Not ready to say goodbye

The Dodgers may not play in Chavez Ravine again in 2018. Clayton Kershaw may never pitch again in the Ravine as a Dodger. Both of these things are in play as the Dodgers head to Milwaukee to take on this tough Brewer team. To make sure neither of those things happens they just have to win one game.

Even though I might never see Clayton Kershaw pitch again for the Dodgers I don’t want to write that story until the season is over, and he’s made his decision. What I do know, is that I’m okay with whatever decision he does make. We have seen the best of the best pitcher in this century. No other fan base can say that.

Clayton is unique to himself among Dodger legends that I witnessed. He had the staying power that eluded Fernando and Orel as he was able to keep the knife at bay even though he did succumb to the needle.  He was clearly the best regular season pitcher of any Dodger ever in my era which would cover 1967 – 2018.

I saw him from the beginning

I was there when he got the nickname the Minotaur 

I was there when he came of age

I was there when I felt he failed the team in the 2013 and 2014 postseason because my bar was high and he couldn’t clear it

I was there when it was time to turn the page on his October issues but then game five happened

I was there last night for what might be his last game as a Dodger at Chavez Ravine

Through it all, Clayton Kershaw was as good as any fanbase could ever dream of. If he disappointed it was only because he had set the expectations so high, and because those who came before him had met and conquered those expectations. If Clayton Kershaw was not going to lead his team to a World Championship that was a small price to pay for watching having him as a part of Dodger lore for eleven years.

Jon Weisman has already written the definitive Clayton Kershaw chapter in his book “Brother in Arms”.  If game five had been different that whole chapter would have felt different. Game five did happen. The Dodgers have to win one game to give that chapter another jolt.

Make it happen.

 

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Clayton breaks green on the Weisman Chart

It was late afternoon and the raucous Chavez Ravine crowd was nervous as it appeared that the Dodger chances for taking a 3 – 2 game lead in the best of seven NLCS was in grave jeopardy. The Brewers had just taken the lead on a booming Cain double leaving runners on 2nd/3rd with the future NL MVP coming up and only one out.

Clayton Kershaw had cruised through the first seven outs but inexplicably had walked the Brewer pitcher Brandon Woodruff after giving up a single to Arcia. The same Brandon Woodruff who had crushed Kershaw for a home run in game one.  My own thinking was that of all the hitters that Kershaw faced on Wednesday, getting Woodruff out would have been priority number one, but nope Kershaw walked him.  Kershaw could have picked up the attempted sacrifice bunt that he allowed to go foul so instead of one out with a runner on second, the Brewers had two on with the future NL MVP coming up.

From my seats high up on the reserve, I couldn’t tell you what Kershaw used to strikeout Yelich but he did. Five pitches later Ryan Braun had walked and the bases were loaded for the Brewers cleanup hitter Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar was the Brewers version of Max Muncy, the journeyman player who struck gold in 2018, helping lead the Brewers to the best record in the National League. It was all on the line. Bases loaded, two outs, the Brewers already leading 1 – 0 in only the 3rd inning.  Aguilar did not go gently into the late afternoon, but he did go down. It took Kershaw eight pitches to vanquish the hulking Aguilar but eventually, Kershaw struck him out.

Clayton Kershaw was one pitch from being a red line on the Weisman Chart, but instead, he had extricated himself and the Dodgers were still in the game.

 

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As the chart above shows, Clayton not only kept his game from going red but ended up pitching one of the best postseason games I’ve had the pleasure to watch from a seat in the ravine. I have to admit my postseason history is not littered with success with the only notches on my belt being the Lima and Uribe games, so when Clayton loaded the bases, I certainly had doubts he would keep those runners off the board. Later that inning when Brandon Woodruff was throwing a no-hitter I even had the thought that how insane would it be if Wade Miley and Brandon Woodruff combined for the strangest no-hitter in baseball history.

Luckily Kershaw did get out of the 3rd relatively unscathed, and the Dodgers did find their bats,  somewhat cruising to the victory.

Other game notes:

Austin Barnes stayed in the game against RHP and delivered the first run of the game. He also seemed to stop a number of pitches in the dirt. Will the same thing happen this year that happened last year? Barnes is undefeated in the NLCS and one could see him starting every game the rest of the way just as he did in 2017.

