A Villain comes forth

San Diego Padre Manny Machado Hurls Numerous Curses At Dodgers Pitcher Brusdar Graterol For ...

Every great baseball rivalry needs two things. A competitive team, and a villain who is good enough that he inspires some type of fear. For the past ten years the Dodger / Giant villain was Madison Bumgarner who played the role perfectly but his time as the Dodger villain are now in the rear-view mirror.

Last night, one time Dodger Manny Machado gave notice that he would like to be the new villain as the Dodger / Padres start a rivalry that should get intense over the next five years. He is in the same division, he plays for a team that is clearly on the upswing, he has superstar talent, and boy does he appear to hate the Dodgers.

Machado showed more emotion in game two of the NLDS last night then Dodger fans saw in his half season of work including all of the 2018 postseason while wearing Dodger blue. From the bat flip that put the first run on the board, to the swearing tirade at new Dodger hero Brusdar Graterol. I’m not sure if Machado was simply trying to rally his youngish overmatched team, or if he really hates the Dodgers but his buffoonish efforts last night, entrenched how Dodger fans feel about him.

Machado could have added a punctuation mark to the game last night coming up as the winning run in the 9th inning but instead of a game winning hit, he battled Joe Kelly for a walk. Manny ended the night with a draw, he didn’t fail in his big moment, but he also didn’t deliver on any of the five strikes he saw.

The Dodgers will clearly win this series, but the Padres have put the Dodgers on notice that they won’t be coasting to any more NL Western Divison titles over the next few years. This team is loaded with young controllable talent, and while the pitching was thin for this series, it shouldn’t be headed into 2021 as their young guns start showing up in more meaningful roles.

I’m looking forward to more games like last night, though I could really do without the profanity tirade by Machado. We have learned one thing during this pandemic, baseball players say fuck quite a bit.

Dodgers needed this

I’m not talking about the montrous home run that Cody Bellinger hit, I’m not talking about the incredible catch Cody Bellinger made, I’m not talking about the clutch hitting that gave the Dodgers six runs. I’m not talking about the great five innings that Kershaw gave them.

I’m talking about Kenley Jansen failing to close the 9th inning with a three run lead. We all knew it was going to happen, we all knew that Dave Roberts would trust Kenley Jansen in a clutch situation in the postseason even though it was very apparent that this version of Kenley Jansen should not be tasked with being the closer on a World Championship quest.
I think even Dave Roberts knew it, but if we know one thing about Dave Roberts handling of pitchers in the postseason, he lets loyalty cloud judgement.

That performance by Kenley should have removed those clouds and Dodger fans should consider themselves lucky that it happened right now and not in a more important situation where the consequences could have made the difference between World Championship and going home once again.

This version of the Dodgers has one Achilles heal and that was Kenley Jansen. Things are going to get tougher from this point on and asking Kenley to get Tatis/Machado/Acuna/Freeman/Ozuna/Stanton/Judge/Voit/LeMahieu/Arozarena out in a close game in the 9th might work once or twice if the lead is big enough but probably not a recipe for continued success. Kenley Jansen has been one of the great Dodger closers, but all things come to an end, and I’m afraid his time has come. This isn’t a reaction to last night, this is a reaction to how he has pitched for a month. It isn’t just about the lack of velocity, it is about the deadly combination of location and velocity. Without velocity he has to have pinpoint command, and he simply doesn’t.

What does that leave the Dodgers? I really don’t know. Joe Kelly got the final out but I’m not sure he’s the answer. I’m not sure Graterol is the answer, or Treinen. As far fetched as it may seem, maybe it is Victor Gonzales. We will find out soon enough who Dave Roberts thinks it is the next time a save situation develops, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be Dodger legend Kenley Jansen.

1965 Dodger Legends go together

On Friday 1965 Dodger hero Lou Johnson passed away and on Saturday, another Dodger great from the same era, Ron Perranoski died. Eric Stephen wrote a solid obiturary about Lou Johnson, one of the stranger Dodger heroes and I can’t add very much to what Eric wrote other than some personal notes.

