Doc Goes Against The Grain

As much as Dodger fans would like to be reading about how Kenley Jansen returned this week and saved the bullpen, everyone knows by now that’s not what happened. Jansen lost two games when entering in the 9th inning, each in a tie game, and blew a lead over the weekend to the Padres. All in all, he surrendered five runs on four homeruns in his three appearances. His first appearance against the Cardinals caused some worry when his average velocity wasn’t there Monday night (91.8 mph), but slightly improved Wednesday night (92.6 mph).

However, Saturday night the velocity came all the way back to where it’s been most of the year (93.8 mph), and even had a little extra run on the cutter with an average horizontal break of 4.3”, when he’s usually living in the mid 3’s. That extra movement could have something to do with the control issues early in the count in this appearance, as well as the game-tying homerun allowed to Austin Hedges. Jansen was trying to bust him up and in with the cutter, however, with that extra break he was getting tonight, caught too much of the plate allowing Hedges to get the barrel on it. Kenley’s return wasn’t what he, or the Dodgers had hoped, but there shouldn’t be a need to worry, as results aside, all indications are pointing towards the real Kenley Jansen being ready to go for the last month of the season.

Now, to the games this week. There were two interesting spots that Dave Roberts could have chosen to go in different directions, one didn’t work, and one did (sort of). Let’s get to it…

Wednesday, August 22 vs St Louis

Dodgers 1   Cardinals 0   Top 8th

After Walker Buehler’s masterful 7 shutout innings on 104 pitches, there was no decision that it was now time to go the bullpen to find that bridge to Kenley Jansen for the ninth. The question is, who is Dave Roberts going to trust to get these 3 outs when everyone seems to have been letting him down? First, let’s examine who is due up for the Cardinals in the inning: Right-handed Yairo Munoz, the pitcher’s spot, and left-handed Matt Carpenter, with right-handed hitters Yadier Molina and Jose Martinez if anybody reaches. The pitcher’s spot was almost assuredly going to be right-handed Tyler O’Neill, which is who the Cardinals ended up using in that spot. Now we must determine who is available for the Dodgers out of the pen. Dylan Floro threw two innings the night before on 26 pitches, while Daniel Hudson threw 25 pitches, getting four outs, so we can assume those two are not available. Caleb Ferguson went one inning on 14 pitches, but has not been asked to pitch consecutive days since moving to the bullpen, so he shouldn’t be available. JT Chargois would have probably been considered to start this inning against two righties, was placed on the DL the night before. That leaves the Dodgers three choices, LHP Scott Alexander, RHP Kenta Maeda, RHP Pedro Baez:

The Case for Pedro Baez: Pedro Baez who has been very good since returning from the DL, not counting the outing at Coors Field, has posted a line of 11.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, and did not pitch the night prior. He has no history with Munoz or O’Neill, and Carpenter is 1-3. The next three batters, Molina, Martinez, and Gyorko are a combined 0-14 off Baez. It’s possible Roberts could save him for those three hitters if any of the first three should reach. The case against using Baez at all here, could be made due to the fact he went two innings on Monday, using 33 pitches. However, on multiple occasions this season he’s had successful outings just two days after an extended outing. May 21 vs Colorado, on just one day of rest after a 39-pitch outing, he was used for three batters to get two outs on 18 pitches. April 22 vs Washington, on one day of rest after a 29-pitch outing, he was used for three batters to get two outs on 13 pitches, and last season he was used in similar situations four different times.

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The Case for Kenta Maeda: The Dodgers are hoping to find that same magic that Kenta Maeda provided them from the bullpen in the playoffs last year, where allowed just one run in 10.2 IP, while only allowing six baserunners over that span. He had arguably his best season as a major leaguer, posting a 3.80 ERA as a starter, increasing his K/9 from 9.83 last year to 10.83 this year, and perhaps has been a bit unlucky with a .318 BABIP, which is about 35 points higher than his previous two seasons. The move back to the bullpen seems to be a seamless one for him at this point, where he’s struck out five of his last nine batters he’s faced, and looks as dominant as he was in the postseason last year. He rates to be the guy that is most often used as the bridge to Kenley Jansen coming down the stretch, only when will he be consistently counted upon to do so? Maeda has no history with either of the first two hitters, Carpenter is 1-4, and the next two batters, Molina and Martinez, are a combined 4-7. Maeda was used two nights prior for two innings on 29 pitches, and hasn’t been asked to come back from an extended outing on one day rest in the regular season. However, he did make three such appearances in the World Series, indicating that he’s capable of coming back on short rest from time to time.

