The Dodgers Need To Stop Overthinking This

The Dodgers have a problem, a huge problem. The Dodgers have a flaw that a few other clubs these days have during in-game management. The Dodgers think too damn much. With the modern baseball philosophies leaning towards short starts, heavy bullpen usage and gigantic analytics departments the Dodgers are no different than a lot of other MLB teams. They rely heavily on numbers and less and less on common sense. It’s an illness that is slowly infecting baseball and it’s costing the Dodgers baseball games. Sure the numbers may prove accurate over the course of a long season but during a single game they can hinder a team from doing what they should be doing which is making the logical move. Common baseball sense still goes a long way and that’s never going to change. The Dodgers overthink and at times do it to their own detriment.

Let’s discuss Tuesday evening’s infuriating 16-inning 7-4 Marathon loss. The Dodgers have another problem. They’re short on middle relievers. Their short start philosophy has caused them to overuse their own bullpen leading to four of their middle relievers landing on the disabled list. For the record Pedro Baez is due back on Friday when the Dodgers travel to Atlanta to play the Braves, but he wasn’t available on Tuesday night. Sure you may think it’s just a coincidence that four of the Dodger’s primary middle relievers all had injuries befall them at the same time but I assure you that it is not. If you’re going to march out 8 relievers per game over the course of the final 4-5 innings of a baseball contest every single night then you’re going to burn out your bullpen faster than Manny Machado can hit a baseball over the fence. With this type of bullpen usage guys are going to get hurt and by the end of the season you’re going to have a major issue.

With all of the middle relievers out with injuries the front office has acquired a bunch of journeymen to get them through the schedule until the main guys return from the disabled list. They’re not terrible mind you but they’re just guys and can be very inconsistent at times. One minute they’re striking out the side, the next they can’t get anyone out.

Again this is another example of overthinking. The Dodgers believe the data tells them that a starting pitcher’s performance gets worse when he faces an opposing lineup a third time through. Maybe that’s correct but again as I have said before you have to judge each game on an individual basis. If a starting pitcher is pitching well and getting guys out and his pitch count is under control then there is no reason to take him out of the game. There’s no reason to remove a starter just because. You don’t have to go to the bullpen just to go to the bullpen.

http://gty.im/1004968930

So there was Kenta Maeda on the mound on Tuesday night. Entering the seventh inning he was pitching well and his pitch count wasn’t too high. It made sense to let him pitch, or let him start the inning and have someone throwing behind him in case he got into trouble. That’s just what Dave Roberts and the Dodgers did. Only one little hiccup; the Dodger’s middle relief isn’t very good.

And Roberts knows this. I’ve noticed that Roberts has been sticking with his starters a little longer than normal over the last couple of weeks. He did that on Monday with Ross Stripling and again with Maeda. So when Maeda began to tire and the Phillies started to hit him Roberts stood his ground and left him in to try and work out of the inning. It’s a direct result of the flawed philosophy of lengthy bullpen usage. It all correlates.

Flash forward to the sixteenth inning. The Dodgers had used up all of their relievers (with the exception of Caleb Ferguson who was not allowed to pitch because he tossed three innings on Sunday) and were down to just their starters. They had Rich Hill run out to the bullpen to begin to warm up. Since starters pitch bullpen sessions between starts, and Hill is not scheduled to pitch the next day and they literally had nobody else available to pitch, you could reason that this was the logical choice. You let Hill pitch the bottom of the sixteenth and hopefully the bats score in the top of the seventeenth.

Once again the Dodgers overthought the situation. Instead of bringing in Hill they had Enrique Hernandez pitch the bottom of the sixteenth and the results were predictable. The position player who had never pitched professionally before gave up a walk-off home run to the last player on the Philadelphia bench (Trevor Plouffe), a guy who has barely played this year. The game was over in minutes.

