Feebly into the night

Now we know what the fans of the 1966 Dodgers felt like after the Orioles swept them in four games. That series was known for the ineptitude of the Dodger offense and this one can sit right along with it. The difference being the 1966 team went into the World Series having scored only 606 runs while the 2018 team scored over 800 runs. The 1966 team was expected to win on the backs of the outstanding pitching staff and in 1966 that pitching held up their side of the bargain losing the final two games by the score of 1 – 0.

Maybe I should be talking about 1974 when the Dodgers lost in five games just as they did in the 2018 series. Except in 1974, the games were extremely close with the Dodgers losing three games by a score of 3 – 2. The expectations were also different because the 1974 team was brand new to the postseason. Just about everyone on the team was in the postseason for the first time so you could expect them to have some misfires while in the fire for the first time.

The 2018 team couldn’t possibly have anymore postseason experience. They have been in the postseason year after year and back to back World Series visits. The big debate will continue as to whether experience trumps skill but for this series, the best player for the Dodgers was the pitcher, pitching in his first postseason.

Players who did their part above and beyond expectations.

Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, and David Freese.

Players who were ok, Justin Turner, Muncy (one big hit), Puig (one big hit),  Kershaw, Ryu, Urias

Everyone else was horrible.

Cody Bellinger had his second straight World Series with nary a positive impact. The Dodger catchers get their own special award for World Series offensive ineptitude. I don’t know how to search it via Bref play index but hard to imagine any position having a more meager offensive performance than the Dodger catchers over the past two World Series.  Manny Machado can’t take off his Dodger jersey fast enough for me. If I hadn’t been a Dodger fan, and I was watching the postseason, just watching Machado would have been enough for me to root against the Dodgers. Kiké hit a pointless home run in game four but that couldn’t stop him from having one of worst Dodger offensive postseasons in recent memory that didn’t include Yazmani Grandal. Chris Taylor, Brian Dozier, and Joc Pederson just didn’t hit.

                    Play Play Play Play Play Play Play  Play
Name                  AB    H   HR  RBI   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS
Justin Turner         24    8    0    0 .333 .385 .417  .801
Manny Machado         22    4    0    3 .182 .208 .182  .390
Yasiel Puig           20    5    1    4 .250 .286 .400  .686
Max Muncy             17    4    1    1 .235 .316 .471  .786
Cody Bellinger        16    1    0    0 .063 .063 .063  .125
Enrique Hernandez     15    2    1    2 .133 .133 .333  .467
Chris Taylor          14    2    0    0 .143 .333 .143  .476
David Freese          12    5    1    1 .417 .500 .833 1.333
Joc Pederson          12    1    1    1 .083 .083 .333  .417
Austin Barnes         11    0    0    0 .000 .083 .000 .
Matt Kemp              9    1    1    2 .111 .100 .444  .544
Brian Dozier           5    0    0    0 .000 .375 .000  .375
Yasmani Grandal        5    1    0    0 .200 .429 .200  .629
Totals               189   34    6   14 .180 .249 .302  .550

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2018.

Clayton Kershaw started games one and five and didn’t pitch well enough for the Dodgers to win either game. Ryan Madson did him no favors in game one, but it wasn’t like he wasn’t being hit hard when he was forced to leave the game in the 5th inning.  In game five dingers were the story, early,  and late. He was awesome however from the 2nd – 5th innings, something the Kershaw postseason apologists can hang their hats on as they discuss his postseason legacy. The Dodgers weren’t going to win game five unless Kershaw was going to throw a shutout but that became a moot point when Pearce took him deep.  Kershaw did keep the team in the game until two of the best hitters in baseball took him deep in the 6th and 7th. See, a Kershaw apologist lives within me, even now.

Enough can’t be said about what Walker Buehler did in game three.

Rich Hill almost duplicated that effort in game four but was taken out with one out in the 6th after issuing a walk The next hitter was left-handed Brock Holt and Hill had walked him and gotten him to ground out in his previous two at-bats. Dave Roberts in possibly his worst managed game in a World Series which is saying something, pulled Hill and went for Alexander hoping for a double play. The score was 4 – 0 at the time with one out in the 6th. By the time Roberts stopped pushing his buttons, the Red Sox would score nine times and the series was effectively over.