The Case for Scott Alexander: Alexander seems to be the freshest option here, throwing only two pitches the night prior, after having the previous two nights off. He had no history with Munoz or O’Neill, while Carpenter and Molina were previously 0-1 each off of Scott. The case against Alexander in this spot is that he’s been tougher against lefties than righties this year, and only Carpenter is a lefty.

Options: Dave Roberts has one of two routes to take for this inning. He could match up throughout the inning, and start Maeda against the two righties, Munoz and O’Neill, then use Alexander for the lefty Carpenter. At that point, the situation may dictate consideration on staying with the ground ball inducing Alexander against the slow footed Yadier Molina if a double play is needed, or going with Baez, who has historically been tough against this portion of the lineup. The risk is that if the Cardinals do force extra innings and the Dodgers use all three relievers in this inning, and Jansen in the ninth, with an already depleted bullpen, they could soon find themselves in an extended game situation where they quickly run out of available pitchers.

OR

Roberts can use his freshest arm in the pen, and try to re-solidify Scott Alexander as one of his late inning high-leverage relievers and try to get the three outs from him, with Jansen available behind him, or even perhaps, Baez if there’s trouble in the 8th.

What Happened: Roberts opted to go with Alexander who gave up a game-tying home run to the pinch-hitter Tyler O’Neill. Dodgers lose 3-1.

Saturday, August 25 vs San Diego

Dodgers 4   Padres 3   Top 8th

Myers on 2nd, 2 Out

Clayton Kershaw nearing the end of another solid outing since returning from the DL, was leading the Padres 4-3 in the 8th after getting the left-handed hitting Eric Hosmer to ground out for the second out of the inning, Myers taking second base on the play. Right-handed Hunter Renfroe due up with the tying run in scoring position, and Kershaw at 105 pitches. A classic situation that all managers must face when running a ball club; leave your tiring ace in for one more batter with the game on the line, or bring in a lesser known, but fresh arm from the bullpen to try and save the game for your ace.

Who’s Available: Kenta Maeda, Dylan Floro, and Kenley Jansen, all right-handed, are the matchup options in this spot against Renfroe. Maeda hadn’t pitched since Monday, August 20, so he is fresh, but Renfroe is 4-12 off him as a starter. Additionally, Maeda isn’t necessarily the best single at-bat matchup option when fully rested. Converted starters, especially recently converted starters are traditionally more equipped for longer appearances when used. Floro is also fully rested, not having been used since August 21, and seems to be the most logical option out of the bullpen in this situation. He has no history against Renfroe, which can be an advantage for the pitcher. Kenley Jansen is also an option here, as he has been dominant against Renfroe (0-6 5K) lifetime. Under ordinary circumstances, Roberts is almost certain to extend Jansen here, for a 4-out save, however, he has struggled since returning earlier in the week, and extending him for an extra out may be asking too much of “Kenleyfornia” right now. Nonetheless, Roberts must consider Jansen due to his previous success against this hitter.

This situation certainly seems like a coin-flip, or “feel” scenario for Dave Roberts. Often this season, as well as last season, he has opted to remove Kershaw from similar spots, and has seen his bullpen relinquish his leads time and time again. Renfroe was 0-3 with 2 K’s earlier in the game against Clayton, and just 1-9 lifetime, and with almost everyone in the bullpen currently struggling, this probably seemed like as good of a time as any to let Kershaw try and finish the job.

What Happened: Roberts stayed with “Kersh” and Renfroe hit a line drive so hard (106 mph exit velocity) that it hit the runner Wil Myers to end the inning. The ball appeared to be headed for center field which may have tied the game if it had gotten through, so Renfroe was credited for a single, and the Dodgers escaped the inning. Dodgers won 5-4 in 12 innings.

