As Will Smith continues to hit home runs every game we thought it might be a good time to show some love for the underrated slugging catcher.
The first table compares Will Smith against other Dodger catchers at a similar age which is 26.
Player HR PA OPS+V From To Age 2B BA OBP SLG OPS Mike Piazza 92 1592 151 1992 1995 23-26 62 .322 .375 .557 .932 Will Smith 44 735 143 2019 2021 24-26 33 .267 .369 .540 .908 Joe Ferguson 28 734 127 1970 1973 23-26 32 .256 .359 .444 .803 Yasmani Grandal 16 426 112 2015 2015 26-26 12 .234 .353 .403 .756 Mike Scioscia 21 1871 104 1980 1985 21-26 73 .267 .357 .358 .716 Russell Martin 49 2326 103 2006 2009 23-26 102 .276 .368 .407 .775 Roy Campanella 9 321 102 1948 1948 26-26 11 .258 .345 .416 .761 Steve Yeager 30 1147 100 1972 1975 23-26 37 .248 .323 .380 .703
You can’t do a Will Smith appreciation page without realizing how great HOF Mike Piazza was. Mike had already blasted 92 home runs and his .932 OPS is still tops. Russell Martin had already amassed 2326 plate appearances while Will Smith has only 735 but even with that huge plate appearance advantage, Will Smith is only five home runs behind Russell Martin. Will Smith has an OPS of .908 which is over 100 points higher than the next catcher on the OPS list Joe Ferguson. Using OPS+ you realize just how good an offensive catcher that Joe Ferguson was and right now he is the best comp for Will Smith. Ferguson would put together two great offensive season back to back at age 26 and 27 and while he was the primary catcher at age 26 in 1973, in 1974 he would only catch 82 games while playing 32 in the outfield.
At this stage in his career, it seems clear that Will Smith is the second best hitting catcher in Dodger history. Keep in mind this is only because HOF Roy Campanella didn’t start playing with the Dodgers until his age 26 season, while this is the third season for Will Smith.
Are you curious how Will Smith stands up to all major league catchers at this stage in his career. Considering he’s right on Piazz’a butt in OPS+ and that Piazza is generally considered the greatest hitting catcher of all-time I expect he’ll fair favorably. Let’s find out:
Oh my, using age 26 as the maximum age, seasons after 1900, catching at least 50% of the time, National League only, and at least 500 plate appearances you can see that Will Smith is doing quite well against all the catchers in this group.
Player HR OPS+V PA From To Age 2B BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm Mike Piazza 92 151 1592 1992 1995 23-26 62 .322 .375 .557 .932 *2/H3 LAD Will Smith 44 143 735 2019 2021 24-26 33 .267 .369 .540 .908 *2/HD5 LAD Buster Posey 61 142 1850 2009 2013 22-26 101 .308 .377 .486 .864 *2/3HD SFG Joe Torre 132 132 3635 1960 1967 19-26 143 .297 .359 .473 .832 *23/H7 MLN-ATL Johnny Bench 212 130 4588 1967 1974 19-26 197 .270 .340 .483 .823 *2/953H78 CIN Joe Ferguson 28 127 734 1970 1973 23-26 32 .256 .359 .444 .803 *2/9H7 LAD Rick Wilkins 44 125 1009 1991 1993 24-26 41 .276 .352 .474 .825 *2/H CHC Bill DeLancey 19 125 668 1932 1935 20-23 32 .291 .384 .479 .863 *2/H STL Brian McCann 112 122 2938 2005 2010 21-26 181 .289 .360 .489 .849 *2/HD ATL Jim Pagliaroni 21 122 640 1963 1964 25-26 17 .265 .359 .421 .779 *2/H PIT Ed Bailey 58 121 1198 1953 1957 22-26 27 .263 .369 .479 .848 *2/H CIN Jason Kendall 45 121 2682 1996 2000 22-26 148 .314 .402 .456 .858 *2/H PIT Tom Haller 34 121 745 1961 1963 24-26 22 .247 .348 .449 .798 *2/H97 SFG
With his 21st home run last night, Will Smith joined the Los Angeles catchers below who have hit at least 20 home runs in a single season. Some guy named Piazza has the top four home runs seasons in LAD history.
