On one hand this organization is making all the right moves in player development. Then they fail to adequately address their bullpen.
On one hand this team is hitting home runs at a record pace for a Chavez Ravine squad, and then they show they can’t generate a run to save their lives.
On one hand (we have numerous hands; stay with me here) the Dodgers are trouncing terrible baseball teams and playing at a near .750 clip against bad teams, and then they go 8-20 against teams over .500 including 3-9 against the rival Giants.
I just don’t get this club.
With today’s San Francisco Giants loss and sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins the Dodgers have a three game lead in the National League West. It feels incomprehensible that the Dodgers could have a division lead while getting waxed by the Giants this year, but that is par for the course with this odd version of the Dodgers this year.
The loyalists amongst us continue to view Dodgers baseball as the glass that is half full. They argue, the team is in first place, the Dodgers are playing great at home, they are winning the games they are supposed to win. While this line of thinking is nice and dandy it tells an incomplete story. It tells a story with a familiar refrain and I know it ends ugly.
The things that championship teams MUST DO the Dodgers do not do well. First, they do not generate runs using small ball. This is not conjecture this is a real number. The Dodgers produce the highest percentage of their runs via the home run. They produce fewest amount of runs with the base hit, the walk, the sacrifice fly, the situational ground out etc……This is a precursor of post-season doom. Teams that can’t generate runs with small-ball do not win in October. I have grown tired arguing this fact with certifiable novices on social media. They don’t get it, and all the haranguing in the world will never convince these people that they are out of their scope. In the post-season when you are facing teams ABOVE .500 you can not rely on the long-ball to win games. The pitching is better, the mistakes on the mound are less frequent and as a hitter you must be able to generate runs by working counts and having productive at-bats.
The misnomer here is that the Dodgers have the best on-base percentage of any team in the National League. That statistic would tell you the Dodgers are good at producing runs with productive outs. That is not the case. They don’t score bushels of runs with stolen bases, hit-and-runs, stolen bases or productive outs. They don’t need to lead the league in small ball, but they at least need to be proficient at it. So far, it’s a gaping hole in their game. They need to change that for October success.
Second, the Dodgers bullpen is a sieve. They aren’t the worst in the league but they are closer to the #BoxOfPain instead of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys.” General Manager Andrew Friedman believed three washed up infielders could be anchors to the bullpen. Chris Hatcher throws 96 mph but his ball is straight and he gets lit up. Pedro Baez throws 98 but has yet to develop a serviceable breaking ball. Joel Peralta has been on the shelf for much of the year but his latest returns have not been encouraging. JP Howell has been effective but you better not push him past three or four batters because hitters will get a read. Yimi Garcia burst upon the scene like gang-busters but then lost his release point and started serving up gopher balls. You can’t really rely on him at this point. Surprisingly Juan Nicasio has been consistently good this year and Adam Liberatore gives the Dodgers a reliable left-handed reliever with a WHIP below 1.00.
I am not convinced the Dodgers pen has the depth to venture deep into the post-season. It was the primary reason why I was huge proponent of the Dodgers signing Andrew Miller in the off-season, but I digress.
Picture this, Game 5 of the NLCS, series is tied at 2-2. Dodger starter has a high pitch count and is in trouble in the 6th inning in a tie game with runners on base. What pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen, other than the closer Kenley Jansen, would you trust to save the day ? I don’t trust anyone in that bullpen.
As hard as this is to state, the San Francisco Giants and Bruce Bochy has had three or four arms that he had total and complete belief in to get out of that type of jam. The Dodgers just don’t have that. It is another intangible the Dodgers need, yet don’t have if they are to win their first pennant in 27 years.
Dodger fans are not thrilled with me. They say I am too negative, not enough rah-rah and am not focusing on the good things they are doing. Sorry but not sorry for my negativity. Winning the National League West is not my goal. I am trying to project a team that can A) beat the Cardinals. B) Win a pennant. C) Win a World Series.
This club is good, but I fear good won’t cut it.