Since taking over as Dodgers manager in 2016, Dave Roberts has largely had a reputation as a “Company Man” mostly deferring to matchups when it comes to making lineups, pitching changes, and critical decision making. Clearly, those types of decisions have not been working out for a large part of this season, and especially recently. This week, he showed the flexibility to change it up, and go against the matchups, and what has become the conventional logic in baseball. With 31 games remaining, the Dodgers trailing Arizona by 2 ½ games in the NL West, and a lot of the pieces in the bullpen not operating at full capacity, every game counts, every decision is really going to matter, and every decision might not come straight from the book this front office adheres to, but I think fans learned this week, the Dodgers might have a guy that has what it takes to “feel” the best decision when the situation calls for it, and not necessarily following a pre-determined script that might not always be the best call on the field.

Chad Clarke

I grew up in San Diego a lifelong Dodger fan. The only nosebleed I’ve ever had was minutes before Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. I used to dress up as Steve Sax every Halloween, and Mike Piazza is my all-time favorite player. I patterned my windup in Little League after Orel Hershiser, and called my own baseball video games as if I was Vin Scully. I used to work in basketball, but have been drawn back to baseball in recent years. I’m fascinated with the strategy and decision-making involved in the game, and glad I can write about it here. I love to discuss opposing viewpoints, so feel free to comment and I’ll try to respond.

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33 thoughts on “Doc Goes Against The Grain

  1. Good write up Chad

    Roberts goes with the blueprint created by FAZ. It’s what is expected of him. I hear critics blasting him daily in here, but what is he supposed to do? The plan has been altered all year by various injuries and players who have failed to do what they are paid to do. We have 25 blown saves this year. Unbelievable. By statistical measurements we are the most non clutch performing team in the league. By the “Pythagorean” formula we should have a comfortable lead over both Arizona and Colorado. What to do when the players on your roster continue to disappoint?

    There is only one thing Roberts can do – continue to run out the players he has on his 25 man and encourage them to get it done.

    I look forward to a successful September. I think this team is still good enough to win the Division. The playoffs? Gulp.

    1. Badger
      I know you love Dummy but I think you have a clear case of excuseitis. Anyone could have went to the bullpen and closed their eyes and selected an arm and done as good as he has or better. I personally do not want excuses. I want results. Time will tell.

  2. Badger
    I am only hearing positive comments from you about Dummy and that is why I think you are firmly in Dummy’s corner. I hear real good.

    1. I’ve said a few times I’m not crazy about matchup lineups. Some of his bullpen moves seem weird to me. But the bottom line is I know enough about baseball to know that over 162 games a manager has very little say in how good a team ends up. The stats back me up.

      It looks to me like you are the one looking for an excuse as to why your team is not meeting expectations. Blame it on the manager. Our players are too good for this to be anything but his fault. I respectfully disagree with that take.

      They can fire Roberts and I wouldn’t miss him. Hire anybody you want, with this group of non clutch squirrels and broken down scrap heap reliever acquisition I submit the results will be the same. This doesn’t look like a championship team and Roberts has nothing to do with why that is true.

    2. Give Badger a break, guys. He’s trying to keep the faith. The season’s not lost yet. Although I am thoroughly unimpressed by this team, I understand where Badger’s trying to do as an optimist. What happened to Bluto? We need some more positive energy.

    1. I agree Yueh. This is a solid post written by Mr Clarke. I’m rather surprised it hasn’t stimulated more conversation.

      “When you’re forced to make an argument, you end up believing it.” Chris Hayes, just a few minutes ago.

      I hope that’s not what has happened to me here.

      I don’t think so. Help me out here. I know there are knowledgeable baseball people all over that believe Dave Roberts is an outstanding baseball man and a terrific leader. There are writers and blogs everywhere I look that still believe the Dodgers will win the West. This is the only place I visit where it feels like the posters would rather be right than see Roberts and the Dodgers succeed. Am I wrong?

    1. I am not too sure about the pinch hitting “strategy”.

      It’s very inconsistent from year to year, and this year we’ve benefited from Kemp being Kemp when he’s pinch hitting, a weirdly effective Grandal as pinch hitter (contrary to his prior years, I recall, where he has flopped), and also Muncy who’s hit a few pinch hit home runs.