I had some personal interactions with Lou Johnson because he was the unofficial greeter when you entered the Vin Scully Press Box and would always greet me as though I was a real beat writer not just a blogger for TrueBlueLa. If you were lucky he would be in the midst of telling a story, and he would stop you and say “you’ll want to hear this” and he was always right. The last time I saw Lou Johnson he was the host of the Dodger Premier of the movie “42” The crowd was filled with high school baseball players from the inner city and he told some great stories about his own racial tribulations. As Eric noted in his obit, the road for Lou was hard, but he preservered and became one of the all – time favorite Dodgers not just because of his legendary World Series home run, but because he was simply a great guy.

Ron Perranoski was an integral part of the Dodgers from 1960 – 1968 as a player and again as a pitching coach from 1981 – 1994. Ron won World Series rings in 1963 and 1965 as a player and again in 1981 and 1988 as the Dodger pitching coach. He became the pitching coach in 1981 the same year that Fernando exploded upon the baseball world, and was also the pitching coach during the run of Orel Hershiser.

For any LAD fan over the age of 40, Ron Perranoski was an integral part of their fandom. You either saw him dominating as one of the best relief pitchers for the 1960 era Dodgers or you saw him as one of the best pitching coaches in Dodger history. Some of you (not me) even saw him do both.

I’ve got two Ron Perranoski observations. Ron was traded in 1968 to the Twins along with John Roseboro. They were traded for Mudcat Grant and Zoilo Versalles. What was interesting to me was that the Dodger defeated the 1965 Twins, and MudCat Grant was the best pitcher on the team, and Zoilo was the 1965 AL MVP. Just a few years later, Mudcat was a relief pitcher and Zoilo would become a bad utility infielder. I can still remember Vin Scully saying that Versalles had one the greatest spring trainings he’d ever seen right after the Dodgers had acquired him. That great spring was just a mirage and once the regular season started is was plain to see why the Twins had traded him.

I learned my baseball from the back of baseball cards that my older brothers collected in the mid 1960’s. One of those cards was Ron Perranoski and I was always fascinated by his 1963 season in which he won 16 games and lost 3. As a relief pitcher. If you think that isn’t so weird let me tell how unique it is.

Only three players in baseball history had zero starts, fifteen or more wins, and a winning percentage greater than .800. One of those was Ron Perranoski.

Player           W-L% GS  W Year  G L    IP
Roy Face         .947  0 18 1959 57 1  93.1
Ron Perranoski   .842  0 16 1963 69 3 129.0
Hoyt Wilhelm     .833  0 15 1952 71 3 159.1

Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2020.

So, that brings me to this. I love being right and one day at Dodger Stadium with my eventual wife, we were listening to fans behind talking about their baseball cards. Not how cool the cards were, but how much they were worth. A Dodger trivia question was asked on the big board. Which Dodger pitcher had a record of 16 -3 in 1963 with the obvious choices of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, or Ron Perranoski. I quickly said Perranoski and was ridiculed by the fans around me. Of course I was right, and they asked me how I knew it, and the response was simple. I read my baseball cards.

That gem deserved Dodger fans

Dodger Stadium has seen it’s share of brilliant games in October but none of them came with the stadium empty, and none of those games deserved to be seen as much as the one last night.

As Kershaw approached the dreaded October 7th inning, you could imagine the crowd holding their collective breath and then exhaling as he dispatched the Brewers so quickly in the 7th that it could have just been one breath. It took just eight pitches for Clayton Kershaw to excise every 7th inning October in his heralded history. The crowd would have roared as Hiura took that 3rd strike, tears would have been shed, fans would have hugged, so many enthusiastic high fives would have been slammed, Dodger Stadium would have created it’s own thunderclap

It would have been wonderful.

COVID19 robbed the fans of cheering for Clayton and of Clayton hearing those cheers. Clayton would go onto pitch another inning, and probably could have pitched the 9th but this was just one weird Wild Card Series game and the Dodgers need him like this for another month.

Until last night I hadn’t really cared about missing Dodger baseball in person. I had been going to fewer and fewer games each year, and while I don’t know if I’d gone to the game if I had been able, I do know that when Clayton walked off the mound in the 8th inning, I knew I’d been robbed of something that would have filled my soul.

As far as how this game lands on the LAD leaderboard in October:

Since 1958, 54 pitchers have had a game score of 85 or better in the postseason. Five of those fifty four pitchers have been Dodgers. Four of those five games were pitched at Dodger Stadium. The only exception was the greatest postseason pitching performance in the history of baseball when Sandy Koufax shut out the Twins in Minneapolis on two days rest in game seven in 1965.