Player HR Year Age Tm PA BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Mike Piazza 40 1997 28 LAD 633 .362 .431 .639 1.070 *2/DH Mike Piazza 36 1996 27 LAD 631 .336 .422 .563 .985 *2/H Mike Piazza 35 1993 24 LAD 602 .318 .370 .561 .932 *2/H3 Mike Piazza 32 1995 26 LAD 475 .346 .400 .606 1.006 *2/H Yasmani Grandal 27 2016 27 LAD 457 .228 .339 .477 .816 *2H/3 Paul Lo Duca 25 2001 29 LAD 519 .320 .374 .544 .917 *23/H79D Joe Ferguson 25 1973 26 LAD 585 .263 .369 .470 .839 *29/7H Yasmani Grandal 24 2018 29 LAD 518 .241 .349 .466 .815 *2H/3 Todd Hundley 24 2000 31 LAD 353 .284 .375 .579 .954 *2/HD Todd Hundley 24 1999 30 LAD 428 .207 .295 .436 .731 *2H Mike Piazza 24 1994 25 LAD 441 .319 .370 .541 .910 *2/H Yasmani Grandal 22 2017 28 LAD 482 .247 .308 .459 .767 *2H Will Smith 21 2021 26 LAD 402 .266 .373 .510 .884 *2H/D5 Joe Ferguson 20 1979 32 LAD 442 .262 .380 .466 .845 29H/7
One final Will Smith note for now. Will has hit seven home runs so far this August. Will hit eight home runs in August in 2019, and he has a total of eighteen home run in August out of his forty four home runs.
Split PA HR BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP April/March 79 3 .226 .380 .452 .831 28 5 May 100 2 .303 .360 .449 .809 40 2 June 94 8 .247 .351 .580 .931 47 3 July 115 7 .266 .365 .564 .929 53 1 August 205 18 .271 .385 .635 1.021 108 1 Sept/Oct 142 6 .268 .359 .472 .831 58 3
The Field of Dreams game and this Calvin and Hobbs timely comic strip made me write what I’ve dreaded writing about for almost a year. Many people like to rank this movie compared to other baseball movies but I think those folk have always missed the boat. For me, this movie was always about a father and his son, and they used baseball as the connection device. This column is about my Dad and the connection of baseball with his youngest son.
The Dodgers were one win away from winning their first World Championship since 1988 when my oldest brother called and told me that our Dad had fallen into a coma and was now in hospice care. I knew what that meant because my father had suffered from Dementia ever since our mother had died four years prior. He had a DNR (do not resuscitate) and there would be no trip to the hospital. There was nothing I could do, we were in the middle of Covid, my father was 650 Miles away, and so I talked to my brother a bit and then sat down and watched the Dodgers win the 2020 World Championship. I didn’t cry for my father, but I also didn’t celebrate the Dodger championship. I was happy for Kershaw and company along with all the Dodger fans I knew who finally got to feel the joy of their own Dodger championship, but I felt no joy myself.
My Dad died a few hours after the last out. I’ll honestly admit, I was relieved he had passed away. Only those of us who have had to spend time with our parents and watch their once brilliant brains turn into Dementia mush could possibly understand this sentiment. He tried so hard to communicate and once in a while he succeeded but it was a rare win for a man who was one of the smartest men I’d ever know. In a life that is rarely fair, taking the mind away from those before the body is ready is one of the cruelest tricks that life will throw at us.
Captain Gurnee was stationed in Taiwan with his family in 1958 when things got dicey and all military families were evacuated. My mom had four sons, and was pregnant with me when we boarded a transport plane that would take us first to Guam, and eventually to Glendale, California. I was born on 11/24/1958, the first year the Dodgers played in Los Angeles. My Dad was sent to Korea, and would not meet his youngest son until he was two years old.
I have no idea if that impacted our relationship, but being the son of a career West Pointer wasn’t easy. I was scared to death of my Dad, but also hated to be told what to do and that didn’t make for a good combination. Our relationship was tenuous but we did have one thing in common. I don’t know what came first, his love for baseball which made me love baseball, or did I fall in love with it on my own. What I do know is that our household was a baseball family and never stopped being one. My Dad created his own baseball dice game that we played every night. He taught me how to use a slide rule at the age of 8 to help create the numbers we’d use in the dice game. From the time I became sentient and could remember, baseball would forever be the most common thread in our family of seven.
As a military family we moved every year. From the time he came back from Korea we lived in El Paso, Boston (he taught ROTC at MIT) 3 moves in 3 years, Kansas, Heidelberg/Germany and finally Frankfurt Germany where we had our own field of dreams. I was 9 when we got to Frankfurt and we lived in a Duplex with a small backyard, but right behind our backyard was a baseball field and it was the most glorious thing I’d ever seen.
At that point I could barely catch a baseball, but every night my Dad would come home from work and he’d play catch with me until I got good enough that we didn’t have to worry about the ball hitting me anymore because my glove hand finally got coordinated enough to actually catch the ball. Then four of his sons would go down to the field and he’d hit us fly balls until it got dark. Once a week I’d listen to the Armed Forces Baseball Game of the Week and I’d tell him everything that was happening. I doubt if he cared, but he acted like he did and when he smiled at me after I told him that Frank Howard had hit another home run, it meant the world to me.