Ryu, like Kershaw in game one, deserved a better fate. Ryu pitched extremely well for fourteen outs. He was in cruise control getting the first two outs in the fifth and had two strikes on the worst hitter in the Red Sox lineup. One more good pitch he would be into the 6th, and he made that good pitch, but Vazquez looped the single into right field in front of Puig. Now it was trouble, and the Red Sox would put up a three-spot against Ryu/Madson.

All in all, I thought the Dodger rotation did the job well enough that if the bullpen had done their jobs, and the offense had hit even a little they could have taken this series to seven games.

The idea that the Red Sox are some legendary team just seems like a rationalization for having lost to them. Any team getting beat by Steve Pearce shouldn’t be putting the tag of legendary on them, they should be looking in the mirror.

 

 

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Twittering away for eight hours

One of the great benefits of my Dodger twitter is that I follow just enough folk that I tend to get funny and informational tweets. Last night was no exception as records were falling faster than Grandal’s Free Agent rankings.

Yeah, the heroes of game three were in AAA in April.

Yeah, the improbable Max Muncy is going to end the 2018 season with more home runs than any other National League player.

How I felt about Eovaldi last night and this morning couldn’t have been said better than this gif.

Can’t have a Tweetstorm without the thunder

I should send this tweet to all the Front Office naysayers. I mean come on. They signed Max Muncy. They traded for Chris Taylor. They drafted Walker Buehler. They traded for David Freese.

Lots of humor about the length of the game, but this was one of my two favorites.

This was my second favorite.

Crazy context

An image says a 1000 words

 

Just your typical World Series game three victory

If you expected Walker Buehler to show why he’s already the ace of this team you were not disappointed. As  one time World Series hero Adam Wainwright tweeted:

Walker was so good that he sent everyone to the baseball reference play index. This is the one I’m going with. Buehler was only the 2nd pitcher since 1958 to allow only two baserunners while throwing at least seven innings in a World Series game.

Player                 Date Series  Rslt AppDec  IP H ER BB BR GSc
Jim Lonborg      1967-10-05     WS W 5-0  SHO W 9.0 1  0  1  2  88
Walker Buehler   2018-10-26     WS W 3-2   GS-7 7.0 2  0  0  2  80

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2018.

How about Dodger World Series game scores? Yeah, 30 years ago was the last time a Dodger pitched a World Series game this good. Walker did so many things last night that he is going to fill the World Series leaderboards.

Player                 Date Series  Tm Opp  Rslt   IP H ER BB SO GSc
Walker Buehler   2018-10-26     WS LAD BOS W 3-2  7.0 2  0  0  7  80
Orel Hershiser   1988-10-16     WS LAD OAK W 6-0  9.0 3  0  2  8  87
Burt Hooton      1977-10-12     WS LAD NYY W 6-1  9.0 5  1  1  8  80
Sandy Koufax     1965-10-14     WS LAD MIN W 2-0  9.0 3  0  3 10  88
Sandy Koufax     1965-10-11     WS LAD MIN W 7-0  9.0 4  0  1 10  88
Don Drysdale     1963-10-05     WS LAD NYY W 1-0  9.0 3  0  1  9  89
Clem Labine      1956-10-09     WS BRO NYY W 1-0 10.0 7  0  2  5  81
Sherry Smith     1916-10-09     WS BRO BOS L 1-2 13.1 7  2  6  2  82

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2018.

Maybe you expected a relief pitcher who was scheduled to pitch game four, pitch six innings in game three instead? Nathan Eovaldi is now one of only seven relief pitchers since 1958 to pitch at least six innings in the World Series. The Dodgers are well documented here with ex-Dodger Eovaldi, Rick Rhoden, and of course Moe Drabowsky who probably owns the greatest World Series relief effort in history.  Anyone remember the Rick Rhoden game?  Doug Rau was knocked out without recording an out, and Rick came in and bailed out the inning. This will need a whole new column dedicated to this game because I have zero memory of it but it might have been the greatest relief work in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rhoden gave up a hit to the second batter he faced and then retired thirteen in a row before giving up a home run to Reggie Jackson.  He would then retire the next seven batters. Rick also hit a ground rule double for good measure. The Dodgers lost this game which is why it is lost to history. No one remembers the losers. In a few years, Nathon Eovaldi will be forgotten but Max Muncy will not be.