Once again David Freese started, and once again he only got one plate appearance. Even for modern-day baseball, this has to be extremely unique. In game two Freese started and got two plate appearances, but in game one, four, and five he started and got only one plate appearance. He was used as a pinch hitter in game three and got his one plate appearance.

No home runs so the Dodgers relied on timely base knocks from Barnes, Muncy, and Puig.

The Brewers fearsome duo of Yelich/Aguilar has been held in check leaving numerous runners twiddling their fingers. Yelich has only three singles and five walks in his twenty-five plate appearances. Aguilar has a solo home run but that is the lone RBI from the Brewers clean up hitter.

Brandon Woodruff still has the highest OPS in the NLCS, with his 2.667 barely edging out fellow pitcher Wade Miley at 2.500. Basically, the Brewers two best hitters have been their pitchers.

One other strange note. This was an afternoon game so it was a late arriving crowd. The Dodgers had no ushers for the section I was in which I’ll admit was the strangest numbered section I’ve ever sat in. The area as Reserve 17, which turns out are the double letters. I had AA, seat 9, right next to the tunnel. I was there an hour early. There is no marking whatsoever for section 15 and 19 which are the single letter seats. I would estimate that half the group that came through the tunnel which was clearly marked tunnel 17 but with no mention of section 15 or 19 had no idea where their section was. Normally I have disdain for folk who can’t find their seats but in this case, they had every right to be confused. With no ushers to help them, they huddled around the tunnel entrance like confused salmon who found themselves in a damned river that they used to swim free to their spawning grounds. So I put on my Usher hat and helped them locate their sections. If I had a sharpie I would have written Section 15 and 19 on the posts at the top of the stairs. The ushers eventually showed up (probably got off school) by the fourth inning. I asked them why it was so confusing and they said they have asked for markers for those sections but nothing has ever been done. Anyway, I found it strange but it gave me something to do for the hour before the game started. The funniest part were the fans who had section 13 but single letter rows. There is no section 13 in the reserve with single letters. The reserve has section 13 but with double letters. The section 13 with single letters are in the top deck. So those folk had to trek back to find a way to the top deck. There were quite a few, the looks on their faces as they tried to find their section was almost priceless. I had to wait to see that look before I intervened. I’m not that nice.

The Manny Machado conundrum

I wanted to wait until the end of the season to write about Manny Machado but last nights game showed why you can love and hate Manny Machado. In one 13 inning game, he showed off all his skill levels. He helped win the game with his single and speed in the 13th. He showed off his bizarre mental approach to the game when he purposely clipped Jesus Aguilar as he crossed 1st base and got into a passive shouting match with him about it. Yes, I said passive, not passionate.  He showed off his how he refuses to run out every play that isn’t guaranteed to be a hit,  half ass running to 1st. Chad might have been on point with this tweet right after the Aguilar incident.

Many of Manny’s skills were known to me, the lack of a hustle ticker was not. He knows it, and to his credit he owns it. I just want to add the hustle ticker is not some Pollyanna wish for the days of Pete Rose.  Manny Machado is a fast enough baseball player that any ball he hits can potentially turn into being on base or an extra base. I never cared much if Adrian Gonzalez or Eric Karros didn’t hustle on their ground balls, even if the fielder bobbled the ball they would still throw the turtles out. Manny may not be a rabbit but he’s still fast enough that any infield bobble turns an out into a base runner.

I never watched much Manny Machado because he played for the Orioles and there just wasn’t much reason to watch the Orioles. I saw his highlights on the various baseball highlight stations, I read about his exploits both with the glove, the bat, and the head shakers. He was without a doubt one of the great young talents in all of baseball but he did seem to have some issues with the mental aspect of the game. I chalked that up to old players turned analysts who will criticize anything that is not part of the game they played in.

When the Dodgers traded for Manny Machado I was ecstatic to add him to the team. I couldn’t wait to watch him play for the Dodgers and help them reach the postseason once again. I’m still ecstatic the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado, they aren’t in the postseason if they don’t.