Player                  Date Series Opp  Rslt  IP H ER BB SO GSc 
Orel Hershiser    1988-10-16     WS OAK W 6-0 9.0 3  0  2  8     87
Don Drysdale      1963-10-05     WS NYY W 1-0 9.0 3  0  1  9     89
Sandy Koufax      1965-10-11     WS MIN W 7-0 9.0 4  0  1 10     88
Sandy Koufax      1965-10-14     WS MIN W 2-0 9.0 3  0  3 10     88
Clayton Kershaw   2020-10-01   NLWC MIL W 3-0 8.0 3  0  1 13     88
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 10/2/2020.

Sure, all the other games were in the World Series, and I’ll be the first to say, that is way more impressive than beating a mediocre offensive team like the Brewers in a Wild Card Series, but it still stands with the rest as one of only five games with a game score greater than or equal to 85. As you look at each of the games on this leaderboard, if you know anything about the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers, you’ll know each of those games were legendary World Series games that directly resulted in World Championships in 1963, 1965, and 1988.

This was just a small step for the Dodgers as they try to win that elusive World Championship, but it was a huge leap for Clayton Kershaw and his October legacy.

Frank and Mookie

I thought I’d already written about Frank Robinson and his unique talent of having won an MVP in both the NL and the AL when Mookie was traded for by the Dodgers but I couldn’t find anything so here we go.

HOF Frank Robinson won his first MVP while with the Reds in 1961 at the age of 25. Even among some of the greatest outfielders to ever grace our game in Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson stood hand in hand with all three of them. By the winter of 1965 his star had dimmed just a bit and he was traded at the age of 30 to the Orioles and when the Red’s GM was asked why they would trade a talent like Frank Robinson he famously said that “Frank was an old 30”. Famous last words. Frank Robinson destroyed the AL in 1966, winning the MVP, and the Triple Crown. Eventually he would also lead the Orioles to a World Championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the unbeatable October duo of Koufax/Drysdale. It was basically my first remembrances of baseball, listening to the 1966 World Series with family on Armed Services Radio. I knew nothing about baseball yet, but I already hated Frank Robinson. The thing is Frank Robinson became the first baseball player to win an MVP in both leagues which was hard to do before Free Agency. Rarely was a player with his skills traded when the team owned their rights forever.

Baseball is a different beast in 2020. Players in their prime routinely leave one team for another but 54 years after Frank Robinson became the only player to win an MVP in both leagues, he is still the only one. The late Frank Robinson may not hold that distinction for long.

Mookie Betts won the AL MVP in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. also at the of 25. Last winter the 27-year-old Mookie was traded to the Dodgers and during the summer signed a historic contract making him a Dodger for the next twelve years. It was reasonable to assume that Mookie Betts might win a NL MVP sometime in the next five years since he’s still in his prime, but Dodger fans may not have to wait that long. Mookie had an MVP type season in 2020. He may not win it, but he’ll certainly be in the top three. Frank may keep the distinction of being the only player to win an MVP in both leagues for another year, but for the next few years, Mookie has a good a shot as anyone of being the next player to accomplish this very rare feat.

Dodger fans would get to see Frank Robinson for themselves in 1972 when he was traded to the Dodger but he was already 36. Mookie Betts will have been a Dodger for nine years by the time he is 36, and I can tell you as a 55 year Dodger fan, at no time have the LAD had a talent like Mookie Betts locked up for ages 27 – 36. He may never win another MVP but I think it is an easy bet, he’ll be a top five MVP for at least 5 of the next 10 years.

I hope Mookie does get that NL MVP, because just like Frank Robinson, Mookie Betts does everything exceptionally well. Frank Robinson was one of the most well rounded players of his generation, and Mookie Betts is made of the same cloth even if Mookie is a bit diminutive when physically compared to Frank. Frank was still alive when Mookie won his 2018 MVP and I bet he saw a lot of himself in that kid.

Oh, I think we need to say once again. Frank Robinson won a World Championship the first year he played for the Orioles after being traded by the Reds. The Red Sox traded Mookie, a different shade of Red, but still a Red was involved.

