered the best catching prospect in baseball. Keibert has struggled offensively this year in AA, but he’s still just twenty. As far as the prospect list goes, Alex Verdugo is now a successful major league outfielder which dropped him off the list but Gavin Lux has emerged as the Dodgers best positional prospect.
In my own view, the Dodgers have several untradeable prospects. Those would be Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and Diego Cartaya. Keibert Ruiz is not one of them for one big reason. Will Smith. I have no doubt that Ruiz is going to a major league catcher, hopefully, a good one, but I also believe that Will Smith is also going to be a quality major league catcher. It is only because of Will Smith that I’d consider trading Ruiz but because of Smith, I do think the Dodgers could move Keibert Ruiz for Felipe Vazquez. I think it would take more than Ruiz to pry Vazquez from the Pirates. I would move three prospects for him only because I think this team really has a shot at the elusive World Championship and Vazquez is the guy who might help them get it.
Given the depth, on the major league roster, the Dodgers could actually move Joc Pederson for some prospects that they might move toward the Pirates. Or Kiké. Depth will win you the season but it won’t win you the World Series and the season has already been won.
Anyway using Dustin Noslers top 30 list I’d think a package of Keibert Ruiz, one of (Omar Estevez, Mitchell White, Matt Beaty), one of (Edwin Rios, Edwin Uceta, DJ Peters, Dennis Santana) might get it done. Maybe it will take more, but I do think this is the guy the Dodgers should be targeting.
If they get Vazquez, he will help, but you never know how he will perform in the post-season. The Dodgers have a history of having their best regular-season relief pitchers come up short in the postseason but at least they would have another weapon and the quintet of Jansen/Vazquez/Urias/Kelly/ Baez would be formidable.
The Dodgers get their 2nd half reinforcements on Friday when they are expected to activate Cory Seager, AJ Pollock, and David Freeze but it will come at a price to more than one Dodger who helped propel the team to the best record in baseball while the aforementioned were nursing their injuries.
Matt Beaty has already been optioned back to AAA, and we all recognized his great contributions while he was up. Kyle Garlick and Edwin Rios will be next. Heck of a July trade right? Cory Seager / AJ Pollock / David Freese for Matt Beaty / Kyle Garlick / Edwin Rios.
Dave Roberts will have to figure out how his new lineups will incorporate Taylor, Verdugo, Joc, Freese, and even Hernandez. Right now there simply aren’t enough starting spots for all the players who warrant starting gigs.
While Cory Seager was out, Chris Taylor reestablished himself as an everyday player by being one of the best hitters in the NL since June 11th (when Seager got hurt). Per Fangraphs, Taylor has been the 8th best offensive player in the NL with his 177 wRC+ since June 11th. Seager will slide right back into his SS position so Chris Taylor will need to find a spot somewhere in the lineup.
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||173||1.6||105||0.41||0.652||0.433|
AJ Pollock got off to a slow start and quickly hit the disabled list due to an infection in his surgically repaired body. Alex Verdugo eventually took his spot in CF and has been one of the best center fielders in the NL while Pollock was mending. Using Fangraphs once again we can see how valuable Verdugo has been playing CF since April 29th. It should be worth noting that Pollock came to the Dodgers with a rep as an elite defensive CF and that Verdugo was not supposed to be a good CF. In 2019, Verdugo has been an above average defensive center fielder while Pollock in limited play was below average.
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||2.1||10.9||1||0.363||0.498||0.364||123||292|
If Verdugo moves to LF to make room for Pollock in CF, where does that leave Joc? Both Pollock and Verdugo figure to be full-time players, not platoon players.
The Dodgers recognized the future logjam in the outfield and much to the chagrin of some Dodger fans gave Joc Pederson an in-season try out at 1st base. Joc did not look good at 1st base but if he is going to play, he may have to become a 1st baseman. I thought it was prudent of the Dodgers to entertain this idea since Max Muncy has established that he can play 2nd base. The problem now though is that Chris Taylor needs a place to play, and what about David Freese?
As much as we like Kiké he has lost his starting gig and I’m not even sure how he gets one or two starts per week going forward. Against right-hand pitching, I can see Bellinger/Pollock/Verdugo in the OF and Joc / Muncy / Seager / Turner as the infield leaving Taylor on the bench. Left-hand pitchers could have a lineup of Bellinger/Pollock/Verdugo and an infield of Muncy / Taylor / Seager / Turner.