Power/Speed/Glove, he has it all, and he has put all of those skills on display for the Dodgers. His power is elite, his arm is elite (oh my, those throws), and his speed when he chooses to use it, is also a dangerous weapon.

Even with all that, watching Manny Machado play baseball is one of the closest things I’ve had to a love/hate relationship with a Dodger since Manny Ramirez.  For the most part, I don’t enjoy watching Manny Machado play baseball, but damn when he brings it, he really brings it. Or maybe it is the opposite? I do enjoy watching Manny Machado play baseball but when it doesn’t bring it, he really doesn’t bring it. To be honest I’m still grappling with which one is true or maybe they both are?

I know that Manny Machado is a win plus ball player but the aesthetics do matter to me.

Why am I annoyed when I watch Manny jog on a fly to the track that he felt was a home run, jog to 1st base, create controversy over his antics when on the basepaths, create conflict when none existed except in his own mind?  I know these are not big deals when it comes to winning, the big deals are the key hits, the plays, the knowing when to run hard when it matters.

I feel confident that the Manny Machado style of play will limit his injuries while playing baseball, which I can’t say about Mike Trout who seems destined to have his career curtailed by his all-out play.  Mike Trout is much more fun to watch play baseball than Manny Machado, but it is very possible that Manny Machado knows what he is talking about. Manny has played over 150 games for four years in a row. Mike has been limited to 114 and 140 games his last two years.

No matter how the season plays itself out, even if Manny wins the World Series MVP, I will wish Machado nothing but the best as he plays the rest of his career somewhere outside of Chavez Ravine.

I can say this because we still have Corey Seager in our back pocket for a long long time.

 

Cody Bellinger belly slides his way into Dodger history

Much will be made of the ground ball base hit by Cody Bellinger that scored Manny Machado in the bottom of the 13th inning to even the Dodger series with the Brewers at two games apiece, but what I’ll always remember about this game was the incredible catch by Cody Bellinger in the top of the 13th.

The thing about the catch was content. Lorenzo Cain was the hitter and Lorenzo Cain runs like a Gazelle and with Bellinger diving, there is a good chance that ball turns into a triple if he doesn’t make the catch.. It was a split second calculated gamble by Bellinger, he could have played it safe and used a safer route to keep the ball in front of him and give Cain a single but something in the Bellinger brain said to go balls out and he went for the kill and succeeded. The catch itself is such a thing of beauty, in slow motion, you can see his glove arm parallel with his body but as he starts his dive he unwinds his glove arm in perfect symmetry with the dive and snags the ball and finishes with a flourish, giving us the Bellinger Bellyside.

Bellinger is the unique baseball player who can play 1st base and CF. He had only played eleven innings in right field. I’m positive that Puig, as good as he is, does not make that play.

What is a fan to do?

Yazmani Grandal has been a big part of the Dodger regular season success ever since he was acquired from San Diego in the winter of 2014. Even though he has only played for the Dodgers for four years, you could make a case that he has been the second-best Los Angeles Dodger catcher in history.

Player             HR OPS+   PA From   To   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
Mike Piazza       177  160 3017 1992 1998 .331 .394 .572 .966
Tom Haller         25  115 1637 1968 1971 .276 .344 .393 .737
Yasmani Grandal    89  112 1883 2015 2018 .238 .337 .453 .790
Todd Hundley       50  111  822 1999 2003 .239 .332 .494 .826
Paul Lo Duca       57  105 2361 1998 2004 .287 .342 .428 .771
Chad Kreuter       14  105  613 2000 2002 .245 .378 .392 .770
Russell Martin     54  101 2713 2006 2010 .272 .365 .396 .761

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/15/2018.

Grandal has always had his detractors because of his affinity for the passed ball, leading the NL in that category three times,  but some of us feel he makes up for that with his framing and offense. In my mind, he has been one of the best offensive catchers in the NL each of the four years he has played for the Dodgers.

He has also clearly been a black hole when it comes to October. Every October, not just 2018. It started in 2015 when Yaz went 1 for 11 in the NLDS series against the Mets. It got worse in 2016 when Yaz went a combined 3 for 36 in the NLDS and NLCS. In 2017 Dave Roberts didn’t even give Yaz a chance to fail in October ceding the job to Austin Barnes who had basically become the everyday catcher in Sept. Yaz did get 11 plate appearances in the 2017 NLDS/NLCS/WS and managed to go zero for eleven.