Just another reason why the Dodgers will be the 2020 World Champions

Here we go again

This is more the same, but completely different at the same time. For the eighth time in row the Dodgers will try once again to win a World Championship and at no time has the path been as easy as this path appears to be, but with one huge exception. The dreaded 3-Game Wild Card Series.

The Dodgers are the best team in baseball, the only thing is proving in October they are the best team in baseball. They lost one series all year and can’t afford to lose one more. We have been here before, and while they don’t have a championship to show for it, most of baseball understands they would have been the 2017 World Champions if not for some spectacular cheating by Houston. Or maybe not, it is very possible that if Houston is not cheating, they don’t even beat the Yankees, and who knows who wins a Dodger/Yankee World Series, but I think we all know who wins a Dodger / Houston World Series if the trash cans were not be banged.

Let’s get back to the 2020 path. The Dodgers will start it off against the Brewers who were the worst team to make the postseason in 2020. On top of that, the Brewers are without their ace rotation piece, and the best setup man in baseball in 2020. Basically you have a mediocre team without two of their best players. Anyone can win two games in a three game series but instead of worrying about that, we should probably focus on the fact the Dodgers have the advantage at every single position on the diamond, the better rotation options for every game even if it goes three, and a bullpen that shouldn’t need to protect a one or two run lead.

The Brewer rotation is such a mess they are using an opener for the most important game of their season while the Dodgers are countering with a pitcher who might have the best stuff in baseball and is well rested.

I’m not going to spend much time on the Brewers, I just don’t think they can win two games, but if they do, whatever, this is 2020.

I’m just curious who steps up or down for the Dodgers in this series. Last year AJ and Seager wore the offensive horns in the NLDS. I hope they both start the postseason hot and get that bad taste out of Dodger fans mouths. Every Dodger hitter has the ability to carry the team to two victories, every one including Rios or Joc on the bench.

I feel the Dodgers have the offense to bludgeon their way to a World Championship, that the pitching for other teams will stumble with no off days, and while the Dodger pitching may also stumble, no one can match the Dodger offense so as the postseason moves from series to series, the deep Dodger offense will be the difference maker.

They just need to take care of business against the Brewers.

Enjoy the series

Clipped again

Kawhi Leonard was supposed to make sure this didn’t happen but even the postseason savant couldn’t keep the Clippers from once again breaking the hearts of their long suffering fans. For whatever reason, the Lakers and Clippers just can’t get it together so that they play each other in the postseason. This one seemed primed but it won’t happen this summer.

Any long time Clipper fan will tell you that this failure wasn’t new. With Lob City, a team led by a player every bit the equal of Kawhi Leonard in Chris Paul the Clippers blew a similar 3 – 1 game lead in the Western Semifinals to Houston in 2015. The difference this time though was that the Clippers had a 3 – 1 game lead and a 20 point lead in game five and they couldn’t close it out. By the time the seven games were in the bank, the Nuggets clearly looked like the better team.

My own personal series defeat was in 2006, when the Clippers were supposed to meet the Lakers in the Western Semifnals, but the Lakers blew a 3 – 1 game series lead to the Suns. The Clippers played the Suns instead and that series is the series I’ll always regret. That team was my favorite team, led by Sam Cassel and they lost because Vinny Del Negro made one of the worst late in game decisions any coach has every made.

I feel bad for other Clipper fans, as instead of quieting the cacophony of noise that Clipper fans have to endure from entitled Laker fans, it will be a long summer and no answer can be made until next summer. Bubble basketball was fun but the Clippers never played in the bubble like they played before Covid-19. 6th man of the year Montrezl Harrell lost his Grandmother to COVID and simply wasn’t the same player. That may have been because he was played different, or it may have been a hangover from losing the woman who raised him. I don’t know, but the man who created havoc when he entered the game was a negative in just about every game he played in the postseason. Lou Williams didn’t hit any big shots and was never a factor in any of the fourth quarters. Paul George is considered one of the top 10 players in the NBA, we rarely saw that player. If the short Clipper window with Kawhi/PG13 end up with nothing, not even a Western Conference Title, that paring of Kawhi/PG13 for immediate success instead of building with SGA and the bazillion number one picks, and all of Ballmers money may look bad at this time next summer. If Kawhi leaves next summer after testing the waters for two years and saying no thanks, it could get really ugly since they mortgaged the future for those two years.