That leaves Freese and Kiké on the bench all the time except for the occasional start where they rest Turner/Seager/Muncy/Pollock/Verdugo which is how Roberts can still get them some playing time besides Freese pinch hitting and Kiké being a defensive replacement. Expect all of the Dodgers except Bellinger to get plenty of rest in the second half as Dave Roberts tries to make everyone happy.
Of course, this whole exercise could be pointless given the complete health history of AJ Pollock and the recent health history of Cory Seager.
Even though Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers had been rumored for well over a year by well-respected sources I don’t think many Clipper fans really felt it would happen. As Clipper fans have heard every day for forever, no superstar will ever WANT to play for the Clippers. My wife just came home from Dallas where her cousins ridiculed the idea that Kevin Durant would consider the Clippers after they were watching an ESPN show that suggested such a thing. Not only did we hear this daily in Los Angeles, but we also had to listen to it from other localities
I felt in my heart if any free agent would tweak their nose at the rest of the league and sign with the Clippers it would be Leonard. The challenge of playing for a franchise with no championships in a city that is owned by the team they share their building with simply folds most superstars who simply aren’t up for the challenge.
Hell, who can blame them. When Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers he was still a top ten player. He took his family to a Dodger game and they showed him on the monitor Instead of getting the cheers he’s heard all his life, he was booed. In front of his son. I don’t think he ever got over that. I’m sure his son will never forget. I never forgot I’ve thought less of Dodger fans ever since.
Times change though. Donald Sterling is no longer the owner, Steve Ballmer the richest sports owner in the World is. The right-hand man for Ballmer is Jerry West, the Logo, the man who built the Laker juggernaut of Shaq/Kobe. The front office is so loaded that not one but two different assistant General Managers were recruited to run other organizations, and yet they turned down those offers to continue working within the Clipper front office. No one does that.
Winning? Well, the Clippers were the only Los Angeles team to make the postseason this past season. While the Lakers were salivating about another lottery pick the Clippers were the only NBA franchise to beat the Warriors in the postseason when the Warriors had their big four healthy.
The Clippers don’t have any championships, YET. But they do win, oh yes they do.
|Year||Clipper Wins||Clipper Postseason||Laker Wins||Laker Postseason|
|2018-19||48||Lost 1st Round||37||No Playoffs|
|2017-18||42||No Playoffs||35||No Playoffs|
|2016-17||51||Lost 1st Round||26||No Playoffs|
|2015-16||53||Lost 1st Round||17||No Playoffs|
|2014-15||56||Lost Conf Semis||21||No Playoffs|
|2013-14||57||Lost Conf Semis||27||No Playoffs|
|2012-13||56||Lost 1st Round||45||Lost 1st Round|
|2011-2012||40||Lost Conf Semis||41||Lost Semis|
It may have taken Kawhi Leonard to get this city to notice the Clippers, but the Clippers have been the only winning NBA franchise in Los Angeles since 2013. They have won 154 more games than the Lakers since Chris Paul was sent to the Franchise by the NBA commissioner in 2011.
Chris Paul didn’t choose the Clippers, the NBA commissioner did. Blake Griffin didn’t choose the Clippers the draft did.
Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers. Kawhi not only chose the Clippers over the super team across the hall he decided to build his own super team and recruited Paul George to join him. There will be no Chris Paul stigma as this duo tries to do what Lob City could not do, bring a banner to Staples Center and win over the NBA fans of Los Angeles.
In the past, I thought you could be both a Clipper and Laker fan but not anymore. Kawhi spurned the Lakers and has created a divide that will only be decided when these two superpower franchises match up.
Hopefully in a Western Conference Final.
Much of the talk about the Dodger rookies will be about the back to back to back rookie walk-off home runs this weekend but the Dodger rookies have been banging all year.