Even with all that prior October failure what Yaz has done so far in the 2018 NLCS surpasses that. Yaz has already tied the record for most passed balls in a postseason series and is just 2 for 25, failing time after time with players on base.

Year   Series  Opp PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS
2015     NLDS  NYM 11 1  0  0  0  1  6 .100 .182 .100 .282
2016     NLDS  WSN 19 2  0  0  0  3  6 .125 .263 .125 .388
2016     NLCS  CHC 17 1  0  0  1  4  5 .083 .313 .333 .646
2017     NLDS  ARI  4 0  0  0  0  0  2 .000 .000 .000 .000
2017     NLCS  CHC  4 0  0  0  0  3  0 .000 .750 .000 .750
2017       WS  HOU  3 0  0  0  0  0  1 .000 .000 .000 .000
2018     NLDS  ATL 16 1  0  0  1  3  5 .077 .250 .308 .558
2018     NLCS  MIL  9 2  1  0  0  0  2 .222 .222 .333 .555
4 Yr     4 Yr 4 Yr 79 6  0  0  2 14 27 .094 .256 .188 .444
4 NL     4 NL 4 NL 50 4  0  0  1  7 19 .093 .220 .163 .383
3 NL     3 NL 3 NL 26 2  0  0  1  7  7 .111 .360 .278 .638
1 WS     1 WS 1 WS  3 0  0  0  0  0  1 .000 .000 .000 .000

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/15/2018.

After his passed ball last night, the fans started chanting for Austin Barnes. Mind you, Austin Barnes might have been the Dodgers starting catcher in the World Series last year, but in 2018 he was one of the worse backup catchers in all of baseball. So for the fans to be chanting for Austin Barnes, they must really be fed up with Yazmani Grandal.  Grandal had a chance to change everything with one swing, but with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, he put up another feeble at-bat and struck out on three pitches. The boos descended down upon the hapless Grandal as he took his bat into the dugout and swung at the bat rack leaving a huge divot. At least he made solid contact.

Which led me to the question of this article. “What is a fan to do”. Grandal has been a good Dodger but he has been horrible in every crunch situation in every October he has been a part of.  I suggested on Twitter that the fans should cheer him to help through this

That little tweet got the most action I’ve ever gotten on twitter related to a Dodger tweet. It got the expected replies. Some agreed, some disagreed.

For a grumpy old man, it might have been a bit Pollyanna, but it is what I would do if I was at the stadium.

We all know Grandal has been horrible but what good does it do to boo a player over his performance when it is clear that he is trying? Is that supporting your team? Wouldn’t that player who must be feeling enormous pressure feel some relief if the fans gave him their support with a crazy ovation? Maybe it means nothing to them. Maybe the boos don’t bother them, the cheers don’t inspire them. Every player is different. But I know for me, as a fan I’d much rather spend my energy cheering a player who needs it, rather than booing him for not being able to live up to the situation.

It is very possible that Dave Roberts will do what he did last October and give Austin Barnes whatever starts are left in the postseason and that Grandal won’t get many more opportunities. You could understand it if he took that route. You should also remember that Austin Barnes went 6 for 38 in the 2017 NLCS/WS with one extra-base hit. He wasn’t the answer last October, he probably isn’t the answer this October.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer, I just know what I would do today.

It is not what I would have always done.  Until 1981 I was a hardass fan. I booed the crap out of Dave Goltz in 1980. But I was only 21 and I had yet to get my World Series. With two in my pocket, my fandom has changed but I do understand those who were once like me and don’t have their own World Championship to mitigate the circumstances when the players can’t make their own moments as Fernando, Monday, Cey, Pedro, Orel, and Gibby did.

Hell, I even booed an old Maury Wills when his rusty ass gate swing would result in another feeble out.