Take note that the Phillies made the logical choice and won the game because of it. They brought in a starting pitcher (Vince Velasquez) to pitch the top of the sixteenth and the Dodgers were held scoreless. Analytics are great but common sense is priceless. The Dodgers just need to stop overthinking so damn much and practice a little common sense. It would go a long way.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic Cheap MLB Tickets

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59 thoughts on “The Dodgers Need To Stop Overthinking This

  1. Honestly Scott,

    I’m really not sure about this. First, you don’t say what overthinking is. Is overreliance on data? No. Is it going with your gut? Maybe, but that sounds like a lack of thinking.

    You oscillate between the Dodgers being too dependent on stats (thus chasing match-ups and changing pitchers too often) and the Dodgers not depending stats (ignoring the TTOP) by sticking with the starting pitcher too much. Those are two totally different approaches, how does overthinking cover both of them?

    You also simply say “Overthinking” led to Kike Hernandez over Rich Hill? How exactly does one’s overthink and come to that conclusion. Really. I’d love to hear exactly how Dave Roberts thought too much about which pitcher to go to. Wouldn’t going to Kike, who is not a pitcher, be an indiction of NOT THINKING???!?!?

    Here’s what I think happened last night. The team lost! Let’s not make a mountain out of a mole-hill. Teams lose. It happens. It happens a lot.

    1. Bluto,

      So you think bringing in Hernandez a position player to pitch was not overthinking? You think that overusing the bullpen every game is not a form of overmanaging/overthinking? Please tell me why they would choose to have Hernandez pitch over Hill or Ferguson whom they chose to let sit in the bullpen while they punted that game away? All of it is overmanaging and over analyzing. They constantly do it and guess what it leads too….losing. and therefore you get games like last night.

      1. Scott,

        What does overthinking mean. Really. To me, I think it means what grit and clutch mean. Indefinite terms that people use when they just want to say something.

        Since I don’t know what overthinking is, I have a hard time attributing it. Here are just some reasons they may not have brought in Hill or Ferguson:
        1. They didn’t want to use Ferguson after he went 3 innings on Sunday
        2. They were unsure of how much they can rely on Walker B today and need to have resources in case he doesn’t go deep
        3. Hill didn’t feel comfortable warming up
        4. The team wasn’t comfortable using hill in the 16th.
        5. Kike made a convincing case that he could pitch
        6. The team viewed the game as a sunk cost and didn’t want to use more assets on it.
        7. Kike plays fantasy football and he traded a player for the right to pitch.

        Did I overthink in coming to those conclusions?

        1. Badger
          #7 is just a part of his ass kissing routine. Dummy had to know that Kike couldn’t pitch and that it would be the end of the game. Besides you know that if Bluto says it there is a good chance that it is wrong.

  2. Maybe the overthinking part was leaving maeda in too long not bring me Rich Hill in when he should have bring in Kiki Hernandez in is not thinking thank you
    Bluto.

          1. Translation: Brutus proves once again to be a total Ahole. Brutus you will never be accused of overthinking because you don’t appear to think in the first place. I notice that you truly are only as smart as the last article you have read, you have no take but the one you read previously. Your a dumbass that has zero sense in regard to sports or team. You don’t encourage good discussion, just the opposite, you in encourage coming across as a moron with not much going for you. Brutus you are a miserable loser that loves to spread misery. Why don’t you go back to the Molester’s site and enjoy your miserable self.

  3. I can’t be the only one who saw Maeda begin to miss his spots.

    And hello… Verdugo was good enough to be drafted as a pitcher. They took him out the inning they put Hernandez on the mound. Overthinking? No. The opposite of that.

    We are not built for extra innings. We have to recognize when the starter is done and stop the bleeding before it starts. And yes, we need more guys capable of going 2 or more innings. What happens today if Buehler can’t go 6? Ugh.

    The only starters who didn’t strike out were two pitchers – Maeda and Hernandez. Grandal and Taylor were up 14 times and stuck out 8 times. Double ugh.

    Put the ball in play dammit.

