Is Dave Roberts Managing the Dodgers into Losing the World Series?

Time for me to once again don my helmet and flak jacket as I deliver a column that many of you won’t like, and some of you may consider blasphemous. With a heavy blue heart, I’m laying much more than partial blame for the Dodgers’ losses in Games 2 and 3 of the World Series right on top of manager Dave Roberts‘ head.

I’ve said it plenty of times here, when you have two teams that are evenly matched, the difference will come down to the managers. While I’m not saying Astros manager A.J. Hinch is outsmarting Roberts, I am saying Roberts’ insistence on blindly following analytics and data, while also making boneheaded in-game personnel moves is hurting his team’s chances, and could kill Los Angeles’ first shot at a World Series title in a generation.

I’ve covered here and in my Youtube video why I think Roberts’ bullpen decisions hurt the Dodgers’ chances in Game 2. I’ll summarize by saying Roberts pulled Rich Hill too soon, Kenta Maeda was pulled too soon, and Josh Fields should have been pulled immediately after giving up a home run to his first batter. Instead, Fields was left in to give up one more dinger. Go figure.

Fast forward to Game 3. It was evident from the get-go that Yu Darvish had nothing. Nothing but gifts for Houston’s bats.  Darvish barely escaped the first without a run but was hit hard. 

In the second inning, Darvish gave up a monster home run to the first batter he faced. Then a double and a walk to the next two batters. Roberts went to the mound for a conference. Roberts almost never goes to the mound! He did this time, and it was the right move. The other move he should have made was attaching a very short leash to Darvish and begin warming Kenta Maeda. 

Instead of a super short leash with a run in and two on, Darvish stayed in for two more singles and two more runs. The score was 3-0, but not completely demoralizing, and the game was manageable for a comeback if the Dodgers could stop the bleeding. Darvish was allowed to stay in until it was 4-0. Finally, a run too late, he was lifted for Maeda. 

Kenta Maeda dominated the Astros from his first pitch (much like he did in Game 2). He held Houston scoreless for two innings, and he started the sixth off by getting the first Astros batter he saw to ground out. Then Roberts went gaga. 

He let the charts and the graphs and analytics decide Maeda should go, and Tony Watson should be brought in. He was managing like the Dodgers were protecting a lead. They weren’t. Roberts’ defenders are saying he’s making decisions “like he has all year”. I’ve got news for them – you can’t manage the World Series like it’s a Sunday afternoon in July.

Kenta Maeda retired eight of the ten batters he faced and only allowed a hit and a walk in 2.2 innings. There was no reason to pull him and play bullpen bingo once again (especially when that didn’t work so well in Game 2).  Maybe Roberts didn’t want to stretch Maeda? He was going to be toast for Game 4 anyway. Besides, Kenta was a starter his entire career. The man can be stretched out. The man was mowing down Astros left and right. 

Nope. Tony Watson was brought in. A southpaw specialist who usually sees only one or two batters. The Dodgers were forced to stretch him out because it was only the sixth inning. Result, Watson gave up a run. The score clicked up to 5-1. 

Roberts wasn’t done screwing the pooch. The bottom of the sixth was a real doozy.

The Dodgers finally got something going and managed a rally. Two runs were in, there were two outs, and Justin Turner was on third base. The score was 5-2 and the Dodgers desperately needed that run. 

Roberts got cute and pulled Logan Forsythe for a pinch hitter. Forsythe is one of the Dodgers hottest postseason hitters and was one of the few hitting in this game. Who did Roberts replace him with? Chase Utley. Utley has been an absolute dog in the postseason. At the time he was 0 for 12 with two walks. Was Roberts hoping Utley would walk? 

Maybe the strategy was to bring in a left-handed batter that would force the Astros to lift their pitcher. Two things were wrong with this. One, the Astros are not data-driven robots who change pitchers no matter how well they are doing. Second, Chase Utley. Why would the Astros fear a guy who was 0 for 12? Of course they didn’t, and the results were as expected.

Why didn’t Roberts use Andre Ethier? Ethier is 2 for 9 in the postseason, he’s hit a home run and scored a run. Houston might not have changed the pitcher for Ethier, but the chances were much higher he might have knocked in Turner with a single or caught lightning in a bottle and tied the game. Instead, Captain Clutch was left sitting on the bench. 