This tweet probably says it all:


The fact is, this Clipper team wasn’t much fun to root for compared to the team that gave the Warriors all they could handle last summer. That team had zero expectations and leapfrogged them all. This team had title expectations, and not only couldn’t finish the second lap, they looked like someone had taken the heart right of them. If they were playing harder than the Nuggets, it didn’t look like it. Pat Beverly the voice/noise/heart of the 2018/2019 Clippers was MIA. Bluster doesn’t wear so well when you aren’t playing well.

I don’t know what next year will bring us, but right now the Clippers are in Dodger territory. Whatever you do during the regular season won’t mean much until we see what you can do in the postseason.

The Clippers were the Title favorites entering the season and are already out of the playoffs. The Dodgers entered 2020 as the title favorites and in a short 13 days, will need to show that the best team in the regular season can make a long run in Sept/Oct. There will be no trash banging in their way, just baseball.

Dodgers – Unstoppable Force – Hitters

Thirty games into the abbreviated regular season and the Dodger record is very much what everyone expected. The best in baseball. How they got there however is not quite what I expected.

Mookie Betts is everything he’s always been. He is simply one of the best players in baseball because he does everything exceptionally well. Mookie has a very good chance to be the next Frank Robinson, the last/only player to win an MVP in both leagues. He currently leads the NL in fWAR but he does have a competitor in the young beast down South, Tatis Junior. For those unfamiliar with Frank Robinson, he was traded in the winter of 1965 from the Cincinati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles in the middle of his HOF career. The GM of the Reds famously said that Robinson was an old 30. Frank would win the 1966 Triple Crown and MVP and lead the Orioles to the 1966 World Championship defeating the Dodgers in four straight games. Baseball likes to repeat itself just never in the exact same way, but Mookie was traded to the Dodgers in the winter of 2019 because the Red Sox wouldn’t pay him what he was worth, and it is very possible that Mookie will deliver for the Dodgers as Frank Robinson delivered for the Orioles.

Just a quick heads up on the fWAR NL Leaderboard:

The stats below were provided by www.fangraphs.com. I’m a member, every baseball fan should be. Support the writers.

Mike Yastrzemski2.218416.11.5
Fernando Tatis Jr.2.118315.31.6
Mookie Betts1.817412.42
Trent Grisham1.41405.73.8
Bryce Harper1.419112.2-0.7
Ian Happ1.41619.3-0.1
Trevor Story1.31377.91.1
Charlie Blackmon1.21569.6-2.1
J.T. Realmuto1.11526.22.6
Jesse Winker1.11819-1.9
Starling Marte1.11295.21.3

Corey Seager was off to his own MVP start before he was injured and has yet to regain the same stroke. It isn’t like he dropped off a cliff but on Aug 7th he had an OPS .989 and in the games since he returned his OPS is at .851 for a combined OPS of .925. Corey only missed a week but a week in a 60 game season is a substantial number of games missed. I know his hard hit rate was one of the highest before he got hurt but you didn’t need a stat sheet to see that, you simply had to watch the games and see line drive after line drive.

While MVP candidates Betts and Seager were driving the offense the other MVP cylinder was missing more than sparking. Current MVP Cody Bellinger just couldn’t get it going until last week and it is a testament to the offense that they still clicked while Cody was figuring things out. Has he figured it out? As recently as Aug 18th, Cody had an OPS of only .565 and an article was written saying his performance in 2020 was worst season of any MVP coming off an MVP season. That seemed like a very shortsighted story given he had played in only 24 games or basically one month of a normal season. Of course as soon as that article was published Cody started hitting and now that writer has to live with a story that was going to be dead in the water as soon as his publisher agreed to publish it. In his last five games Cody has bombed four home runs and moved his OPS from .565 to .739. I expect him to have an OPS over .900 by the end of the year but he might get there in just another week.

The Dodgers have three legit MVP candidates. Two have already won an MVP and are both still 27 and under. The 3rd was Corey Seager who showed his bat is MVP quality when he’s completely healthy. The fourth might be the most underrated hitter in baseball. Justin Turner. Since 2014 Justin Turner has the 11th highest bWAR in baseball, but it is even more impressive than that. He did that with an average of about almost 900 less plate appearances and since bWAR is a cumulative stat you could make a case that Justin Turner has been one of the top 10 players in baseball since he showed up with the Dodgers and yet he has never had one single top five MVP vote in any single season. Everyone else above him on this list has had at least one top five MVP season.