 

Here we go again

The Dodgers have advanced to the NLCS for the sixth time since Clayton Kershaw joined the Dodgers in 2008 and only once have they advanced to the World Series. Starting tonight they will try to make it the second time, and the second time in a row but for the first time, they will have to go through the Milwaukee Brewers to defend their National League crown and get back to the World Series. Once again the Dodgers will lean heavily on Clayton Kershaw but this time Clayton has a bit more help in the rotation than in NLCS seasons past. With plenty of rest, I still don’t think it was an easy call to go with Clayton because Ryu has been the Dodgers best pitcher in the last month, including his gem in game one of the NLDS.

It seemed to me that Clayton has always started game one but that is not the case. Clayton did start game one against the Phillies in 2009 at the tender age of 21. He did not fare well getting hammered for five runs. It was the kind of game that would become a Clayton Kershaw October trend, he cruised for four innings but was crushed in the fifth giving up a three-run home run to Carlos Ruiz and a game crushing two-run double to Ryan Howard who was notoriously poor against left-hand pitchers.

Clayton didn’t start another NLCS game one until 2017 when he beat the Cubs last year 5 – 2.

Overall Clayton has made seven NLCS starts and the team is 3 – 4 in those games but they are 3 – 1 in his last four.

Date         Series Gm# Opp   Rslt  IP  H ER BB SO Pit GSc IR
2009-10-15     NLCS   1 PHI  L 6-8 4.2  4  5  5  3  89     34
2016-10-22     NLCS   6 CHC  L 0-5 5.0  7  4  0  4  93     39
2017-10-14     NLCS   1 CHC  W 5-2 5.0  4  2  1  4  87     54
2013-10-12     NLCS   2 STL  L 0-1 6.0  2  0  1  5  72     70
2013-10-18     NLCS   6 STL  L 0-9 4.0 10  7  2  5  98     17
2017-10-19     NLCS   5 CHC W 11-1 6.0  3  1  1  5  89     66
2016-10-16     NLCS   2 CHC  W 1-0 7.0  2  0  1  6  84     78

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/12/2018.

In his last start, Clayton pitched the best post-season game of his career, putting up a game score of 81 which was the first time he topped a game score of 80 in the postseason even though he has 42 games scores of 80 or more during the regular season. Clayton has made 316 regular season starts so he has put up a game score of at least 80 fairly regularly during the regular season.  It was great to see him finally hit that elite threshold in October.

Facing Clayton Kershaw will be Gio Gonzalez who has had excellent success against the Dodgers in the past but those teams didn’t include lefty killers David Freese,  Manny Machado, and Matt Kemp.  If you want to throw a lefty against the group below, good luck with that.  When they finally capitulate and bring a right-hand relief pitcher the Dodgers can counter with the best hitter in the National League not named Yelich, in Max Muncy, and possibly one of the most improved hitters in 2018 Joc Pederson.

Player                      Split Year   OPS  PA  H 2B 3B HR RBI   BA  OBP  SLG
David Freese        vs LH Starter 2018 1.238  42 15  2  1  2   9 .429 .524 .714
Justin Turner       vs LH Starter 2018 1.089 192 59 21  1  9  33 .355 .432 .657
Max Muncy           vs LH Starter 2018 1.022 125 31  5  0  9  25 .298 .416 .606
Chase Utley         vs LH Starter 2018  .973  32 10  3  1  0   3 .357 .438 .536
Manny Machado       vs LH Starter 2018  .951 142 40 10  0  7  25 .317 .387 .563
Matt Kemp           vs LH Starter 2018  .844 254 68 12  0 12  37 .292 .346 .498
Enrique Hernandez   vs LH Starter 2018  .802 253 58  9  2 12  29 .257 .328 .473
Cody Bellinger      vs LH Starter 2018  .778 207 43  9  2  6  19 .247 .353 .425
Chris Taylor        vs LH Starter 2018  .739 264 52 12  2  9  25 .228 .322 .417
Yasiel Puig         vs LH Starter 2018  .738 168 36  4  1  7  21 .242 .315 .423
Yasmani Grandal     vs LH Starter 2018  .648 127 20  6  0  4  12 .183 .299 .349
Austin Barnes       vs LH Starter 2018  .641 161 28  3  0  4  13 .206 .325 .316
Joc Pederson        vs LH Starter 2018  .636  68  9  3  0  2   5 .164 .309 .327
Brian Dozier        vs LH Starter 2018  .579 104 14  5  0  2   9 .163 .288 .291

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/12/2018.