        1. Are you bonkers?

          Just because the Phillies won a 16 inning game doesn’t mean they were built for it. This is getting pathetic. NO TEAM is built to win in extras. They are built to win in 9 innings. Do you know why? Because > 90% of games go 9 or less.

          Ah, the old change the premise when things go bad routine.

          If your original thesis was that the Dodgers gave in or threw in the towel. That would be much less debate-able than “overthinking” and somehow trying to draw a line from their handling of Maeda to usage of statistics.

          1. No what the Dodgers did last night was pathetic. Bringing in Hernandez to pitch when two actual pitchers were available that is pathetic. Defending that move is also pathetic.

            And guess what? It all relates to their gross overthinking and overmanaging. The overreliance on metrics. The overuse of the bullpen leading to four middle relievers getting hurt. The lack of common Sense during games. The line is pretty well established going back to starting darvish in game 7 and even going back further to 2015’s brilliant signings of Anderson and McCarthy. But in your eyes the Dodger management does everything right.

            I think we can agree to disagree here on whether the dodgers overthink, but there is no arguing that using Hernandez as a pitcher when there were two pitchers available was a dumb move and everyone knows it.

          2. On another note, rationalizing that 90 percent of games don’t go more than 9 and that it’s ok to punt a game away is pointless imo. Sometimes a game can go extra innings. They should be able to win in those situations.

          3. Scott,

            You keep changing your point in attempts to make one that is rationale.

            Your original point wasn’t about the specific move to bring in Kike. It was that the team overthinks. They overthink in ignoring metrics (not pulling pitchers before the TTOP) and in blind adherence to metrics (reliever usage.) You ignore that those are somewhat at odds, but you somehow rationalize those and a lot more into: overthinking.

            I ask you for the third time. What exactly does ‘overthinking’ mean in the context you were using it.

            You then pivoted to the point that the Dodgers aren’t made to win extra inning games. Which was a silly and moronic point. I ask again, why should a team be designed to win extra inning games when they rarely happen. By that thinking, should NL teams be built to win games with DHs?

            Then you changed it (I think) to be that teams should be able to win extra inning games. I’d reply to that final point by saying: “finally we agree.”

            If you see bringing in Kike in the 16th inning when there were very few good options remaining was pathetic. OK. Fine. I AGREE!

            Hopefully the team doesn’t get into a lot of 16 inning games in the middle of the season….

          4. I never said the Dodgers aren’t built to win in extras. That was something that Badger alluded. But if they can’t win extra inning games then they’re going to have a hard time winning the world series.
            Overthinking is the act of doing something illogical when the logical choice presents itself. Bringing in Hernandez to pitch was an act of overthinking which connects to their over analytical philosophies. But maybe I’m overthinking this reply? Wait no, using Hernandez was a lame idea and I’m glad we can at least agree on that.

          5. I get what you’re saying Scott.

            And what I said about not built for extra innings begins with our starters. If we had guys continually going 7 it would be different. But we use the bullpen a lot. (Top 5 in MLB). For a first place team our record in extra innings sucks – 4-6. We now go into Atlanta for 4 then fly cross country for 6 straight against two teams with better records than us. Our bullpen is going to be shredded by this stretch. In effect, it already is.

  4. Scott,

    Like Bluto said.
    I also don’t buy your analysis of the pitching staff and what is overuse and reliance on the bullpen. Roberts is an old school guy. What is happening in baseball is ‘new school’ analytics and a shift in the paradigm of pitching staffs. Most people don’t see it and don’t get it. You seem to be one of them. Only time will tell if this shift becomes the norm with most clubs as it certainly has with the Dodgers. The more they rely on their starters to pitch extra innings like Maeda did last night, the more chances of blowing games there will be. The Dodger starters are not long haul calibre. Kershaw once was but that was about 3 years ago. Any perception of Maeda having endurance is a false one. He’s kind of a weak pitcher whose pitch count is still being monitored. Stripling and Hill are also in that category for different reasons. Buehler, too. The relief army is where they evolved to due to the kinds of starters they have and $$ considerations. Analytics also influence this a lot. I don’t think we’ve had a complete game pitched this season. 10 out of 15 NL teams have not had a complete game pitched. The team with the most CG’s is Pittsburgh, 2. CG’s are the past, not the future. Our bullpen has been awesome in spite of your insistence they are overworked. It’s nonsense. This is as bad Roberts’ in-game management. He hasn’t a clue.