  3. I’m going to be cutting way back for awhile. Among other things, I’ll have business with a surgeon who is going to drill three holes in my stomach, put in a gas line and a TV camera, and drag my gallbladder out the third hole. Sounds like fun… Say good bye to Sylvester, I found a more appropriate avatar.

    1. Get well soon. Surgery’s are always fun. On an earlier topic. I am not a big fan of trading for rental players. Sometimes they do make some awesome contributions. But are they worth the cost? Manny Ramirez was by far the best deadline deal I can remember. As a hitter, no one comes close. And, Manny did not really cost the team a bunch of prospects. It was a 3 team trade with the Red Sox and the Pirates. And in my mind, it was the best deal Colletti ever made. It got the Dodgers into the playoffs and created a magnetic atmosphere at the ball park. The place went nuts. You had Mannywood, kids wearing dreadlock wigs, #99 jersey’s being sold at a record pace, and him hitting a HR on his bobblehead night. This seasons Manny, while a much younger, and therefore more desirable pick up, has not come close to matching that excitement. The Dodgers will have the financial wherewithal to retain Machado at the end of the year, but do they want to? What are they going to do if Kershaw opts out? With Seager due back next year, and most of the infield set, do they retain either Machado or Dozier? I could see them keeping one of them, but the infield is pretty crowded. I feel this is going to be a very important off season for the FAZ boys. They have some decisions coming up that are going to be critical. Do they pursue Harper? Puig’s deal is up at the end of the year, do they trade him>? All sorts of decisions down the road, and if they miss the playoffs, will heads roll? I am not impressed with a sweep of the Padres. I will not be impressed with a 2 game sweep in Texas if they pull it off. If they can sweep the Diamondbacks, I will be impressed. Picture is the 1953 champion of the NL Brooklyn Dodgers , Loes, Black, Snider, Dressen, Erskine, and Shuba are identifiable,

  4. I feel like Badger, when it comes to the moves in the pen.

    We have seen almost every pitcher in this pen blow an inning, or blow a save, that Roberts has used.

    He didn’t pick the pitchers in this pen.

    And we know most of these pitchers in the pen, are not use to pitching in high leverage, situations.

    After all, we got most of these pitchers very cheaply, because they are not top relief pitchers, that are use to pitching in high leverage situations.

    And if they were use to pitching in high leverage situations, they wouldn’t have came so cheaply.

    Blame the move the front office made in the off season, on this pen!

    Because remember they thought it was more important to bring Forsythe back, instead of using this money to bring Morrow back, or to get a good arm for the pen.

    And Badger is right, they rotate these pitchers in the pen, to try to keep the innings down, and to keep them fresh.

    And most anything Roberts does, is not only coming from Roberts, it also comes from the front office too.

    1. MJ
      I don’t believe trying to protect Dummy is correct. No more activity than Badger thinks Dummy has, he could stay in clubhouse. Don’t be fooled, Dummy makes plenty of decisions.

  5. Well, get ready, Dummy will probably sit Kemp again because their pitcher has a 6.40 ERA and he is right handed. He has got to get his favorites in like Joc.

    1. Package

      I do agree with you, that certain players are treated differently, then other players.

      But I do think the front office is responsible for the bullpen we have.

      But I agree with you, the game Roberts had Kike’pitch in, didn’t make sense!

      And I don’t care if you call Roberts dummy, because I still think it is funny, because I know your are only frustrated with the line ups, and some of the moves he makes.

      I don’t always like some of the line ups he goes with either.

      The starter we are facing tonight, has a velocity that is below the major league average, and so is his spin rate.

      And he has a higher exit velocity then the major league average too.

      This starter looks like a pitcher our squirrels will hit a lot of solo HRs off, and add the fact, the Rangers play in a band box, this should be squirrel heaven tonight!

    2. Speaking about Joc, McCulloch had an article in the LA Times yesterday about that Fangraphs article, about the team being bad, in the clutch.

      He listed Joc’s OPS in these situations as 294 is that correct?

      It wasn’t the plain OPS, but it was an OPS.

      Because in that Fangraph article they didn’t show the player’s numbers, but they did mention a few of the players, including Joc.

