From 16 – 26 to Fenway
Many fans panicked back in May when the Dodgers were 16 – 26 and things looked bleak. I didn’t because I don’t understand the point of panic, of losing hope, of giving up. These aren’t just empty words as I bask in the Dodgers headed back to the World Series, I write these ideas down all the time including this year when things were at their bleakest.
It is easy to panic when the record is 16 – 24 to start a season but every season will have hot and cold streaks. I’m sure no one has forgotten the Dodgers went 5 – 20 from Aug 26th to Sept 20th in 2017 on the way to 104 wins. If the 2017 team had started out 5 – 20 everyone would have been making October vacation plans.
That said, when I re-read what I wrote back in May, I also didn’t feel the team could accomplish what they would need to get back to the postseason unless some changes were made.
Right now the Dodgers just need to accomplish some baby steps.
- The first step is to win a series. The last series they won was against the Nationals back on April 22nd.
- The second step would be to win a week
- The third step is to get back to .500
- The fourth step is winning enough to put their hat back into the wild card ring
- The fourth step if they can accomplish the first four baby steps is to get back in the Nl West Divison race.
I would bet on the team having the legs for the first three steps, I’m not betting on steps four and five unless different legs are added to the team.
I felt at the time the Dodgers would need to add to the bullpen which they invariably did but the reason the Dodgers are headed to Fenway are other additions and shocking surprises from within the organization.
First and foremost is Max Muncy. When I wrote the above column, Max Muncy seemed destined back to AAA. He had replaced Justin Turner but Justin was about to return. Cody Bellinger was the 1st baseman and there didn’t seem to be much reason to keep him on the roster. Dave Roberts thought otherwise and started giving Max starts at first base and the rest is history. I mean real history. Max Muncy had a mediocre OPS of .788 on May 14th. He would end the year with an OPS of .923 and an easy argument could be made that Max Muncy was the second most effective offensive player in the NL after Yelich. No one could have expected that. It was this gift to the Dodger season that was the biggest reason they are headed to Fenway.
The second biggest gift was Justin Turner returned to the lineup. In the beginning, Justin Turner wasn’t what he had had been but by the end of the year, he was the best hitting infielder in the NL. I’ll have more to say about Justin Turner but for now, just suffice to say he had an OPS of 1.066 in the second half of 2018 and an overall OPS+ of 151.
Without Corey Seager and with Logan Forsythe continuing to struggle the Dodgers traded for a new keystone combination. Getting Manny Machado and Brian Dozier. Machado came 1st at the trade deadline and quickly had an impact, showing fans that one could play at a high level even though the personality didn’t match. Dozier would come later but instead of helping the Dodgers, it may have ignited a fire under Kiké who eventually became the starting 2nd baseman the Dodgers needed.
Puig’s season turned on a dime in May. On May 14th when I wrote the column referenced above, Puig had an OPS of only .533. He would end the season with an OPS of .830 and would put up an OPS over .900 from May 14th on.
Other newcomers would make their mark. Caleb Ferguson failed as a starter, became a dominant relief pitcher and gave the Dodgers the left handed arm in the bullpen they so badly needed.
David Freese showed up to give the Dodgers the badly needed right hand bat to come off the bench and face left handers at 1st base.
Walker Buehler didn’t flinch from a heavy load for a rookie and became the de-facto ace of the rotation.
Ryu returned from his long summer hiatus to pitch the best he had ever pitched.
Dylan Floro showed up from someplace in Ohio to give the bullpen a shot in the arm.
Oh, and Pedro Baez came back from Uribe oblivion and gave fans the confidence that he would get any out, any time, anywhere.
Throw in the contributions from the mainstays like Kershaw, Maeda, Hill, Jansen, Bellinger, Pederson, Taylor, Grandal, and isn’t hard to understand why this team is headed to Fenway.
They are good.