Player WAR/pos Year Age PA 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Alex Verdugo 2.5 2019 23 250 17 7 32 18 26 .302 .352 .489 .841 Will Smith 0.5 2019 24 24 1 3 6 2 6 .318 .375 .773 1.148 Kyle Garlick 0.4 2019 27 24 2 2 4 2 9 .318 .375 .682 1.057 Matt Beaty 0.2 2019 26 71 4 2 13 2 11 .333 .352 .478 .830 Rocky Gale -0.2 2019 31 15 0 0 0 0 7 .133 .133 .133 .267
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
I didn’t realize that Rocky Gale was still considered a rookie given that it seems he’s been around a long time. He’s not banging, but everyone else is. Alex Verdugo is now firmly in the ROY race. Alonso has a full one point fWAR lead on him but he also did that with 70 more plate appearances, and one guy is a 1st baseman, the other is a centerfielder so that gap may continue to close as the season progresses if Verdugo can continue to hit at this level while playing a plus center field.
There is a lot to unload from this weekend series with the Rockies.
Every Dodger position rookie is making their mark this year and Matt Beaty is no exception. I haven’t looked at the statcast data, but it seems every time he makes contact it is hard contact. Matt was doing everything right, and yet because of the Rich Hill injury, he was sent down last Wednesday. He didn’t take his flight to Oklahoma and it seemed awful convenient that Josh Sborz suffered an injury that would put him on the injured list so that Matt could rejoin the team in time for the series with the Rockies.
Good thing that the Dodgers never planned on sending Matt to Oklahoma because he was a big part of the Dodger walk-off sweep of the Rockies this past weekend. Matt had been making most of his starts at 1st base but with the Dodgers thinking long term they moved Matt to LF and gave Joc Pederson his first major league start at 1st base. Matt is not an outfielder and Joc is not a 1st baseman but if/when AJ Pollock comes back if Joc is going to play that means he may need to learn how to play 1st base because Cody and Alex are going to be in RF/CF every night for a while. Matt made his mark by hitting the walk-off home run and is now part of major league history by being part of the Dodger Rookie trio who hit back to back to back rookie walk-off home runs this weekend.
That might be the highlight of his career. Or it might just be the start of his career. Max Muncy and others have broken what we expect of AAAA level players. It is very possible that Matt Beaty has the hit tool to have an impactful major league career. I won’t pretend to know what is in store, but what he has done for the Dodgers in June has already had an impact on the team. His ability to play 1st, allowed Max Muncy to move to 2nd, and Max shocked me (maybe everyone) with how well he has handled second base. The Dodgers looked down the road and decided that Joc needed to play 1st base, which tells me all I need to know about who they expect to be on the roster when AJ Pollock comes off the injured list. Unless something happens at the traded deadline it won’t be Matt Beaty but if the Dodgers earn a ring, Matt Beaty will have earned the right to wear that ring.
With the injury to AJ Pollock, Alex Verdugo has planted himself in centerfield and in the hearts of Dodger fans. I don’t want to talk for all Dodger fans but for this fan, his spirit and play has supplanted the fun that Yasiel Puig used to deliver. This comes as a shock to me for several reasons.
I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Alex Verdugo when I first saw him play for the Dodgers. He had the excellent minor league pedigree but there was something that just didn’t sit right with me. Most of it probably had to do with the massive gold chain that seemed out of place but that was just a reactionary response from someone who has never understood the place that jewelry has in our society. Once I got over that I still had the feeling that he simply wasn’t going to be good enough to be an everyday outfielder for a team hunting for a World Championship.
Instead, Verdugo just might be the player you need to win a World Championship. He can hit for average, for power, has decent speed, good arm, makes contact, and plays the game hard. Verdugo may not be great at anything but he’s good at everything you want a player to be good at. The scouting reports said he wasn’t a center-fielder – that seems to be wrong. He’s played a solid centerfield. Not great, but certainly adequate. The scouting reports said he wouldn’t have the power needed in today’s game – the dude hit the longest home run of any Dodger and this team has Cody Bellinger on it
I’m not a big antic fan, and Verdugo has plenty of antics, and the fans are eating it up. I always thought if the fans are having fun who am I to get in the way. If they want to hit beach balls, let em hit beach balls. If they want to do the wave, let them do the wave. If they like their players doing bat flips, dancing in the dugout, doing shimmy things, crazy wild home run greetings. Whatever, we are all at the game to have fun. Your fun is not my fun but why should I get in the way of your fun?
Verdugo is fun. and he’s good. and he might have been exactly what the Dodgers needed.