He retired from the Army in 1970 and moved his family to Glendale, CA, and that once tenuous relationship had bloomed as he moved into the civilian sector and was able shed all of his military officer attitude that had bled into his parenting style. Over the next 50 years I couldn’t have asked for a better father.
As I started playing organized baseball, whenever I did something good I would look to him and he was always there. Always there. Always there. When I needed him most he was there, because I wasn’t always very good. At 13 no matter how much I practiced I was just good enough to be on the team. In my first game in Babe Ruth I dropped a fly ball and watched in horror as the winning run crossed the plate that cost us the game. I did it in front of all my friends and walked off the field with my Dad, hiding from everyone. I don’t know what he said but he said enough that I was able to sleep that night. Later I got good, and gave him plenty of reasons to watch me, but it is easy to cheer when things are good, but what I’ll always remember is the calm way he handled my worst moment.
Our Dodger baseball connection involved the following:
First Dodger game in 1970 we watched Don Sutton shut out the Pirates 1 – 0 on a Billy Grabarkewitz home run
Still in 1970 we sat in the bleachers and watched the Dodger played the Big Red Machine in a double header and when we got home, he was as red as a white boy from Wisconsin could possibly be.
In 1974, 1977, and 1978 we watched the Dodgers lose three world series
In 1980 he got us tickets to see the Dodgers lose the playoff game against the Astros, or we commonly called the Dave Goltz game.
Finally in 1981 we watched Fernando give us our elusive World Championship.
In 2004 I got my first season tickets and with my Dad retired we took in many games from 2004 – 2006.
In 2006 he moved to Ferndale, Ca, 650 miles away. For the first time in my life my Dad was not within a few miles of me. Over the next ten years I’d make that trip 3 – 4 times a year, using all of my vacation time to spend time with my parents. Finally in 2016 I retired myself and could see him anytime I wanted but because life is cruel that was when my Mom died, and his mind went with her. Nothing in your life will prepare you for the frustration of trying to communicate with someone who wants to but can’t communicate. You will spend countless hours wondering if there is something there and they just can’t express themselves or if they can’t express themselves because there is nothing there. I don’t regret thinking it would be a blessing for him if he would simply die, but he was as healthy as a horse and never got sick again until his body finally gave up.
I left a week after my dad died to help my brothers with his house and during the 650 mile trip I had a lot to dwell on. My father was a good man, easily a better man than myself, the kind of man we could use more of today. I could tell you many stories but I’ll end with this one. My Dad had become a Banker, specializing in Trusts and in 1988 one of his co-workers opened the first Black owned bank in Los Angeles and asked my Dad to help him start the bank. I believe the bank was called Founders Bank but I’m not positive. My Dad would be the only White officer at the bank and was working there when the Rodney King riots broke out. His bank was right in the middle of it, but from what I understand the neighborhood made sure the bank was spared and also made sure my Dad got home safely. My Dad was 63 at the time this would be his last banking gig.
I won’t say I’m all the things my father stood for but I can tell you that having watched him in action and heard stories that he wouldn’t tell but others would he was this kind of man.
Treated everyone fairly
Respected woman as equals
Had so much integrity that it cost him his military career because he didn’t play the game
Had so much integrity that when he retired he didn’t use his connection from his Pentagon days to become a well paid lobbyist but instead took his family to Glendale, and started a new career as a bank trainee.
Raised five sons who never needed a gun to feel good about themselves
Raised five sons who never needed to kill animals to feel good about themselves
Raised five sons who have treated all the women in their life with respect, and let me tell you based on what I’ve seen, that is a big one.
None of this is adequate but I’ll just close with this. Whenever I asked my Dad for a game of catch he always said yes and for that reason alone, Field of Dreams will make me weep for the rest of my life.
The Dodgers lost last night but baseball won with the most entertaining postseason game of 2020. If the Rays go on to win the World Series the walk play in Game 4 will become historical, if they don’t it will merely be a footnote, but what a footnote.
So much had to to happen for Randy Arozarena to tap home plate for the winning run. If Chris Taylor fields the ball cleanly, Azorarena is held up at 3rd and the score is tied with two out and runners on 1st and 3rd but because Taylor bobbled the throw, Arozarena tried to score and after tumbling to the ground would have been dead meat if one of two things had happened. Max Muncy could have made a better throw, he knew Arozarena had fallen down, the play was in front of him but his throw was hurried and on the 1st base side of the plate. Will Smith could have caught the ball and easily tagged Arozarena but he didn’t. When I first saw the play at normal speed I thought that Smith had caught the ball but that when he wheeled to tag the runner the ball had flown out of his glove, it wasn’t until they replayed it in slow mo that I realized that Smith had simply pulled his glove to soon in anticipation of having to tag a runner that wasn’t there.