Rk           Player       Date Series  Tm Opp   Rslt      AppDec  IP H ER BB SO HR
1    Nathan Eovaldi 2018-10-26     WS BOS LAD  L 2-3 12-GF(18) L 6.0 3  1  1  5  1
2       Rick Rhoden 1977-10-15     WS LAD NYY  L 2-4         2-8 7.0 2  1  0  5  1
3        Tug McGraw 1973-10-14     WS NYM OAK W 10-7     6-12 BW 6.0 5  4  3  8  0
4       Bruce Kison 1971-10-13     WS PIT BAL  W 4-3       1-7 W 6.1 1  0  0  3  0
5     Moe Drabowsky 1966-10-05     WS BAL LAD  W 5-2      3-GF W 6.2 1  0  2 11  0
6         Bud Daley 1961-10-09     WS NYY CIN W 13-5      3-GF W 6.2 5  0  0  3  1
7        Bob Turley 1958-10-09     WS NYY MLN  W 6-2      3-GF W 6.2 2  1  3  2  1

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2018.

I’m sure we all expected Xander Bogaerts to set the modern day record for futility by failing to get on base in any of his eight plate appearances.

Player                  Date Series  Tm Opp PA H BB IBB
Xander Bogaerts   2018-10-26     WS BOS LAD  8 0  0   0
Willy Taveras     2005-10-25     WS HOU CHW  7 0  0   0

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2018.

If you expected a couple of home runs from the crew that had hit over 100 home runs during the season but had yet to start a World Series game you were not disappointed.

These two teams combined to score 1680 runs in the 2018 regular season. They could only score 5 runs in eighteen innings last night and this morning.

If you expected Manny Machado to jog on an apparent home run you were not disappointed. You see balls hit the green monster and just become singles all the time, that may have been the first ball I’ve seen hit the Dodger left field fence and end up being a single.  If Cody Bellinger had followed with a hit, it might have been a huge play, but Cody did what every other Dodger did all evening. Pop up.

Ian Kinsler gave us the worst play by an infielder I’ve seen in a World Series. Context is important here. The error he made can be made anytime, but it can’t be made with the tying run on 3rd base. You can’t make a throw that allows the tying run to score, not when you already have two outs. You just can’t. I’m sad for him because I expect Red Sox fans to let never let him forget it if the Dodgers go onto to win this World Series.  I’m glad a Dodger didn’t make such a boner. They still haven’t forgiven Grandal for his transgressions and the Dodgers won that series.

People took naps for hours and woke up to find the game still on.

I watched the Clipper/Rocket game twice. Twice and the second time if ended just minutes before Max Muncy to the relief of everyone, sent them home or to bed.

This was not a game that created new baseball fans, but it will become a game that all Dodger fans will long remember.

Fernando’s 1981 Game Three – heroic or heinous pitch count complete game 5 – 4 victory

The Dodgers were down 2 – 0 in the 1981 World Series but they were back home and had the 1981 Rookie and Cy Young Award winner going for them. You could say they won this game the old fashioned way, by letting their starter finish what he started but it probably came with a future price. However, the current prize of keeping the World Series competitive was probably worth the price. Fernando would never again pitch in the World Series and his game three victory in the 1981 World Series would be his last postseason victory. You could say that Tommy Lasorda ruined Fernando but if you had been around, it is possible that Fernando would have clocked Tommy if he had tried to take him off the mound. Even at 20, Fernando was already the boss of moments. The boy wonder had completed 11 of his 25 starts in 1981. Fernando would make five starts in the 1981 postseason and complete two of them.

Fernando wasn’t the only hero in game five. This was a complete team victory that involved clutch pitching, clutch hitting, and clutch defense.

It all started with Fernando throwing ten pitches to future Dodger Willie Randolf who drew a walk on the 10th pitch. Jerry Mumphrey grounded into a force play but he walked future HOF Dave Winfield. On his 25th pitch of the inning, Lou Pinella grounded into the much needed double play Russel – Lopes – Garvey.