Player               HR OPS+ WAR/pos From   To   PA
Mike Trout          233  179    53.4 2014 2020 3901
Mookie Betts        150  135    44.2 2014 2020 3751
Nolan Arenado       224  126    35.5 2014 2020 3959
Paul Goldschmidt    182  142    34.0 2014 2020 3989
Jose Altuve         117  137    32.9 2014 2020 4053
Josh Donaldson      186  139    32.4 2014 2020 3507
Anthony Rendon      135  130    30.4 2014 2020 3650
Manny Machado       194  124    30.1 2014 2020 3954
Christian Yelich    142  138    30.1 2014 2020 3884
Anthony Rizzo       184  138    29.8 2014 2020 4079
Justin Turner       114  138    28.0 2014 2020 3022
Freddie Freeman     163  143    27.6 2014 2020 3912
Nelson Cruz         255  150    27.3 2014 2020 3876
Joey Votto          130  143    27.1 2014 2020 3684
Giancarlo Stanton   194  149    25.9 2014 2020 2949
George Springer     164  130    25.6 2014 2020 3450
J.D. Martinez       210  150    25.3 2014 2020 3564
Carlos Correa       105  129    25.3 2015 2020 2480
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2020.

Justin Turner hasn’t really turned it on yet in 2020. He’s done alright, but there is more, and it is kind of scary that the Dodgers already have the best team in baseball and Cody is just getting going, and Justin hasn’t really turned on his jets yet.

Did we forget another under-performing MVP candidate? I think we did, and his name is Max Muncy. Max has really struggled, his walk rate is the only thing keeping his OPS respectable at this point. Max has never gotten full credit for what he did in 2018/2019. He was clearly one of the top ten players in all of baseball and yet couldn’t crack a top ten MVP in either season. Again every other player on this list got top ten MVP votes in 2018 or 2019 except Max Muncy. I should have the same faith that Max will turn it around as I did for Cody but to be honest I don’t. It took me three years before I trusted that Justin Turner was for real, and I need that third year from Max. I expect he will, but I’m not certain he will.

Player             HR OPS+ WAR/pos From   To   PA
Mike Trout         94  187    19.0 2018 2020 1326
Nelson Cruz        89  156     8.7 2018 2020 1231
Christian Yelich   87  167    14.1 2018 2020 1345
J.D. Martinez      82  151     9.6 2018 2020 1421
Cody Bellinger     80  141    13.8 2018 2020 1420
Max Muncy          77  140    10.2 2018 2020 1194
Alex Bregman       76  156    17.0 2018 2020 1502
Mookie Betts       72  160    20.0 2018 2020 1442
Anthony Rendon     64  148    12.9 2018 2020 1360
Aaron Judge        63  150    12.6 2018 2020 1013
Juan Soto          63  146     8.4 2018 2020 1229
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/25/2020.

Speaking of underrated players, does Chris Taylor come to mind? He should but I’ll do a specific column on that because this is getting long. Anyway below are the Dodgers numbers so far this season:

Mookie leads the team in hits (33), doubles (7), home runs (11), runs scored (25), RBI (24), batting avg (.300), slug% (664), OPS (1.032), OPS+ (176), and Total Bases (73). Oh, and stolen bases with 5 and zero caught stealing.

AJ Pollock has also hit 7 doubles, and I’m sure we are all surprised that Corey Seager is only 3rd on the team with doubles with six.

Chris Taylor leads the team in OBP at .376 with Justin Turner 2nd at .372 so so suck it Mookie. You aren’t the best at everything, just almost the best at everything.

Hat tip to Austin Barnes for having a brief spell where it looked like 2017 again, and making his stat line respectable for the season after looking like his career had morphed into Jeff Mathis.

Hat tip to Edwin Rios who makes power look as easy as anyone in baseball.

Hat tip to Keibert Ruiz who hit a home run on his very first major league swing. Not first at-bat, but first swing. That was extra cool.

Final hat tip to AJ Pollock who I thought was redundant on this team and has proven that he is very much needed since Joc / Enrique have joined Max as the offensive disappointments of 2020.