Will Smith entered the 2019 season stuck between the present in Austin Barnes and the future in Keibert Ruiz. The Dodgers had signed Russell Martin to back up Austin Barnes which left Will Smith in AAA. The good news for Will Smith is that the Dodgers didn’t trade for Realmuto or trade for any other catcher that would block Smith for the future position of Dodger catcher. The bad news for Smith was that Keibert Ruiz was right behind him, and many considered him the Dodger heir apparent at catcher, not Will Smith. At best it was thought that Smith might be able to grab a year before Ruiz showed up.
Given what Will Smith is doing, he might not only be the Dodger catcher of the future, he might be the Dodger catcher of the present. It wouldn’t take much of a case to show that Will Smith might be the Dodgers best option for catcher right now. Part of that is because of how awesome Will Smith has been, part of that is because Austin Barnes continues to look like 2018 Austin Barnes and not the hoped-for 2017 version.
How awesome has Will Smith been? He has a 1.006 OPS in AAA with fourteen home runs in only 147 plate appearances. He has hit another three home runs as a Dodger in only nineteen plate appearances which have fueled his 1.148 major league OPS. Home runs aren’t his only game, he has also walked thirty-three times in about 200 combined major / minor league plate appearances. Among his three major league home runs are already two walk-off home runs with the latest coming yesterday. Most major league players will go a complete career without a walk-off home run. He has two in his first twenty-two major league at-bats. If you want to forget the hitting because the most important job for a catcher is to run the pitching staff, he’s considered a top defensive catcher with good framing skills. In short, Will Smith is probably a good guy to entrust as your starting catcher.
@clylealt has been telling me for several years that Will Smith is so good that he will be the Dodgers future catcher. She just might be right.
@DustinNosler opined several weeks ago that the Dodgers should carry Will Smith on the roster because of the flexibility of all three Dodger catchers. I didn’t see how they could configure the roster to make this happen, but they should probably do exactly that.
At the beginning of the year, I thought Walker Buehler would be in the Cy Young conversation but as April turned to May that thought was long gone from my memory. On June 21st, Walker reminded me why I had such lofty thought for him when he pitched a complete game with sixteen strikeouts.
I thought the Walker Buehler game on Friday night was going to be the best game score of 2019 but I must not have paid enough attention to the game that German Marquez threw on April 14th when he threw a one-hit shutout. Still, the game on Friday night by Buehler was the best game by a Dodger this year and it did include the most strikeouts in one game by any pitcher this year.
Player Date Rslt IP H ER BB SO GSc German Marquez 2019-04-14 W 4-0 9.0 1 0 0 9 94 Sandy Alcantara 2019-05-19 W 3-0 9.0 2 0 1 8 90 Walker Buehler 2019-06-21 W 4-2 9.0 3 2 0 16 89 Freddy Peralta 2019-04-03 W 1-0 8.0 2 0 0 11 89 Noah Syndergaard 2019-05-02 W 1-0 9.0 4 0 1 10 88 Hyun-Jin Ryu 2019-05-12 W 6-0 8.0 1 0 1 9 88
Player Date Rslt IP H ER BB SO GSc Walker Buehler 2019-06-21 W 4-2 9.0 3 2 0 16 89 Max Scherzer 2019-06-02 W 4-1 8.0 3 1 1 15 86 Jacob deGrom 2019-04-03 W 6-4 7.0 3 0 1 14 84
This game has to be one of the most dominant games by a right-handed LAD pitcher using strikeout as the cherry-picked criteria? Let’s find out.
Yeah it was:
Player Date Tm Rslt IP H ER BB SO GSc Ramon Martinez 1990-06-04 LAD W 6-0 9.0 3 0 1 18 98 Hideo Nomo 1996-04-13 LAD W 3-1 9.0 3 1 3 17 91 Walker Buehler 2019-06-21 LAD W 4-2 9.0 3 2 0 16 89 Hideo Nomo 1995-06-14 LAD W 8-5 8.0 6 2 2 16 74
Only four right-handed LAD pitchers have struck out at least 16 hitters and Walker Buehler is now one of them. Granted strike-outs in 2019 are as prevalent as lies by POTUS compared to the historical past but still, you have to count them.
This was also the best game score by Walker in his brief career, with two his best game scores coming in the month of June.
Date Tm Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO GSc 2019-06-21 LAD COL W 4-2 9.0 3 2 0 16 89 2019-06-03 LAD ARI W 3-1 8.0 2 1 0 11 85 2018-09-14 LAD STL W 3-0 8.0 2 0 2 9 85
With his dominant June, Walker is once again making a case for the 2019 CYA. Max Scherzer has a sizable WAR lead but Max is 6 -5 and Walker is 8 – 1 and while wins don’t have the caveat they once had, they might still have enough to sway just enough voters. The chart below was created via export download from www.fangraphs.com.