The Dodgers were facing their own whiz kid, 21-year-old AL ROY Dave Righetti who had led the AL in ERA+.  Davey Lopes wasn’t impressed leading off the game with a double. Bill Russel attempting to sacrifice got a bunt base hit and the Dodgers had 1st and 3rd with no outs. Dusty Baker would hit a meek fly ball to 2nd base. Clean-up hitter and future Free Agent to be Steve Garvey struck out and it looked like the Dodgers would come away empty handed. When you wonder why Ron Cey was part of a trio of Dodgers to win the 1981 World Series MVP this was a big reason. Ron Cey didn’t leave any runners stranded and deposited the Righetti deep into the left-field pavilion giving the Dodgers a 3-run lead.

In the top of the second Dodger nemesis, Bob Watson would hit a home run to start the inning. Rick Cerone would hit a double and advance to 3rd on a fly ball to the outfield. Cerone would score on a single by Larry Milbourne and the score was now  3 – 2.  It took Fernando another 25 pitches to get through the 2nd inning. He had already thrown 50 pitches in just two innings.

Fernando led off the bottom of the 2nd with a walk but was stranded on 2nd when Dusty Baker made the last out of the inning.

Dave Winfield struck out for the first out of the 3rd inning but Lou Pinellia hit a single. Bob Watson would strike out and just when you thought Fernando would escape unscathed Rick Cerone hit a surprising two-run home run and as fast as you could say Clayton Kershaw, Fernando had given up his original three-run lead and the Dodgers were now down 4 – 3.  It took Fernando another 22 pitches to get through the 3rd inning. He was now at 72 pitches through just three innings.

The Dodgers chased Dave Righetti with a single by Garvey and a walk to Cey. With two on and no outs the Yankees brought in Dodger legend George Frazier(he would lose all three games at Dodger Stadium).  Frazier got out of it easy enough striking out Pedro Guerrero, getting a fly ball from Rick Monday, and a groundout from pinch-hitter Mike Scioscia.

The top of the lineup was due up for the Yankees in the 4th and unlike the 1st inning in which Fernando labored to get three outs in 25 pitches, he dispatched them easily enough throwing only 12 pitches. He was now at 84 pitches through four and the Dodgers still trailed 4 – 3.

With two outs Bill Russell hit a single in the bottom of the fourth but Dusty Baker made the final out leaving Russell on base.

The fifth was anything but easy for Fernando. Bob Waston led off with a ground-rule double down the right-field line on the first pitch.  They could ill afford to give up another run and Fernando reached back and struck out Rick Cerone. A groundout got Waston to 3rd base so the Dodgers intentionally walked Larry Milbourne. The Yankee decided to let George Frazier bat with a runner on 3rd and two outs. Frazier had already thrown twenty-two pitches in relief while getting six outs. The Yankees would be asking for him to go another inning. Fernando would strike out Frazier and if you are looking for turning points in a World Series this might have been the biggest one.  Fernando threw seventeen pitches in the 5th and had already thrown 101 pitches.

The Yankees were up two games to zero. They had a 4 – 3 lead in the fifth inning. They decided to let their relief pitcher hit with a runner on 3rd base. It would not turn out well for the Yankees. This is when the series turned. This is when the Dodgers made their move to win their first World Championship since 1965.

Once again Garvey and Cey got on base via a single and walk. The last time they did this George Frazier came in from the bullpen and struck out Pedro Guerrero. Not this time. Pedro launched a rocket ground ball double that scored Steve Garvey. The game was not now tied at four and the Dodgers had 2nd/3rd with no outs. Rick Monday was intentionally walked bringing up Mike Scioscia. Mike would hit the ultimate double play ground ball. He killed the rally but did manage to bring in the go-ahead run. The Dodgers had the lead 5 – 4. Fernando was up with a runner on 3rd and two outs. The same decision the Yankees had to make in the top of the fifth. The difference being that Fernando had already thrown 101 pitches. Who lets their pitcher hit with a runner on 3rd and two outs, when he has already thrown 101 pitches? Tommy Lasorda does. Fernando left the runner stranded, would he suffer the same fate as George Frazier?

Fernando started the 6th much like he started the game by walking leadoff hitter Willie Randolf. Mike Scioscia would throw out Randolf trying to steal and it might have biggest caught stealing by Mike Scioscia over his future long Dodger career. With no one base and one out, Fernando dispatched Jerry Mumphrey and Dave Winfield. He threw 12 pitches, the total was now 113 after six innings.