Will Smith hit the ball hard and made a lot of outs. That is all.

CAustin Barnes3062715101710417
1BMax Muncy*29124152020713001630
2BEnrique Hernandez288314194131100318
SSCorey Seager*2610016286072000512
3BJustin Turner35121142861218001320
LFJoc Pederson*28841413104810918
CFCody Bellinger*24127212430817201321
RFMookie Betts271222533701124501119
DHAJ Pollock329813257051521621
UTChris Taylor2910613234129321626
CWill Smith25456710390095
UTMatt Beaty*27407910250025
CIEdwin Rios* (10-day IL)26315830360009
CKeibert Ruiz# (40-man)2181200110003

To sum up the Dodgers have the best team in baseball right now even with the current MVP struggling 90% of the season, Max Muncy not finding any groove, and Joc looking lost. Three huge components to the success of 2019, and yet they haven’t missed a beat. This team has proven once again that with their depth they are a regular season beast.

There is only one thing left to prove. Can they beast in October?

Unstoppable Dodgers – Relief Pitching

Thirty games into the abbreviated regular season and the Dodger record is very much what everyone expected. The best in baseball. How they got there however is not quite what I expected.

I felt the Dodgers would have a good bullpen with the additions of Graterol/Treinen but so many things needed to go right for it to become a great bullpen, and for the most part, they all did.

Kenley Jansen is once again throwing with confidence and ease, and giving Dodger fans a reason to relax in the 9th inning. Kenley has only given up one run in thirteen appearances and is firmly entrenched in the role as Dodger closer. Fangraphs says he using a cutter 73% of the time so far in 2020. Whatever he’s throwing it is working.

Caleb Ferguson in 2018 looked like the next coming of Andrew Miller, but took a big step back in 2019. In 2020, the Andrew Miller Caleb is back and providing dominant setup action.

Dylan Floro doesn’t walk anyone so he doesn’t get hurt when he gives up hits which so far in 2020 have been far and few between.

Jake McGee was once a huge prospect with the Tampa Bay Rays but had spent his last few years getting knocked around in Coors. He still had the big left arm and the Dodgers took a chance and once again found a nugget that had been cast aside by other teams. That nugget has the highest K% on the Dodgers at 40.50% and the 8th best in baseball right now.

Adam Kolarek looked like he might be a victim of the new three batter rule given he was a LOOGY, but he has thrived and continues to pitch as though everyone is Soto. Adam hasn’t walked anyone yet in 2020. He is one of only three pitchers left in baseball who has thrown at least ten innings without a walk.

Brusdar Graterol does not strike out as many as you’d think given his 100 MPH heater but he has been effective.

Blake Treinen looks to have the best stuff in the bullpen when he is on. Most of the time he has been on, but he had one clunker early on and one late. He might be the best addition to the Dodger bullpen since the 2017 version of Brandon Morrow. Blake was the best relief pitcher in baseball as recently as 2018. He may not be at that level in 2020, but he looks like a stud to me and could really be a difference maker in October.

Scott Alexander started off the year striking out everyone but lately has gone back to what he normally does well, getting ground balls. His 73% ground ball percentage is 2nd on the team for those who have thrown meaningful innings. On the down side is that his walk rate is the highest of his career.

Dennis Santana had an early brilliant game that displayed what he could do when he is on. He has struggled since that point, and I can’t see how he makes the October roster.

Joe Kelly became a Dodger folk hero by throwing at someone’s head and making silly faces. I don’t condone either action so he’s nothing but a jerk for me and hasn’t pitched very well either. He’s now hurt.

One quick tidbit. Eight relief pitchers have yet to give up a home run in 2020. The exceptions are Santana (3), Baez (2), Alexander, and Ferguson Those eight have combined for 78 innings without giving up a home run.

The stats below were provided by www.fangraphs.com. I’m a member, every baseball fan should be. Support the writers.