The Dodgers may only get a few looks at Gio as the Brewers will go to their vaunted bullpen very quickly, while the Dodgers will hope that Clayton can get them at least eighteen outs without any big innings.

The Brewers haven’t lost for a while, but that will probably change tonight when the Brewers and their fans find out they are playing the eventual World Series Champions in 2018.  If the Dodgers lose to a team that is starting Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, and Chacin then I shouldn’t write about baseball anymore because it would be highly confounding to me.

The Dodgers have the better rotation

The Dodgers have the postseason veterans

The Dodgers have the better 1st, 2nd, SS, 3rd baseman, Catcher, and two of three outfield spots.

The Dodgers don’t have a moose but they do have a wild horse.

A year ago………

Watching the Dodgers win their 3rd straight division series led by the likes of Max Muncy, Pedro Baez, Yazmani Grandal, David Freeze, and Manny Machado I couldn’t help but wonder at how much everything stays the same, and how it all changes from one year to the next.

At this time a year ago Max Muncy had completed his first professional season with the Dodgers and at the age of twenty-six, he didn’t even get a Sept call-up.  If thoughts of retirement weren’t spinning around in his head they should have been. A year later, Max Muncy has had one of the most improbable seasons in my lifetime. He didn’t just make the Dodgers, he became a star, and continues to star in the postseason.

At this time a year ago Pedro Baez was the scourge of the Dodger fan base. He was so bad at the end of 2017 that he was left off of the 2017 postseason roster and his Dodger future looked to be in doubt. A year later, Pedro dominated September and is now pitching high leverage games in October, and coming through game after game.

At this time a year ago Caleb Ferguson had pitched his last game in the California League, getting clobbered in their final postseason game.  He was an A-Ball pitcher who had some success but was behind a plethora of Dodger prospects and was ranked only 27 but David Hood. A year later, Caleb Ferguson is the Dodgers best answer to the 2016 version of Andrew Miller.

At this time a year ago, Yazmani Grandal was about to get benched for the rest of the postseason ceding the position to Austin Barnes.   A year later, Yazmani Grandal who didn’t start one of the seven World Series games in 2017, started every single game of the 2018 NLDS and might just start every postseason game this October. When Grandal gets hot he alone can carry an offense and while he gets complaints about his passed balls, he is also the best power hitting catcher in the National League, and he’s going to get paid this winter.

A year ago Matt Kemp was finishing up a horrible second half for the Atlanta Braves and wondering what his future held for him. Little did he know that a year later he would have been a big piece of the raft that kept the Dodgers afloat while they waited for the rest of the team to get their sea legs. He might not be a key member right now but given that they barely squeaked into the playoffs, they probably aren’t there if not for Matt Kemp.

A year ago Kiké Hernandez was getting ready to clobber the Cubs in the NLCS but he was still just a part-time player, who only played against left-hand pitching. A year later, for the first time in his career, Kiké Hernandez is a full-time second baseman and one of the most valuable players on a team loaded with all-stars.

A year ago Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched his last game on Sept 29th going two innings. A year later Ryu was named the opening pitcher for the postseason for the NLDS and got the Dodgers started with a brilliant game one outing. At this point, you could make an argument that Ryu is the best pitcher in a rotation that has the greatest pitcher of the 21st century, and the best young pitcher in the NL.

A year ago the Dodgers best pitching prospect had failed his Sept audition to be part of the 2017 postseason roster. A year later, Walker Buehler put up one of the best inaugural seasons by a LAD rotation piece in history and just might be the best pitching option in the rotation right now.

A year ago Dylan Floro had been picked up by the Dodgers off of waivers but he never pitched for the big league club. Instead, he was granted free agency on Oct 3rd and was signed by the Reds. The Dodgers must have liked something about him because they traded for him, and now he’s on the postseason roster.

We all know what happened a year ago. How the Dodgers vanquished the Cubs and went to the World Series only to have their two best pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish blow three of the seven games.

I hope a year from now I’m writing about the 2018 World Champion Dodgers and what is different about that team and the 2019 team.