Davey Lopes led off the bottom of the 6th with a single but Russell/Baker/Garvey went down in order. Still, 5- 4 Dodgers headed to the top of the 7th.

Fernando breezed through the 7th, needing only ten pitches to get two fly balls and a popup. Was he smelling the finish line? By my count that is 123 pitches through seven.

Ron Cey led off the bottom of the 7th with a single, but Pedro struck out, and Derrell Thomas hit into a double play.  Derrell was pinch-hitting for Rick Monday so now the Dodgers had their best fielding center fielder in the game.  A surprising fact here, Rick Monday had been playing RF and Pedro Guerrero was in CF.  Yup, Pedro was in CF to start the game.

The top of the eighth started with two singles. First and second, no outs, Bobby Murcer comes up to pinch hit. Bobby Murcer hit 252 career home runs. In over 7700 plate appearances he had 18 successful sacrifice bunts. Murcer had zero sacrifice bunts in 1981. He was asked to sacrifice bunt. He would end 1981 with zero sacrifice bunts. Instead, he popped his bunt up foul, the Penguin waddled in and as though diving for an ice flow to slid into the water he caught the bunt and doubled up the runner at 1st base. It was an incredible play

Why was the runner off with the bunt?  Fernando would get Randolf for the final out of the 8th inning.  Fernando needed only nine pitches in the eighth and by my count was now at 132 pitches through eight.

Mike Scioscia led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and Fernando was due up. Tommy let him hit and Fernando didn’t even try to bunt grounding out. Lopes and Russell made the final two outs and the Dodgers headed to the top of the 9th clinging to a one-run lead with a pitcher who had already thrown 133 pitches.

What could go wrong?

Apparently nothing, but it wasn’t that easy. It took Fernando another fifteen pitches to get the Yankees in order in the top of the 9th.

Fernando and the Dodgers had done. They won their first game of the 1981 World Series and set the stage for the first Dodger World Championship since 1965.

1981 World Series is why Fernando is so revered

If you are a Dodger fan you have now heard from multiple people that the last time the Dodgers lost the first two games in the World Series they went on to win that World Series in 1981.  Not only in 1981 bt also in 1965 and 1955.

Unlike many of you who might be reading this, I was in my full blown Dodger fandom in 1981. It might have been my peak.  I’m going to try to provide some context for that 1981 World Series.

The Dodgers had lost three straight World Series, in 74 to Oakland, in 77 and 78 to the Yankees. In each case, I felt the Dodgers had the better team and to not come up with even one World Championship or even a game seven was a bitter blow to this fan.

Heck, in 1978 the Dodgers won the first two games at Dodger Stadium, only to lose the next three at Yankee Stadium, and game six at Dodger Stadium. So not only do the Dodgers have precedent for coming back from two games down in the World Series, they have even had it done to them.

As I peek back into my 1981 memories, I’m pretty sure that the entire world felt the Yankees would be the 1981 World Champions after they won the first two games.  I would like to tell you that I still felt the Dodgers would win but I don’t remember if I was optimistic or pessimistic. I don’t have a blog or diary to go back in time to see what my state of mind was in.  I’d bet I was very pessimistic, given I’d already seen the team lose three World Series and were currently down two games to the same team that had already beaten them in 77 and 78.

1981 had something different. Sure it had the exact same infield. It still had Dusty Baker and Steve Yeager. It even had Reggie Smith on the roster though he would barely play.

But………………

1981 had Fernando and Fernando would do everything he could do to win his games. The stats look horrible for game three. He gave up four runs, walked seven, but won the game 5 – 4. You may believe 100% that wins don’t mean anything, but in 1981, that win was earned by Fernando. Let me explain the ways.

Fernando gave up four runs in the first four innings. He threw 72 pitches in those first three innings. He didn’t give up another run and ended the game throwing 149 pitches. I added these up manually using the Baseball Ref box score so I hope I did it right. 

Fernando was at 124 pitches when the 8th inning started. The Dodgers had a one-run lead. Fernando gave up singles to the first two hitters. Even in the days of complete games, the idea that Fernando would still be in this game after 126 pitches and the tying run at second the winning run at 1st with zero outs should blow your mind. Fernando got the play he had to get. A DP but not your normal double play. Ron Cey made an insane catch of a foul bunt and doubled the runner off of 1st base. With the tying run on 2nd base, he got the 3rd out.

