Defending Six Titles – Is this the year the shit finally hits the fan?
The Dodger accomplishments over the past six years are historical numbers. They have won six straight National League Western Division Championships. The Division setup has been around since 1969 and no NL Western team has ever won more than three in a row other than the Dodgers now having done it six times. They have been in the NLCS three years in a row. They have been in the World Series two years in a row. They haven’t won a World Series, but they have done just about everything else.
Yet, I read and hear Dodger fans who seem to think the front office has mismanaged this franchise. The record is clear. The front office has done its job. If the right players had performed at the right time, the franchise would have at least one more World Championship. They can only build a team to win, but evidently, they didn’t build the team to win the right way.
Too much reliance on platooning is why they lost in the World Series
Too much reliance on players who can play everywhere is why they lost in the World Series
Too much reliance on power and not enough on situational hitting is why they lost in the World Series
Too much over analysis is why they lost in the World Series.
Evidently, all of above is why Clayton Kershaw couldn’t hold a four-run lead twice in game five of the 2017 series.
Evidently, all of the above is why Yu Darvish was blown out in both his starts in the 2017 World Series.
Evidently, Boston simply wasn’t the better team in 2018, even though the only win the Dodgers could manage was a crazy extra-inning affair.
Yet, if the boy cries wolf long enough, eventually the wolf will show up and eat your lambs. 2019 might be the year the wolf shows up. Not because the Front Office is mismanaged but simply because the odds are against them after six straight years of success.
What could go wrong with a team that was in the World Series and only made several moves during the winter?
The Rotation is probably the best in baseball when everyone is healthy. Even during the six-year run, they have had their share of misfortune. Ryu missed almost two years. Urias had his phenom run aborted early. Kershaw has spent at least a month a year on the DL for three years in a row. Hill had his blister. McCarthy never got show why he signed. Kazmir never got to show why he was signed.
But what if multiple problems hit in the same year?
We could start with Kershaw. He could simply spiral downhill as fast as King Felix did at the same age. Or his back could kick back up again. Or his shoulder/elbow may simply give out after so many innings.
Ryu could blow out his problematic shoulder
Hill could either blister up or simply pitch like a 39-year-old pitcher
Kenta has never seemed as good as the numbers say he is. The thing with Kenta is that he’s on a very team friendly contract because of that MRI. At some point that MRI might come into play.
Walker Buehler has had his TJ. Many of those folk end up with two.
Julio Urias has yet to prove he can pitch a full season load.
Ross Stripling was an All-Star and then was pretty bad. Which one is the real one? Hopefully not the 2nd half version.
None of these may happen, one or two may happen, but in a season when the shit hits the fan it is possible that three or four of them may happen.
How about the bullpen?
The Dodgers never really replaced Brandom Morrow from the 2017 team. They tried with Koehler but Koehler never pitched. This year they are trying with Joe Kelly. Bullpens are weird. The Dodgers have built excellent regular season bullpens, but you’d be generous if you said the postseason bullpen has done the job well enough to win a World Championship. The meltdowns have been infamous. I’m not even going to break down the bullpen, too many pieces, just suffice to say, that sometimes bullpens break. It probably won’t but not like this bullpen as it stands makes you think that they are shatterproof.
Max Muncy was a revelation. That was pure luck. No matter how you spin it, Max Muncy was signed for depth and if you had told the Front Office they were going rely on Max Muncy to get 500 plate appearances in 2018 they would have quivered at the thought. There might be dozens of Max Muncy’s in the minor leagues. Maybe only one of them could do what he did. Maybe more could. I can’t look at 2018 and ignore everything else. Maybe I should, maybe he can even be better after a full season. But for this exercise, Max Muncy becomes a pumpkin and Cody Bellinger heads back to 1st base.
David Freese is our platoon favorite. He crushed lefties when he became a Dodger, but Freese hadn’t had an OPS+ over 110 since 2012. He’s going to regress, the regress might be hard.
Can Chris Taylor or Enrique Hernandez really be the starting second baseman?
Corey Seager was an MVP type of player. Multiple surgeries later Vegas pegs him as 40 – 1 to win the NL MVP. Can he even play shortstop? Can his body handle a full season load? Can he get back to what he was as a hitter? If Corey Seager is not in the running for MVP, that puts extra stress on the rest of the team. And you know what happens when to much stress is placed on weaker components.
Justin Turner might be the best Dodger 3rd baseman of all time. He’s also older, and the team was out of synch when he missed all of April last year. If he goes down again………
From an offensive standpoint, Russell Martin and Austin Barnes were horrible last year. They are expected to bounce back, but they could simply be horrible again.
Cody Bellinger has proven he’s an excellent 1st baseman and a very good center fielder. The Dodgers are going to put him in RF. I’m not sure if that is ever a good thing to take a player off of their best position but they have to find out if Muncy is for real and for some reason they signed AJ Pollock to be their CF. AJ could be the reason why the Dodgers defend their title successfully or he could be the reason why fans point to front office incompetence if Pollock breaks down, once again. Is Alex Verdugo ready for prime time? He better be ready if Joc can’t replicate his 2018 success.
Lots of shit would have to hit the fan for the Dodgers to unravel in 2019 but sometimes shit turns to diarrhea and you can’t stop the flow no matter how much toilet paper you kept in reserve.