We can only hope.

A hero will arise

It has been a downhill ride since Kenley Jansen gave Dodger fans a heart attack when his heartbeat went on a wild ride but I can’t help but think that over the long run this extended absence will result in someone stepping up and plug the gaping gap that has plagued the Dodgers.

It would be unexpected if that player is Pedro Baez but for one night on Wednesday, he did what no other Dodger had been able to do for five games. Pedro pitched scoreless innings at the back end of a game and gave the Dodger offense the opportunity to break the five game skid.

It won’t be late-season addition John Axford who quickly got hurt and is out for the foreseeable future. Which was too bad because he was one of the few relief pitchers who didn’t implode in Colorado, but he didn’t make it out safely.

It won’t be Tony Cingrani who was a fantastic addition last August but this Cingrani looks to be shelved until September.

It won’t be Josh Fields who might not be back before Kenley Jansen.

It won’t be Tom Koehler who was signed this past winter to help with the loss of Brandon Morrow but never pitched for the Dodgers this year and won’t as he is out for the year.

It seems like the Dodgers lost every game since Friday in the last inning until Wednesday Night but last Friday, they simply gave up the lead in the 7th inning. Zac Rosscup was the culprit last Friday. On Saturday it was Scott Alexander and JT Chargois who combined to blow the 9th inning lead. Sunday it was Dylan Floro who picked a bad time to have his worst outing of 2018.  Monday may have been the nadir when Scott Alexander gave up four runs trying to hold a 2 – 1 lead. Pedro Baez got the last out of the 9th inning on Monday. Alex Wood could only go five innings on Tuesday so it was left to the bullpen to save that game. JT Chargois, Dylan Floro, and Caleb Ferguson combined for three shutout innings and turned the game over to Kenta Maeda who had been pulled from the rotation for this occasion.  Kenta didn’t have much room for error with the game tied at one and gave up the winning run. Fans were clamoring for Caleb Ferguson to get his chance and he got his chance on Wednesday Night. Caleb entered the game with the Dodgers up by three runs in the eighth inning following a scoreless inning by JT Chargois. Caleb promptly gave up a three-run home run and the score was tied. At that point, most fans were just wondering which Dodger pitcher would give up the winning run, but the worm turned. Erik Goeddel hadn’t pitched since Aug 2nd showed up and gave the Dodgers four big scoreless outs. Erik was followed by Scott Alexander who got three more outs. Dave Roberts held his breath and gave the ball to Pedro Baez who shocked everyone (most everyone) by getting six perfect outs and setting up the Dodgers for the walk off win in the 12th.

So who among those standing can handle the 9th if the Dodgers have the lead? For years Pedro Baez has been the understudy to Kenley Jansen but mixed in with great streaks were some memorable meltdowns and entering Wednesday Night only a few Dodger fans still trusted the ball in his hands. Baez had fallen so far down the pecking order that when he gave up four runs on Aug 9th while recording only one out, it was wildly postulated that Pedro might never pitch for the Dodgers again.  Pedro Baez not only pitched for the Dodgers again, he might have saved their season. To bold a statement? Maybe, but he did several things Wednesday Night. He pitched scoreless innings at the end of the game, something no Dodger had done in a week. He gave the team a chance to win. With all the momentum going against him, he gave the Dodgers two perfect innings.  Pedro might not pitch again this week but could have earned the Dodger Player of the Week with that effort. One win could be the deciding factor this season.

One huge win.

All of the Dodger pitchers have talent. Chargois, Alexander, Floro, Ferguson, Goeddel, and Kenta could all step up but will any of them do it? Daniel Hudson is on the mend and should join the team this weekend. Julio Urias is not far from joining the bullpen. And Pedro Baez.

I don’t know which one will be the guy who will step up over the next few weeks while the team waits for Kenley Jansen to come back, it might be all of them, it might be none of them, but I’m betting on it being someone because that is Dodger baseball.

Dodgers trade a plethora of prospects for a double play combination that might be the best in LAD history.

If Justin Turner can stay healthy enough to play most of the time for the rest of 2018, Brian Dozier and Manny Machado will be the Dodgers double play combination and for the life of me, I can’t think of a better combination in LAD history.  The same could have been said if the combination was Corey Seager and Brian Dozier.