Fernando now entered the 9th inning having thrown 134 pitches. Still no relief in sight for a one-run game. You’d think he breezed through the 9th given he finished the game, but nothing came easy in this game. Fernando did retire the side in order but it took him 15 pitches to retire the side striking out Lou Pinella for the final out. Fifteen pitches in the 9th inning for a guy who had already thrown 134 pitches.  It is possible this was the gutsiness game in LAD history surpassing what Koufax did in 1965. It wasn’t the most aesthetic, but for a must-win game, it was something else.

And it wasn’t even the best game of the series. That was game four which might be the most memorable World Series game for me. Even more than the Gibby homer because this was still a must-win game.

The fifth game was just as nerve-racking. The Dodgers won all three games at Dodger Stadium, but all three were one-run victories leaving their fans delirious and worn out.

Game six was the only blowout and they didn’t need Fernando again. He had already done his part.

So, you might want to buckle up for this one. It ain’t over yet.

Cruise control doesn’t work at Fenway

Other than a minor hiccup, Ryu was dispatching the potent Red Sox lineup with aplomb when he ran into the 9th hitter in the lineup. Unlike the National League, Ryu had to face a real hitter even though Christian Vazquez hardly qualifies as a real hitter. Vazquez was just about the worst hitter in the AL in 2018 so he shouldn’t have been much trouble when you consider the way Ryu was pitching. With only five pitches in the fifth inning, Ryu already had two outs and two strikes on Vazquez when he lofted a fly ball to right field

Dodger beat writer Bill Plunkett tweeted earlier in the day about how the Dodgers were going to play shallower after allowing too many hits to fall in front of them on Tuesday.

Yasiel Puig did not get the message and was not able to cover the ground necessary to catch the looping single by Vazquez. With two out and nobody on, and the extremely dangerous Mookie Betts coming up, I would have liked to have seen Puig layout for the single instead of backing off at the last second and playing it safe. The last person I wanted to see up was Mookie Betts with a runner on in the fifth inning, but when the ball landed that was what he had. Luckily enough, Mookie only hammered a single to center field. Ryu’s last hitter was going to be Andrew Benintendi and they had a nice battle but in the end, Ryu walked Andrew and that was it for him. Ryu had been in cruise control but was unable to finish the fifth on what might have been a harmless fly ball to right field if the Dodger outfield alignment hadn’t been so conservative.

Ryan Madson came in and it was certainly the right call by Dave Roberts to bring in a right-hander to face Pierce who has made a living crushing left-hand pitching but is 100 OPS points lighter against righthand pitchers. If Madson was the correct right hander that can be debated. I’d say no, because what we had was a one-run lead, with the bases loaded, and the guy you need to get out at the plate because after Pierce was arguably the most dangerous hitter in the American League.  I was wondering if Craig Counsel would have used Kenley Jansen in that situation? This is the World Series after all and down one game already you could make a case that getting Steve Pearce out was going to be the most important out of the game.  For any of that to happen, Dave Roberts would have needed to get Jansen warmed up as soon as Vazquez blooped his single. Anyway, Dave Roberts didn’t flinch and brought in the same guy who failed on Tuesday. On Wednesday he failed again when he walked Pierce on five pitches.

JD Martinez then lofted another single in front of the outfield and the Dodgers were down 4 – 2 and would never recover.

MLB writer Mike Petriello had tweeted about how the Dodger outfield was playing deeper than usual so far in the playoffs.

 

These are little things you won’t hear about when watching the game, but if you were listening to the radio you would have heard Rick Monday mention that the Dodger outfield was playing too deep. It is significant that Puig was 319 feet deep instead of 302. Very significant. The series might have turned not on the walk by Ryu or the walk by Madson but the depth of the Dodger outfield.

Anyway, Ryan Madson has a 0.00 World Series ERA. Possibly the most misleading stat you’ll ever read.

Unleash the Boban

boban

I’m guessing everyone who doesn’t know this bit of trivia would be blown away but the NBA player with the highest PER in the 21st century does not play for the Lakers, he plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. OK, all sorts of caveats apply, but it is still true. Not a fake fact.