The Dodgers ended up scoring Turner but that was on a gift passed ball. Utley, of course, weakly popped up and the Dodgers never threatened again. 

In the top of the seventh, Roberts lifted Austin Barnes for a pinch hitter – Yasmani Grandal. Granted, Barnes didn’t register a hit, but if he was going to PH for anyone, it should have been for Bellinger after his third strike out. Bellinger was lost at the plate all night. Enrique Hernandez could have gone to first, and Ethier to left field. Instead, we got ol’ Passed Ball Grandal and were bit on the behind one last time in the ninth, when the final three Dodgers batters were Yasiel Puig, and two automatic outs, Utley and Grandal.

In Game 3 Houston used two pitchers, while the Dodgers burned through six.  Analytics are useful, but baseball is a game of adjustment and gut feeling . The Dodgers are being run by robots, and that aint gonna win a World Series title. 

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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12 thoughts on “Is Dave Roberts Managing the Dodgers into Losing the World Series?

  1. I for one Oscar think you hit the nail on its proverbial head. Roberts has over managed the last 2 games. Kersh made it easy in game 1. But in game 2 he NEVER should have even contemplated bringing Jansen in for 6 outs. Morrow gave up a double, but he has the stuff to get out of that kind of situation. He did it last night. He is over thinking and overusing these guys.

      1. Very true Jerry. The situational hitting in this World Series on the Dodger side is terrible. Everyone trying to elevate the ball and be the hero. Instead they are grounding into weak DP’s or popping up or striking out.

  2. totally what I’m seeing as well Oscar.

    As comparison, look how Hench saw Peacock throwing well and getting outs, Hench leaves him in to complete game, obviously not relying on books and charts but rather on what he was watching occur on the field. It’s true the Dodgers batters are making Roberts’ difficult, but this is what we saw happen in September, Roberts or even Dufus could manage the team when it is scoring runs, but when the going gets tough, that’s when managing really begins. So roberts is a great manager when he doesn’t have to manage and can just be a cheerleader and communicator in the clubhouse. It is sad to say but what has Roberts done when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders? He records Ls.
    So, if the offense can get going again, then we stand a good chance of winning the WS, however anything short of that and we got a problem, a problem that may never make it back to LA this season.

  3. Brian McCann is sequencing signs for every batter whether there is a runner on or not. The Astros must be worried that the Dodgers have the ability to steal signs and relay them to the batter whether there is a runner on or not.

    I didn’t see Barnes sequencing signs last night. I think it would be wise to do so.

  4. I do have one huge question, why is DR NOT PLAYING Andre Either? The guy has been clutch his whole career, been a total team player through all of this, probably in his last season as a Dodger and he is spending almost the entire series on the bench? Who would you rather have up in a clutch situation, Utley, Hernandez, Grandal, Pederson, Culberson or Ethier> >>?????? Me I take Andre every time. Utley is 0 for his last 27 AB’s in playoff games. Please, Dave, give Andre a start.

    1. I agree Michael completely. Ethier needs to play but I do not think DR and the powers that be like him and that is why he does not start ever.

  5. Oscar
    Very well written and I agree completely. DR is not doing the job. He continues to overmanage and do stupid stuff. Good Job for you however. Thanks.

  6. Arg.

    Third time through the lineup coming up. Wood faces Springer with two out, no on in 6th. Lefty vs. Righty.

    Gives up the homer.

    Remember process > Outcome.

    The reason Houston stayed with Peacock is that their bullpen is their weak spot. It’s not a fair comparison. But it’s not a well-reasoned argument Oscar makes.

  7. It’s not Dave Roberts.

    It’s not this moronic narrative about too much analytics.

    It’s not pulling Hill after 4.

    It’s not about pulling Wood before the bad matchup with Springer.

    It’s not about Kenley going 6 outs.

    The Dodgers aren’t hitting.

  8. I’m a dodgers fan from mid 60tys. Sandy kofax,Don Drysdale. The problem is Dave Roberts. He makes a ton of mistakes, the players always whipping his ass and end up winning. After 3 innings he likes to move on and turn the page. He gives up. Look at his face when they win in the 9th. He cannot cillabrate.fire him.

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