Multiple big moments add up to another World Series appearance

Here is a great link to every great moment in the just concluded NLCS series between the Dodgers and Braves.

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.

Game Five:

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.

Game Six:

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.

Game 7

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.


Dynamic Diminutive Duo

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.

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 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 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 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 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 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?