I can’t even imagine the thoughts that were going through Arozarena’s head as he tumbled to the ground, thinking he’d really screwed up, only to find out as he gathered his feet back under him that he was going to score the winning run. In the blink of an eye he went from a goat to a hero. And now the series is tied at 2 – 2.
Kenley Jansen didn’t do much wrong in the 9th last night except get to much of the plate on a 1 – 2 to a hitter who might have chased something out of the strike zone. A broken bat single in – between two outs. It made sense to pitch around the hottest hitter on the planet and all he had to do was get the worst player on the Rays out, but on a 1 – 2 count he got to much of the plate, and Brett Phillips became part of the small Tampa Bay World Series folklore.
This game had so many hitters come through with big moments it was insane. The Dodgers scored all seven runs with two outs. The Rays just kept coming back. This is what a baseball dogfight looks like, and it was beautiful.
Score Early – Check – Justin Turner 1st inning home run
Establish dominance – Check – Walker Buehler blew through the first 13 outs before allowing his first hit and eventual run. By that point the Dodgers already had a 5 – 0 lead.
Keep Scoring – Check – The Dodgers had a 5 – 0 lead before the Rays put up a solo run in the 5th. Combination of big ball (home run by Turner) and small ball (squeeze by Austin Barnes) and timely hitting (two run two hit by Muncy)
Led the well rested bullpen do their thing – Check – Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol faced the minimum
The Dodgers have cruised to two World Series victories so far as the Rays have had no offensive answer when the Dodger aces are on the mound. Their offense is relentless and have now scored eighteen runs in the three games against their starters and bullpen.
Walker Buehler was the pitcher of the game, but Austin Barnes has to get some credit. Barnes was the unexpected catcher for Buehler and from the ninth position in the order Barnes pulled off the first Dodger suicide squeeze in a World Series game that I can remember, while also launching his first World Series home run. Austin Barnes has struggled as few have ever done in the World Series with only four hits in forty-one plate appearances before hitting that home run which still left his World Series triple stat line at .119 / .156 / .214. Per @BillShaikin this was the first time since 1961 (Hector Lopez) that a player had a home run and suicide squeeze in the same game.
Tonight, Julio Urías looks to join Stephen Strasburg (2019), Francisco Rodríguez (2002) and Randy Johnson (2001) as the only pitchers in postseason history to earn 5 wins in a single postseason— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 24, 2020
He has won the most playoff games all-time by a player before his 25th birthday (6) pic.twitter.com/Jf4rnxRmpY
For game 4 the Dodgers turn to Julio Urias who has pitched four times so far this offseason and the Dodgers have won every game.
Series Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H ER BB SO NLWC g1 MIL W4-2 5-7 W(1-0) 3.0 3 0 0 5 NLDS g3 SDP W12-3 2-7 W(2-0) 5.0 1 0 1 6 NLCS g3 ATL W15-3 GS-5 W(3-0) 5.0 3 1 2 5 NLCS g7 ATL W4-3 7-GF W(4-0) 3.0 0 0 0 0Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
This will be the first World Series start of Urias’s career and he’ll hope to follow in the footsteps of Kershaw and Buehler who both put up a game score of 71 in their respective starts. The last time three Dodgers put up a game score greaten than 70 in a World Series was the 1965 World Championship season.
Player Date Series Gm# Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO GSc Sandy Koufax 1963-10-02 WS 1 NYY W 5-2 9.0 6 2 3 15 79 Johnny Podres 1963-10-03 WS 2 NYY W 4-1 8.1 6 1 1 4 70 Don Drysdale 1963-10-05 WS 3 NYY W 1-0 9.0 3 0 1 9 89 Sandy Koufax 1963-10-06 WS 4 NYY W 2-1 9.0 6 1 0 8 79 Claude Osteen 1965-10-09 WS 3 MIN W 4-0 9.0 5 0 2 2 77 Don Drysdale 1965-10-10 WS 4 MIN W 7-2 9.0 5 2 2 11 78 Sandy Koufax 1965-10-11 WS 5 MIN W 7-0 9.0 4 0 1 10 88 Sandy Koufax 1965-10-14 WS 7 MIN W 2-0 9.0 3 0 3 10 88 Don Drysdale 1966-10-09 WS 4 BAL L 0-1 8.0 4 1 1 5 74 Don Sutton 1974-10-13 WS 2 OAK W 3-2 8.0 5 2 2 9 71 Burt Hooton 1977-10-12 WS 2 NYY W 6-1 9.0 5 1 1 8 80 Jerry Reuss 1981-10-25 WS 5 NYY W 2-1 9.0 5 1 3 6 76 Orel Hershiser 1988-10-16 WS 2 OAK W 6-0 9.0 3 0 2 8 87 Orel Hershiser 1988-10-20 WS 5 OAK W 5-2 9.0 4 2 4 9 76 Clayton Kershaw 2017-10-24 WS 1 HOU W 3-1 7.0 3 1 0 11 78 Walker Buehler 2018-10-26 WS 3 BOS W 3-2 7.0 2 0 0 7 80 Rich Hill 2018-10-27 WS 4 BOS L 6-9 6.1 1 1 3 7 71 Clayton Kershaw 2020-10-20 WS 1 TBR W 8-3 6.0 2 1 1 8 71 Walker Buehler 2020-10-23 WS 3 TBR W 6-2 6.0 3 1 1 10 71Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
It is a tall task to ask Urias to put up a game score of 70 or better since he has only done that twice in career, but he has never looked as good as he has looked in the past month so you just never know.