    1. Heck, quality starts are about as common as CG usta was. We won’t see any complete games, probably in my lifetime.

      I’ve aceepted the fact we are a 5 inning start staff. I’ve also accepted the fact we are a 3 outcome structured offense. I don’t like it, but I accept it. And at this point I’m ready to accept a coin toss for the win instead of extra innings. That was painful to watch. I feel damaged from the experience.

    2. It’s not about complete games Jeff it’s about winning and you can’t win without innings from your starters nor can you win with a taxed bullpen. Four middle relievers on the disbaled list is not a coincidence.

  5. Zac Rosscup is the 18th different Dodger to be placed on the disabled list in 2018. Last year there were 28 different players, for reference.

    Not sure the team can get to 28 again, but they’ll give it run.

    1. Last year some of it is the Revolving Door Disabled List strategy. The RDDL. There’s an algorithm for it. I think this year the goal is to keep it between 22-25.

    2. Rosscup was not placed on DL because of overuse. Many of the Dodger pitchers were among walking wounded or are just prone to injury. I don’t buy the overuse excuse at all. Innings from your starters, 4-5, should be sufficient for a good hitting team with a solid bullpen to win. We have a good hitting, solid bullpen team. It’s mostly the starters that have been hurt. Our starting staff has been less than stellar.

  6. Dodgers seem to have lost that magic hitting that they displayed recently. Manny can’t seem to find his offense lately. He’s not hitting the way he has been. Once on base, this guy can really haul. He reminds of me of the way players used to run the bases.

    Nice double by Verdugo. He also looks good on the bases as far as I can tell. Looks like he has some speed.

    Buehler has settled since that HR in the first. Are we going to have to hit some HR’s to win this game? I’m waiting for Manny to ignite!

    1. Jeff
      Don’t worry the Dodgers have a bunch more position players they can pitch before running dry. Maybe they can put Kike in the rotation for an added benefit for Dummy.

  7. From the Athletic:

    Roberts needed a pitcher. He had no intention to use a 22-year-old who threw 50 pitches on Sunday and has never pitched on only one day of rest…

    Roberts had no intention to insert his scheduled Thursday starter (Hill) into a game with no end in sight. He determined he’d only use Hill in a save situation.

    So, in the top half of the inning, Roberts told utilityman Kiké Hernández he would pitch if the score stayed tied. Several people approached Hernández in the dugout, he said, with one specific instruction: “Don’t throw hard.”

    Yeah, lots of overthinking, whatever that is, there.

    1. Allow me to explain.

      With the game tied in the late innings, the Dodgers used three pitchers for 2 outs or less.
      Chargois (0.1IP)
      Rosscup (0.0IP, 1BB)
      Hudson (0.2IP)
      before they got two innings from Goodell (2.0IP) and Floro (2.1IP) and Jansen (1.2IP)

      Machado (SS, 3B),
      Taylor (SS, CF)
      Bellinger (CF, RF)
      Hernandez (2B, RF, P)
      Forsythe (2B, 3B)
      all played two or more positions during the game.
      3 pinch hitters, Austin Barnes played 2B after pinch hitting.

      That is three players to play 2B.
      Three for RF.
      Two for SS.
      Two for CF.
      Two for 3B.

      I am thinking….that this is the OVER-thinking you are looking for.

