The Dodgers Won their 100th game of the season on Sunday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Dbacks at Chase Field in Arizona. Despite being 44 games above .500 and having the second best record in baseball the Dodgers are not going to win the NL West this year. With six games left to play the Dodgers remain two games behind the Giants and even the most ardent delusional fans now have to admit that the Dodgers are going to play the red-hot Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game. The Dodgers are very good, but management hopefully learned valuable lessons this year in several areas.
If the Dodgers take away anything this year, it’s three things that management should remember as they prepare for the Wild Card game. No more load management. Make sure you have enough healthy starters and build a better minor league roster.
- Stop scheduling off days
Just three games into the season the Dodgers had already scheduled off days for some of their best hitters. Guys like Justin Turner, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger were purposely penciled out of the lineup for no reason. The Dodgers had already made the decision during spring training that they were going to give their regulars scheduled off days throughout the season. The thought process was that this would help prevent injuries and keep them fresh during a long season.
Unfortunately baseball doesn’t work this way. You can’t schedule baseball games. It didn’t keep players off the injured list (the Dodgers were plagued with injuries in 2021) and all it did was doom the Dodgers to lackluster lineups with guys like Zach Mckinstry, Luke Raley and Sheldon Neuse wasting important at-bats. Every baseball team has about 20 scheduled days off during the regular season. Don’t get this twisted. I understand players do get tired, or hurt and need a day off every once in a while. 1 or 2 days off every month is reasonable, but the Dodgers took this way too far. Stop doing this.
- Put a premium on starting pitching
Another reason the Dodgers are playing in the wild card game instead of winning the division was because they didn’t place enough importance on having enough healthy starting pitchers. They thought they could get away with having just Tony Gonsolin and an occasional start from David Price as depth. Then Clayton Kershaw got hurt. Then Trevor Bauer went crazy, and Dustin May got hurt, Julio Urias got hurt, and they were left with just two starting pitchers for a good chunk of the season. It was obscene. They did multiple bullpen games nearly every week. They had no idea who was pitching from inning to inning let alone game to game. Bullpen games are extremely poor strategies. Even if you have a good bullpen, the heavy workload put on them effects availability. It was no surprise when multiple relievers were dropping like flies. Starting pitching is the name of the game folks. This will never change.
- Too many minor league retreads
Another problem was that almost every minor leaguer called up was horrible. The Dodgers didn’t build a good farm system this year, and because of the injuries had to rely on below replacement level players and reclamation projects claimed off waivers. Guys like Luke Raley, Zach Mckinstry, Sheldon Neuse, Steven Souza Jr. Evan Phillips, Andy Burns, Zach Reks, Edwin Uceta, and Darien Nunez all sucked this year. Those guys don’t even tell the entire story of the incredible amount of Minor league bums the Dodgers used this season. Lesson learned for them, build better minor league rosters, and make sure you have at least a few respectable players you can call up from the farm system.
Despite all of this the Dodgers still won 100 games in 2021. It’s a testament to the core talent this squad has. Yet if you take a closer look at the Giants, you’ll see the difference. The Giants had five healthy starters almost the entire season and rarely employed bullpen games, and only when they absolutely had to. The Giants have a strong farm system, most of their minor leaguers contributed and were productive. The Giants did not do much load management this year putting their best lineups on the field, and when they did rest guys, it was more because of injuries and less due to scheduled rest. If the Dodgers lose the Wild Card game, they can look back to all of these stupid strategies as contributing factors.