Urias will be facing a bullpen game from the Rays which has the capability of shutting down the Dodgers but without an off day for game six, it will put their pitching staff behind the eight ball headed into game five against Kershaw.
At the beginning of the postseason MLB listed the top 50 players to watch in the postseason and for some reason the ace of the team most favored to win the World Series didn’t make the cut. Evidently the list was made of players who had more successful 2020 seasons and not based on any historical data on postseason performance. Pitchers like Ryu/Kenta made the list but the ace of the Dodgers did not. We will take a look at all 50 players that MLB felt were more important than Walker after the postseason is over.
Part of it was understandable, because of his blister, Buehler had barely pitched in Sept, but on the other hand he had barely pitched so that he could pitch in the postseason where Walker has historically had great success.
Coming into the 2020 postseasn this is the historical record for Buehler. Outside of his first two starts he had been a dominant
Year Series Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO Pit GSc 2018 NLDS g3 ATL L5-6 5.0 2 5 3 7 77 47 2018 NLCS g3 MIL L0-4 7.0 6 4 1 8 100 56 2018 NLCS g7 MIL W5-1 4.2 6 1 0 7 73 55 2018 WS g3 BOS W3-2 7.0 2 0 0 7 108 80 2019 NLDS g1 WSN W6-0 6.0 1 0 3 8 100 75 2019 NLDS g5 WSN L3-7 6.2 4 1 3 7 117 66Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
We all remember the brilliant game he threw against the 2019 World Champion Nationals with Kershaw getting the last out in the 7th to preserve the lead, only to let it slip away in the 8th.
In 2020 his postseason work has improved with each game as his blister has improved. The control issues that had plagued his first three starts disappeared in the NLCS game six. Working on four days rest, we can expect Walker to keep his trend going and give the Dodgers a masterpiece in game three.
Year Series Date Opp Rslt IP H ER BB SO HR Pit GSc 2020 NLWC g1 Sep30 MIL W4-2 4.0 3 2 2 8 1 73 54 2020 NLDS g1 Oct6 SDP W5-1 4.0 2 1 4 8 0 95 58 2020 NLCS g1 Oct12 ATL L1-5 5.0 3 1 5 7 1 100 59 2020 NLCS g6 Oct17 ATL W3-1 6.0 7 0 0 6 0 89 64Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
The Dodgers are 6 – 4 in postseason starts by Walker and will hopefully be 7 – 4 after game three. Charlie Morton has historically been a big game pitcher and is already part of Dodger postseason lore having started game 7 in 2017. Morton has made three game 7 starts in the 21st century and won all three giving up one run combined in those three starts. Overall he has made 12 postseason starts and has only been bad in two of them, the other ten he has given up two runs or less. His teams are 8 – 4 in his postseason starts.
Game six should be a close game, eventually decided by the bullpen. The Rays had to use all of their best relief pitchers on Wednesday night to keep the Dodgers at bay, but the Rays have yet to see the well-rest Treinen/Graterol/Jansen. That could be a key component of this game as the Dodgers are a group of smart hitters who might thrive as they see more and more of the Tampa relief pitchers.
With David Price opting out and no other options the Dodgers are trying to win a World Championship by cobbling together important games from two rookies who had tremendous regular season success but it isn’t working.Tony Gonsolin has made three appearances so far and each time has left the Dodgers behind the eight ball when he’s left the game. They were able to come back from his troubles in the NLCS game 7 because of all the relief pitchers who followed him along with great defense and timely offense but Tampa has better pitching and four runs should be able to beat this Tampa team if the pitching does their job.