                   Crit  Crit Tota
Player              PER    MP    G
Boban Marjanovic   27.9  1177  131
LeBron James       27.7 44374 1145
Anthony Davis      27.1 14324  412
Chris Paul         25.6 31555  894
Kevin Durant       25.3 28719  774
Shaquille ONeal    25.1 21770  673

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/22/2018.

Got naysayer to say?

The Dodger twitter naysayers were out in full force after the loss on Friday. Based on the tweets one had to wonder how such a horrible team had managed to even win three games in the NLCS.  I don’t quite understand naysayers in sports. Why root for a team if all you do is probe for the failures instead of finding the positives and hoping for the best.

I’m not sure what is more emotionally fulfilling. Expecting failure but being happy about success, or expecting success and getting it? Certainly expecting success and getting failure is a bigger downside than expecting failure and getting failure but what did you gain emotionally from such a perspective?

Anyway, it didn’t take much to find a reason for hope in game seven. The Dodgers had Walker Buehler on the mound. They had Clayton Kershaw available. They had a well-rested and effective Kenley Jansen.  It wasn’t grasping at straws, these three pitchers were

The best rookie pitcher in Dodger history since Fernando

The best pitcher in baseball for almost a decade

The best relief pitcher in baseball over the past five years.  For all the talk of Josh Hader when Kenley Jansen is on, he’s the best. The best. And KJ had been on.

It should not have been a surprise the Dodgers are headed to Fenway.  What should have been a surprise is how many Dodger fans didn’t think they could do it. Or maybe, Dodger Twitter folk are more negative than the average Dodger fan? I don’t know. I do know that if the Dodgers lose one or two games in Fenway the naysayers will be back out in full force saying “I told you they sucked”.

Whatever

Justin Turner the gift that keeps on giving

Justin Turner is the most important cog of the 2018 Dodgers and the biggest reason why the Dodgers are headed to Fenway to battle the Red Sox for the 2018 World Championship. The proof is really in the pudding when you consider the Dodgers record on May 16th, and the Dodgers record after Justin Turner returned to the lineup.

Justin Turner was not only the 2018 Dodgers MVP but he gave back to the Dodgers in a way that only baseball could appreciate. When Justin Turner got hurt in the preseason the Dodgers turned to Logan Forsythe to fill his place at 3rd base, but luckily for the Dodgers, Logan couldn’t hit and more importantly, he got hurt on April 14th. With both Turner and Forsythe on the DL, the Dodgers dipped into their system and pulled up journeyman minor leaguer Max Muncy.  Edwin Rios had also gotten hurt in the spring so Max Muncy was getting full-time work in AAA at 1st / 3rd something he would not have gotten if Rios has not been hurt. Rios was the prospect, Muncy was depth.

The Dodgers used that depth and hoped that Max could plug the hole for a couple of weeks. Max did his job, he wasn’t great, but he did hit a respectable .788 OPS during his run at 3rd base. That was enough for Dave Roberts and the brain trust of the Dodgers. Something in how Max Muncy performed convinced them to keep him on the roster even when Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe returned.  Even more shocking, they started Max at-bats at 1st base and moved Cody Bellinger to CF.

The rest is Dodger history

Max Muncy doesn’t exist in Dodger lore if Justin Turner doesn’t get hurt in the preseason. He simply doesn’t.

Justin Turner for his part has been making a case as the greatest Dodger 3rd baseman in history. I’ll revisit that for the 3rd time after the season is over. Justin Turner was, however, the best offensive infielder in the NL in 2018.  Except for the guy who replaced him in April.

Player           OPS+  PA Year HR   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS      Pos
Max Muncy         161 481 2018 35 .263 .391 .582 .973 *35H4/7D
Justin Turner     151 426 2018 14 .312 .406 .518 .924    *5/HD
Matt Carpenter    143 677 2018 36 .257 .374 .523 .897  *354/HD

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/22/2018.

To put this in perspective, the Dodgers had the two best hitting infielders in the NL in 2018 and neither of them was Corey Seager or Manny Machado.

Justin Turner and Max Muncy, they shall forever be intertwined on the long Dodger vine that extends toward the Blue Heaven that Tommy Lasorda often waxes fondly about.

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.