Kenley Jansen1311.232.60%9.30%0.4
Caleb Ferguson1211.140.00%5.00%0.4
Dylan Floro131320.40%2.00%0.4
Jake McGee111040.50%8.10%0.4
Adam Kolarek91023.50%0.00%0.3
Brusdar Graterol1110.218.00%2.60%0.3
Blake Treinen121224.00%14.00%0.2
Victor Gonzalez3519.10%4.80%0.1
Joe Kelly76.119.20%19.20%0
Scott Alexander9922.20%13.90%0
Pedro Baez1111.117.40%10.90%-0.1
Dennis Santana913.125.40%11.90%-0.2

At the halfway point we can look toward October where it looks like a huge strength. You have your closer in Jansen. You have right / left setup studs in Treinen and Ferguson. You have left/right/left middle relief options in McGee/Floro/Graterol/Kolarek. Alexander might make it. That doesn’t even take into account what the bullpen might look like when some of the starters bounce to the bullpen like May/Urias/Gonsolin/Stripling. It will be crowded, it will also be very hard to score on.

Maybe the best option for a postseason game three is a May/Urias humpback start.

Unstoppable Dodgers – Starting Pitching

Thirty games into the abbreviated regular season and the Dodger record is very much what everyone expected. The best in baseball. How they got there however is not quite what I expected.

Walker Buehler has not been anything we expected until his last start. The future Cy Young candidate hasn’t even been the best pitcher on the Dodgers. Right now that honor belongs to Tony Gonsolin who was last seen giving up home runs balls to Gavin Lux during a Taxi Game on Monday Night at Dodger Stadium. Now, I can understand if you think I’m being hyperbolic about Gonsolin, after all, he has made only three starts in thirty games. Sure, Tony the Tiger hasn’t given up a run, but prepare to be shocked. Even though Tony the Tiger has made only three starts out of thirty games, he leads the Dodgers in pitching fWAR. Well, he is tied with Julio Urias who gets his own paragraph. Anyway, Tony has certainly been the biggest “good” surprise of the season.

Out with the old and in with the new may have to wait a little while longer. Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen aren’t ready for the back ends of their careers just yet. Clayton got off to a rocky start when he missed opening day and started off on the IL but has made three solid starts including back to back games scores of 75 in his last two starts. Kenley has only given up one run in thirteen games and looks as confident as ever.

Dustin May has thrown the filthiest pitches by a Dodger in 2020 but he hasn’t thrown the best games. May has been consistent, with game scores ranging from 43 to 65. He has not given up more then two runs in any game but has also only thrown 29 innings in six starts. He looks like a big piece of the future rotation but I’m not sure that rotation will include this postseason.

Julio Urias seems to be a big disappointment to many Dodger fans. They keep expecting him to be a star, and if he’s not going to be star, they don’t seem to have the patience for what he is. What he is right now is very much an average starter just like Dustin May. He has made five starts, has never given up more than two runs in any start but has not dominated any start. He has game scores ranging from 47 to 58, that is a very consistent range. Yet, he gets dragged, while Dustin May is the next coming even though, Julio is just one year older than Dustin and they have basically pitched the same in 2020.

Wood came and went in one start. He might have more to his 2020 story but I’m not sure if he does. Ross Stripling replaced him and while it started off promising, Ross is the one starter who has gone off the cliff. In his first start Ross pitched one of the best games of the Dodger 2020 season putting up a game score of 72. He hasn’t had a game score above 50 since that game and has put up two real clunkers and now sports the lowest fWAR among any Dodger pitcher currently in the rotation.

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Tony Gonsolin3314.223.50%3.90%0.6
Julio Urias552319.00%7.40%0.6
Clayton Kershaw442432.20%4.40%0.4
Dustin May662916.70%5.80%0.4
Walker Buehler552527.50%8.80%0.3
Ross Stripling6629.218.20%6.10%0
Alex Wood11326.70%20.00%-0.1

Looking at the Dodger pitching stats, you wouldn’t think they are 22 – 8 and the best team in baseball. Even when Walker gets straightened out and once again becomes one of the best pitchers in baseball, they might have a postseason problem. With David Price sitting out the season. With Ryu in a different country. With Kenta, will never mind about Kenta, he was never going to get a postseason start no matter how well he pitched. The Dodgers don’t really have that 3rd/4th guy that scares anyone. On the plus side, no one else does either. As good as Tony Gonsolin has been, I don’t think anyone thinks he’s the 3rd or 4th starter in October. Urias or May might get there, or they might not. Ross and Wood aren’t going to be there. They need help here, and when the Dodgers need help they usually get help.