Series Opp Rslt Inngs IP H ER BB SO HR ERA NLCS g2 ATL L7-8 GS-5 4.1 3 5 3 7 1 10.38 NLCS g7 ATL W4-3 2-4 2.0 2 2 3 1 1 9.95 WS g2 TBR L4-6 GS-2 1.1 1 1 1 1 1 9.39 7.2 6 8 7 9 3 9.39Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Dustin May had a great start to his 2020 postseason with three straight scoreless performances but has now given up eight hits in his last three outing while only getting 9 outs along with five runs.
Series Opp Rslt Inngs IP H ER BB SO ERA NLDS g1 SDP W5-1 5-6 2.0 0 0 0 3 0.00 NLDS g3 SDP W12-3 GS-1 1.0 0 0 1 1 0.00 NLCS g1 ATL L1-5 7-8 1.2 1 0 1 2 0.00 NLCS g5 ATL W7-3 GS-2 2.0 3 1 2 3 1.35 NLCS g7 ATL W4-3 GS-1 1.0 1 1 2 1 2.35 WS g2 TBR L4-6 4-5 1.1 4 3 0 1 5.00 12.1 12 6 7 12 4.38Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
With the series now guaranteed to go at least five games, if they lose one more game they will have to have another bullpen game.
You have Buehler lined up for game three
Urias for game four
Kershaw is going to have to pitch game five on four days rest
Game six is next Tuesday, Buehler is pitching on Friday, so he is either going to go on three days rest or the bullpen brigade will need to pitch game six leaving Buehler/Urias for game seven. If they do go with a bullpen game for game six will they go to the well one more time with the some combo of Gonsolin/May to start the game or try a different option like Alex Wood who has who looked extremely good so far this postseason.
It would be prudent for the Dodgers to win this in five games because otherwise we are probably looking at another game seven.
Past performance does not indicate future performance
Narrative One – They said Mookie Betts couldn’t hit in the world series because he had this triple stat line in the 2018 World Series of – 217/308/391- in 26 plate appearances. In the first World Series game of 2020, Mookie had two hits, walked once, stole two bases in one inning and was the spark plug in this game, just as he was during his during his HOF caliber career. The best part of Mookie Betts stealing two bases in the key fifth inning was the graphic that Fox showed which was that Babe Ruth was the last player to steal two bases in World Series back in 1921. While looking that up, I just found out they played eight games in the 1921 World Series and the NYY lost to the NYG in eight games. What the hell? I also found out via Jon Weisman that Babe Ruth ended the 1926 World Series by being thrown out trying to steal 2nd base. When looking up that game I noticed that Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched the 8th and 9th innings which made me recall an old timey movie about a HOF pitcher who was kind of a drunk who saved the day in the World Series, and Clye Alt tweeted this to me
Reagan starred in a film about Grover Cleveland Alexander. "The Winning Team". Saw it a long, long time ago.— Clyle Alt (@clylealt) October 21, 2020
which turned out to be the movie I was thinking about. How about that?
Narrative Two – They said Cody Bellinger struggled in the World Series and they were correct, coming into this World Series Cody had 45 plate appearances and an OPS below .500. He had been horrible, but in his 2nd at-bat of this World Series he started the scoring with a monster home run and also made another home run robbing catch in LCF, giving the Dodgers four home run robbing catches in this postseason. I love Globe Life Field.
Narrative Three – Clayton Kershaw hasn’t had success in the World Series. The problem with this narrative is that most of it is based on his collapse in game five of the 2017 World Series which we now know was the game the Astros drum banged their way to huge comebacks. They simply have to throw that game out, and when you do you still have his game one start against Boston where he was clobbered. So, the narrative was kind of true, but against the Rays, Clayton was almost perfect, the only blip a solo home run.<How good was Clayton last night? Historically good.
From @PaulHembo: Clayton Kershaw’s swing-and-miss wasn’t just significant for him personally, it was significant historically: In Game 1, Kershaw became the only pitcher to generate a 50% swing-and-miss rate in a World Series start. (Pitch-by-pitch data available since 1988)— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 21, 2020
For the third time in four years the Dodgers are one series away from becoming World Champions and this is the year they do it. They won’t be playing the cheating Astros, they won’t be playing a better Red Sox team, they will be playing a very good Tampa Bay team, but it wouldn’t have mattered who they are playing this year.
This year, they would have beat anyone.
Am I about to write my most optimistic column ever about the Dodgers?
Yes, yes I am
The Dodgers are going to win this series, they are going to be 2020 World Champions. It isn’t because Tampa is an inferior team, it is because eventually when you knock on the door this many times, the breaks eventually go your way. I won’t be dissuaded from this feeling even if the Dodgers lose game 1, and game 2, and game 3.
It won’t be easy but when this is all said and done, I’ll be writing a column about all the great moments of the 2020 World Series.