The well-known screenwriter texted his agent and said he’d just written a script from a dream he’d had. In the script, the home town baseball team (let’s call them the Dodgers) was playing the team in 2nd place trying to catch them. The agent asked for the highlights and the screenwriter provided the bullet points.
- The two games prior to the series the Dodgers had to use their bullpen because of an injury to their starter. To make this happen they had dropped a rookie on the team and picked up another rookie. That rookie got hurt and the originally dropped rookie was re-instated for the first game of the series. Are you with me so far? That rookie hits a walk-off home run to win the first game after the Dodger pitcher pitches the best game of the year.
- In the second game of the series, the Dodgers are playing a rookie center-fielder who is only playing because the original center-fielder is hurt. That rookie center-fielder hits a walk-off home run to win the second game.
- In the third game of the series, the Dodgers bring up another rookie to help out with roster depth. That guy is a catcher. He doesn’t start, in fact, he doesn’t even come in when the original catcher leaves. The second catcher blows a play at the plate and the came is tied headed into the bottom of the ninth. With a runner on second, the opposing manager walks the second catcher to face the rookie. On the first pitch, the rookie hits a three-run walk-off home run.
The screenwriter stops texting for a second and takes a call from his agent. All he can hear is laughter from his phone. Loud cackling laughter. The laughter finally stops and the agent gasps out “let me get this straight, you want to pitch a screenplay where a baseball team wins three games in a row with walk-off home runs, and the kicker is that each walk-off home run was hit b a rookie?”
This is a cliche, but not even Hollywood would believe what happened this weekend at Chavez Ravine.
Matt Beatty was sent down Wednesday Night because Rich Hill only pitched one inning and they needed arms. Josh Sborz was one of those arms. Josh pitched on Thursday Night and either was legitimately hurt, or the Dodgers told him he was hurt. Either way, Josh Sborz was put on the injured list Thursday Night, and the Dodgers brought back up Matt Beatty who was plugged into left field. With the score 2 – 2, Max Muncy worked a walk and Matt Beatty slugged a two-run walk-off home run. This might end up being the greatest moment of Matt Beatty’s career.
Alex Verdugo was already having another great game on Saturday Night with three hits including a double and home run when he came up in the bottom of the eleventh with the Dodgers tied at 4. At this point in the season, the Dodgers had yet to score one single run in an extra-inning game in 2019. One pitch later the Dodgers had won 5 – 4 when Verdugo deposited the Jesus Tinoco deep into right field. That gave the Dodgers two straight walk-off home runs, and both by rookies. That was the first time in history that two rookies had hit back to back walk-off home runs.
The best was yet to come.
Will Smith was brought up before the game on Sunday. He had been on a tear with the AAA Oklahoma Dodgers having hit six home runs in his previous twenty-seven AAA at-bats. Will Smith didn’t start the game Austin Barnes did. Will Smith didn’t come into the game when Austin Barnes was lifted for a pinch hitter, Russell Martin was. As I was watching this game, I said to myself that this was set up perfectly for a Will Smith walk off. I laughed to myself at the thought but when Martin misplayed a play at the plate and the game was tied a 3- 3, I tweeted out my ridiculous thought.
It is crazy how this is setting up for Will Smith to walk this off
4:02 PM – 23 Jun 2019
— Phil Gurnee (@meercatjohn) June 23, 2019
The bottom of the ninth found the Dodgers facing the Rockies best relief pitcher Scott Oberg. Matt Beatty (remember him) started the ninth with a single. Enrique Hernandez fouled out. With Chris Taylor batting a wild pitch sent Beatty to second. It was a great read by Beatty because the ball didn’t get far from Wolters but he took second anyway. Chris Taylor had tied the game with a stirring three-run pinch-hit home run in the 7th which removed Austin Barnes from the game. Russell Martin was up with Will Smith in the batting circle ready to hit for Kenley Jansen. Bud Black intentionally walked Russell Martin who had appeared to be in a fog ever since he entered the game for Austin Barnes. Will Smith hit the first pitch over the RCF wall for the third straight walk-off home run by a rookie.