      1. Good take Mexivin.

        But let’s not forget there is a League rule that says everybody has to play and get at least one at bat. Roberts is just implementing mandate. We used to do something similar on my slo-pitch teams. Works great. Everybody’s happy and we are in first place. Go team. sigh

    2. Yet the Phillies a team everyone deems not as smart as the Dodgers brilliant management used their starter Velasquez for an inning allowing the game to be extended and their offense to score the winning runs. You could say the same about the Phillies couldn’t you? Velasquez a starter pitching between starts, now why didn’t they use a utility position player to pitch? Because they’re smart and made the logical choice knowing full well the other choice would result in a certain loss.

      Don’t tell me that Ferguson couldn’t have thrown an inning. He was a starting pitcher. 50 pitches? I doubt throwing another 15-20 pitches is going to blow his arm out. Just admit the Dodgers once again over managed themselves into another loss. Common sense always rules.

        1. Bluto,

          There is no defensible position that Roberts took by pitching Hernandez. He can rationalize it any way he wants to, it was a mistake, and we paid. The very fact that we are talking about it and how heated opinions are about it, shows that this was a major blunder made by a major blunderer. Roberts simply cannot in-game manage the pitching staff with any skill. He has proven this over and over again and that is one of the main reasons why the Dodgers lost 2 of 3 to the Phillies. The Phillies were atrocious defensively. We had them up against the ropes and couldn’t finish. Our bats are also responsible but it is our pitching that is very worrisome, especially the starters. They are not doing the job because Roberts wants them to pitch more innings than they should because this is the ‘old school’ mentality that doesn’t work on this team. It is not built like that. Our starters are mediocre, shown by their overall poor records and inability to pitch clean games longer than 4-5 innings, mostly 4 innings like Buehler. But without the bats, nothing will change.

  8. Caleb Ferguson was not allowed to pitch on Tuesday because he pitched 3 innings on Sunday. Now that makes no sense. He is on a major league roster. He was a starter in the minors used to pitching multiple innings. You are paid to pitch, not sit out in the bullpen spitting sunflower seeds. How can you be tired after 3 innings 2 days ago>????? That being said, besides Roberts ill use of his resources on Tuesday, the entire lineup sucked in the clutch. They were all trying to hit the frippen ball out of the park. It is getting old. And like Scott said and I have said since spring training, this team is not built to win.

    1. It makes sense if he were penciled in to pitch 3 after Buehler’s unpredictable who knows how many today.

      We are in a stretch of 17 straight. There is no way to plan for a 16 inning game in the middle of that stretch. I told you what I would do. Let me add I would have used Ferguson for at least 1 and still have him available for today. I would have considered Verdugo for an inning before pulling him out. They were already in the 16th when he did that. Duh.

      In retrospect I hope Roberts would admit he didn’t handle it particularly well. It looked like submission but maybe he really believed Kiké could get it done.

      But that one was, just like Game 7, hung around the neck of our all or nothing offense. When it works, we can beat anybody. When it doesn’t you get 10 innings of nothing.

    2. Michael,

      The team is and has always been very cautious with young pitcher usage. This goes back to Stripling’s no-hitter, with Stewart’s general usage, with Urias’s inning limit, and now, with how Ferguson is used.

      You may not agree. It may not make sense to you, but it is very consistent across the board.

  9. Good ol Bluto rattling everyone’s cage, throwing around insults like he was being paid for it… Who hired you, Timmons? Who are you, Bluto? Where were you educated, or is programmed more correct? Almost everyone has different life and educational experiences, so all of us use different word and sentence structure to say similar things, and some of us exaggerate a bit . No one expects other people to require perfect syntax or to be taken literally in the legal sense. Don’t you think it odd that most other people can communicate without difficulty? At least until you start questioning the meaning of what everyone said. I trust Scott enough to believe he knew what he was saying and that everyone here understood that, prior to you playing Perry Mason to his every word. I cannot believe you will have any kind of success in the business world with that kind of attitude. Here is a class that should really help you…

    1. Were those questions you actually expect me to answer or are they rhetorical?

      Of course, we should expect everyone to communicate clearly and use proper syntax and grammar. We should expect everyone to think before they post and add to the conversation.