This is your 1981
Congratulations long suffering Dodger fans. You earned this.
The best part of a stressful postseason series are the big moments that you hope will ultimately lead to moving on and while the Dodgers had plenty of big moments against the Braves, it still came down to getting the last out with the tying run at the plate every every single at-bat in the 9th inning.
To get to that moment the Dodgers did something no LAD had ever done, come back from a 3 – 1 deficit and they did it in style. Hitting key home runs and making four definitive defensive plays.
Down 2- -0 with runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out the Braves looked ready to unload on Joe Kelly and put the game out of reach. Swanson hit a sinking line drive to RF that had all the earmarks of trouble, but Mookie Betts charged in and made a stunning shoestring catch which turned into a double play because of a baserunning snafu from Marcell Ozuna who left 3rd to soon giving the Dodgers an inning ending double play thus snuffing out the rally.
Corey Seager would blast a home run cutting the lead to 2 – 1.
Still down 2 – 1 in the top of the 6th Mookie Betts led off with a single but two outs later he was still out there with cleanup hitter Max Muncy coming up. Max took six pitches without swinging and got on base. Will Smith following his lead took five pitches without swinging. At this point Will Smith the pitcher had thrown 11 pitches without the Dodgers swinging once. On the 12 pitch Will Smith hit one of the most important home runs in postseason Dodger history and the Dodgers never trailed again in the game.
By the 9th inning the Dodgers had a 7 – 3 lead and Dave Roberts gave the ball to Kenley Jansen. The last time Kenley had pitched in the 9th inning it was game two against the Padres in which he was hammered and left Dodger fans with zero confidence he could be their postseason closer. With bated breath they watched Kenley strike out the side and close out the game. That Kenley Jansen inning more than any other performance in game five gave Dodger fans some confidence that they could win this series because Jansen was back.
Corey Seager and Justin Turner went back to back in the first inning, and Cody Bellinger rocketed a single into RF to give the Dodgers an early 3 – 0 lead. Walker Buehler who hadn’t gotten more than twelve outs in any 2020 postseason start threw six brilliant innings and after six, the Dodgers still lead 3 – 0.
Blake Treinen came in for Buehler in the 7th and immediately put the Dodgers lead and series in jepoardy giving up a triple and double before striking out Freddie Freeman. With two out and a runner on 2nd with one run already in, Marcell Ozuna trying to atone for his running miscue lofted a deep fly ball that appeared headed for either a game tying home run or extra bases, but Mookie Betts making his 2nd great play in two games leaped at the last moment, bounced into the fence but had the ball and the fate of the Braves in his glove.
With a 3 – 1 lead, Dave Roberts went once again to Kenley Jansen and once again Kenley put the Braves down in order, and the series was now tied at three games.
The Dodgers went with the rookies Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, and it didn’t turn out very well. They combined for only nine outs, giving up three runs and Blake Treinen entered the game with the score 3 – 1, runners on 1st and 2nd and only one out. A wild pitch put runners on 2nd and 3rd, things looked dire indeed. Markakis slapped a ground ball to Justin Turner who went home and they had Swanson in a run down. Trying to get the out as soon as possible to keep the runner from advancing Justin Turner made super man dive at Swanson and just nicked his him for the out. Without wasting a moment, Turner was able to throw to 3rd where Seager waited to tag out Austin Riley who ill advisiely had tried to advance at the last second. It was another inning ending double play started by a great defensive play by a Dodger and finished with a base running blunder by the Braves. That play may have saved the Dodger season if not for…..
Mookie Betts had already made two game changing plays in games five and six but maybe nothing was as important or as beautiful as the play in made in game seven. With the Braves still in front 3 – 2 in the top of the 5th the nicest guy in baseball Freddie Freeman lofted a soaring fly ball to RF. Watching this on TV, it was simply one of the most beautiful plays you will ever see. Mookie drifted back appearing to track it the whole while but he kept going back and back until he jumped at the perfect moment and with the glove clearly above the fence took the home run away from Freeman. Blake Treinen was pitching, and once again Mookie Betts had saved him. The Dodgers were still behind 3 – 2 but you didn’t get the sense they were going to lose this game, the only question was how would they win this game.
In the bottom of the sixth Kiké Hernández answered part of the question. On the 9th pitch of an epic at-bat, Kiké added another NLCS home run to his resume crushing the ball to left field and giving the Dodgers the tie at 3 – 3.
Julio Urias entered the game in the 7th and was faced with shutting down the Braves until the Dodgers could score one more run. Julio Urias didn’t blink in his big moment getting all nine outs when each batter either represented the tying or winning runs. It was a performance not seen by a Dodger relief pitcher since Steve Howe in the 1981 World Series. His job changed from keeping the score tied to pitching for the win when 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger hit a massive home run in the bottom of the 7th to give the Dodgers the 4 – 3 that Urias would never surrender.