      I was just wondering because that sounds quite low.

  6. Be well Jonah! Don’t let him make your stitches small! On an earlier post there was a short conversation on rentals. I for the most part do not like it, and rarely has it worked really well for the Dodgers. Some will point to Rich Hill and say that was a success. I disagree. They could have won the division without Hill quite easily and Reddick was a total bust. Last year, they gat Darvish, and the results on that were mixed too. Cingrani proved to be an astute pickup, but Granderson was abysmal after his first couple of weeks. The most obvious choice for the best deadline deal is Manny Ramirez. No player the Dodgers have ever traded for midseason had a last couple of months like Manny. 17 home runs, 53 RBI’s, a .396 batting average in 53 games. Only 3 homers short of what he did in 100 games with the Red Sox. That does not include the insanity in the stands that occurred. Mannywood, kids wearing dreadlock wigs, #99 jerseys selling out as fast as they got them, and Manny hitting a HR on his bobblehead day. That was by far the best deal Colletti made as the GM, and it did not dilute the farm. 3 way deal with the Pirates and Sox. Needless to say, this year’s Manny acquisition has not had anything near the same impact. Although this Manny is younger and has more years of great baseball ahead of him, he has not in all reality lived up to the hype of the trade. The bigger question is will the Dodgers, who will have the financial wherewithal to re-sign him after the year, make the play? Will they focus on Kershaw, or maybe even Harper. With Seager coming back, and the infield pretty set except at 2nd, do they even entertain the idea of retaining Machado? Do they go the much cheaper route and re-sign Dozier? FAZMATICS say they go for the cheap fix.

  7. Line up…….Pederson LF Turner 3B Machado SS Muncy DH Dozier 2B Grandal C Bellinger 1B Hernandez CF…………..Buehler P……Kemp sits.

  8. Bear
    This is unbelievable, Dummy plays everybody and puts Kemp on the bench. Aside from the fact that you mistakenly left off Taylor. There is not a good reason to bench Kemp especially after having had the day off yesterday. This further proves that Dummy is a terrible manager and a a$$hole to boot.! I give up, I have had it, there is no reason for this. Even with a DH he cannot play Kemp?

    Jonah, I hope you will get better soon. I will be thinking of you.

  9. Bear
    Dummy is also not playing Puig which is another mistake. What a jerk! Dummy is as smart as a bag of rocks. This is not the FO, it is Dummy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. They changed the lineup because Puig’s hearing was today. I did forget Taylor….and of course, Taylor strikes out again and Grandmal seizure grounds into a rally killing DP.

  10. Matt Kemp is an all star and he is being disrespected by Dave Roberts. It is true Matt has had a poor August but some of the players he is playing today have hit worse. In Matt’s last game he went 2 for 4 and then the off day. This game is an interleague game so the DH is being used. I think Roberts just does not want to play Kemp. I will not blame this on the FO because any manager worth his salt would have spoke up if the FO did not want to play Kemp and insisted that he play. DUMMY is not a leader, or smart enough to do the job he has and is definitely not a good person. SCREW HIM, FIRE HIM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Package

      I know your frustration, try not to worry, because I think the Rangers starter tonight, will be heaven for our squirrels tonight.

      I predict a lot of solo HRs in Texas tonight.

      1. So far, that prediction not coming true. Texas starter pulled after 2 2/3rds and giving up 3 runs, but they did not hit him hard. And Buehler has not been sharp so far.

        1. Michael

          I should know better, but they have scored some runs since.

          But they haven’t faced, any tough pitching tonight.

          I would have started Puig myself, since he hits righties well, but Kike has another multi hit game, so not much I can say about that.

          But like I said, the Rangers don’t have much pitching at at all.

          But they have not hit many balls hard tonight your right, except maybe Dozier’s HR.

          1. His hearing was today for his appeal to his suspension. Roberts told reporters that they were waiting to hear if there was a decision and the fact that he liked the way Kike was swinging the bat, so he just changed the lineup. They did get a solo shot from Dozier, and Belli got a triple, but they were not really hitting the ball all that hard. Jansen gave up 2 in the ninth, but a nice fielding play got him off the hook.

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