      We should always aspire.

      Scott’s post was silly. The community in here is great. Most comments are well constructed, well-thought out and keep the conversation interesting and compelling.

      Your most recent ones? Not so much.

      1. If Scott is so silly, why do you favor and make him richer by coming here. That does not sound like a logical act. Everyone here is different and that more than anything else is what we have in common. We communicate, we disagree but we usually get along. It is you who are the one out of step.

        1. Scott is not silly.

          I never said Scott was silly. I don’t know Scott from you.

          Scott’s post today was silly. He once had one pining for “workhorses” I thought that one was anachronistic and silly.

          Usually I quite like his posts. I really like his blog.

          One post does not a blog nor a person make.

          1. The job of a blog owner is to post thoughts that will encourage people to read the blog and to comment on it. I think Scott’s post served its purpose quite well.

          2. And I think the job of a blog proprietor is to put up posts that are well-reasoned and well-developed.

            That and develop and foster a good community.

            Oh, and to have a good moderation process.

            On the first we differ. No biggie.

            I do love Airplane the movie.

          3. We can always respectfully disagree Bluto. I always appreciate your takes and you’re always a level headed guy. I appreciate your opinions.

  10. I know the Dodgers pamper their young pitchers. My point is that if they cannot pitch more than that what the hell are they doing in the majors anyway? I never vary from the way I feel either. You are here, pitch, you are here, play. I don’t think it benefits your team to have a player active that cannot contribute. Justin Turner sat on the bench for a few days before being placed on the 10 day DL. Taking up roster space and making the team play short handed. If it is minor, and he can pinch hit without causing further injury, then fine. They knew JT was not going to be very helpful. Now he is out until after the next home stand. Not very smart in my book. September used to be when you would get those kids playing time. Now you throw them in and they cannot really contribute on a daily basis. This team, even with Machado, has some serious holes and flaws. I do not see them being fixed in time for them to make a deep run into the playoffs. Luckily, the D-Backs lost today so they go to Atlanta in 1st place. By 1/2 game. Whoopdeefrippendoo. If this team is consistent at anything it is falling short of its supposed goal of being a Championship team.

    1. This is the new standard Bear. Look what the Yankees just did. They’ve essentially got 4 closers now. Teams are using bullpens like never before. It feels like the innings are being more equally divided between starters and the pen. Two of our current young starters have already had TJ. Urias had shoulder surgery. Hill is a 120 inning pitcher. Wood fades like a Hawaiian sunset. We had better be cautious with Maeda or he could rupture a seal. We need a dominant bullpen. And there is a long way to go.

      1. Exactly, Badger, divided equally between starters and bullpen. This is why we are paying too much for the starting pitchers, in general. It’s an old model and that is why I think Kershaw and Hill may not long be for this team. Only exceptional talent can be long haul starters but the gamble is a long shot and 2-3 innings is a much more reasonable amount of time for a pitcher to be effective than 6-7 innings. $$ are also a contributing factor. Clubs are strapped financially by starting pitching salaries or get into trouble by doubling down on starters for long term contracts. Long term contracts are insane, especially for pitchers who are easily injured and can’t pitch, ala Kershaw and Hill. There are exceptions and they are the ones who should earn big. The bullpen is the future and we have the makings of a very good one. It needs more evolutionary tweaking, natural selection, but a good beginning has been made. This is a revolutionary year for the Dodger pitching equation. It will long be remembered as a ‘turning point’ in their history and maybe baseball’s, too. If we can only get the bats to be consistent, this team should cruise into the playoffs. OTOH, the American league looks miles ahead of the NL in talent and the way teams have been constructed. Houston has magic written all over them and so does Boston. They Yankees are not far behind and they have the makings, like Boston, to power their way to the top and pitch 16 innings for a win!!

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