Gilliam / Wills from 60 – 64 was good but better than Dozier / Machado?

Lefebvre / Wills in 65/66 was good but better than Dozier/Machado?

Lopes / Russell from 73 – 81 was good but better than Dozier / Machado?

Kent / Furcal from 2006 – 2008 was good but better than Dozier / Machado?

Of course for this to mean anything, Brian Dozier will need to hit like he did in 2016 and 2017 and not what he’s hitting right now.  If he does though, we could be looking at the best double play combination in LAD history and in Dodger history since the heyday of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.

The Dodgers accomplished all this without gving up any prospects that dented my heart.

To be fair, when the Dodgers traded Yordan Alvarez for Josh Fields I didn’t really care either because I liked Fields and didn’t know much about Alvarez other than he was another Cuban bonus baby so my expectations were low for him.

A few years later, it is easily the one trade that the Dodgers probably wish they had talked Houston into a different player. Maybe even a different Cuban with the first letter of Y and the last name of Alvarez .  Maybe this is normal in Cuba but the Dodgers had Yordan Alvarez and Yadier Alvarez both Cuban bonus babies. They held onto Yadier and traded Yordon.

Anyway, this year the Dodgers traded these guys.

From the Baseball Reference Transaction Page for the 2018 Dodgers:

July 4, 2018

Traded James Marinan (minors) and Aneurys Zabala (minors) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Dylan FloroZach Neal and international bonus slot money.

July 11, 2018

Selected Zac Rosscup off waivers from the Colorado Rockies.

July 18, 2018

Traded Rylan Bannon (minors), Yusniel Diaz (minors), Dean Kremer (minors), Zach Pop (minors) and Breyvic Valera to the Baltimore Orioles. Received Manny Machado.

July 31, 2018

Traded Corey Copping (minors) to the Toronto Blue Jays. Received John Axford.

Traded Luke Raley (minors), Devin Smeltzer (minors) and Logan Forsythe to the Minnesota Twins. Received Brian Dozier.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the promise of Diaz, the growth of Rylan Bannon, and enticing future for James Marinan but given the return of Manny Machado, Brian Dozier, and Dylan Floro I didn’t bat an eye on the price.

The Dodgers have also made it easier for me by trading both Dean Kremer and Devin Smeltzer so that I won’t confuse them anymore.

 

Dodgers go a different direction in 2018

In 2015 the big Dodger deadline deal was Alex Wood to bolster the starting rotation. In 2016 the big Dodger deadline deal was Rich Hill to bolster the starting rotation. In 2017 the big Dodger deadline deal was Yu Darvish to bolster the starting rotation.

None of those transactions helped the Dodgers win a World Series and one could even argue that the Yu Darvish trade hindered their goal since he shit the bed so badly in the World Series.   I openly advocated for the Dodgers to trade for Yu last summer which was a win until the World Series but in hindsight, I and the Dodgers should have set their sights on Verlander but he wouldn’t have fit into their future plans to get under the Luxury Tax.

In 2018 with Wood and Hill still a part of the rotation the Dodgers have gone in a totally different direction and added slugging infielders in an attempt to slug their way to their next World Championship.

There was only one pitcher who was thought to be available who might have been a difference maker and was Jacob DeGrom, but the New York Mets were not interested in trading DeGrom so the Dodgers focused on adding offense. Having lost Corey Seager for the year, it seems like the Dodgers made the prudent move in getting Manny Machado. Adding Brian Dozier yesterday was icing on the cake. Much has been made about what a great second half hitter Dozier has been over the last few years, but in the past he has also crushed left-handed pitching.  In 2018 however, Dozier only has a .722 OPS against LHP compared to his career .872 OPS against LHP. Keep in mind that when we acquired Logan Forsythe in 2017 it was because he also had a history of crushing LHP but once Logan became a Dodger he couldn’t hit any kind of pitching.  I expect Dozier to do what Logan could not do, and hit as a Dodger. Because he’s simply a better hitter and better player overall.  I would not be surprised if the Dozier acquisition does not become a huge asset for the Dodgers the rest of this year.