And that is how the Dodgers got into the 2020 World Series.
HOF Joe Morgan passed away today joining Jimmy Wynn who passed away on March 26th, 2020. I wrote this story about the two of them way back in 2007 for TrueBlueLA.
Sometimes when you do research for a story you get thrown a curve, or find out things that pleasantly surprise. I knew going in that Jimmy Wynn and Joe Morgan were two of the best diminutive players in baseball and that both started out as Colt 45s. What I didn’t know was that Jimmy Wynn entered the major leagues as a shortstop. In July/1963 he started at shortstop for his 1st 13 games before being moved to CF. He played 8 more games at SS in 63 but all of them late in the game double switches. So after starting at SS for the 1st 13 games of his career, the Toy Cannon would never start another game at SS. Joe Morgan didn’t get the call until Sept, so they never were able to showcase what might have been an incredible keystone combo.
I haven’t purchased a baseball card for over 20 years, but when I collected cards, the back of the baseball card is what you read when you reviewed a players career. In 1968 that was about all you had unless you kept a copy of the baseball register. Those numbers were the reference points for discussions between impassioned kids and adults when determining who was the better player. Looking at Joe Morgan’s stats you would have been hard pressed to argue that he was the best middle infielder in the NL when this card was created. The biggest statistic of omission from the back of the card was of course walks, and walks is what these players did better then anyone else from the time they both became regulars in 1965. From 1965-1971 these two teammates walked 1173 times eclipsing any other teammate combination.
Thanks to Baseball Prospectus and their translated statistic EQA, we can go back and look at these players a little closer. From 1965-1967 Joe Morgan had the highest EQA for a middle infielder in baseball. His streak came to an end in 1968 when he missed most of the season. His teammate Jimmy Wynn, came in 2nd to Willie Mays in 1965, had a down year in 1966 and then bounced back to be the best CF in baseball in 1967. From 1965 to 1967 the Houston Astros had one of the best duos in baseball and they were only starting out as neither had turned 26 yet.
From 1965 – 1977, Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn walked their way to greatness. It is what separated them from their peers. Joe Morgan ranks 1st in this list and if you peruse the list, you won’t find another middle infielder until Rico Petrocelli at number 27, and he played ½ his games at 3rd base. Pete Rose is on this list but he stopped playing 2nd base by 1970. My 1st inclination was that because Morgan & Wynn were short, they parlayed the small strike zone into all those walks, however that list is full of big guys, not small guys. Morgan and Wynn were unique to baseball. This list explains how unique. For players with > then 200 stolen bases, with > 200 home runs, with > 1000 walks they are the only two players since integration who are 5’9 or smaller on this list. If you looked at the same list but only used the time period that Jimmy Wynn played baseball from 1965 – 1977, he would be the ONLY person on the list. He was the preeminent power, speed, and patient hitter in baseball during his tenure. Those are hard tools to find. That the two players who had these unique but valuable tools were both raised in the Astro farm system and became regulars in 1965 is what intrigued me about this duo.
Several months ago, someone over at Dodger Thoughts wondered what a team would look like that was 5’9 or under. I did some research and that will be a story for another day. But what I did find made me laugh. My favorite player, and the player who I hated and respected most, sat at the top of the leaderboard. Yup, since integration, based on OPS+, the Toy Cannon and Joe Morgan have been the two best players in baseball 5’9 or under.
Since he was the catalyst of the Big Red Machine I tried to hate Joe Morgan but I enjoyed his game to much. When he was traded from the Astro’s to the Reds I didn’t give it much thought. I had no idea at the time of the deal that he was already a special ballplayer. After his season ending injury in 1968, his EQA dropped below 300 for the next three years and I guess the Astro’s felt his best had already come. They were of course very wrong as he went on to become quite possibly the best 2nd baseman in history. Jimmy Wynn had alternated great seasons with bad seasons from 1970, so the Astro’s got tired of that and dealt him in 1973 after a down year. He of course responded to have one of the best Los Angeles Dodger seasons ever by a CF, and helped the young 1974 team into the World Series.
Joe Morgan is disliked by many for his work as an announcer. It is with the modern day use of baseball statistics that has shown how great a player he was. As a ballplayer he was the perfect sabermetric player. His combination of power, speed, patience, defense, base-running skills, may have been the best of his generation. Jimmy Wynn during his on years was every bit as good a player. They both posted 6 years with an OPS+ > 140. Morgan’s OPS+ reached higher and he had the longer career but from 1965 – 1977 these players were not only the best small players in the game, they were two of the best players in the game.