We are approaching Memorial Day which is the quarter mark of the 2016 season. Memorial Day is always a good time to reevaluate your baseball club and start to consider moves to make that would improve your team. So far through the first quarter of the season, the Dodgers have played very poorly. They’ve sucked, and the front office has done nothing to address the issues. Unless you want to count Chin-hui Tsao as an improvement.
So far I think the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi regime has been an underwhelming failure. Notorious sabermetricians the duo has taken their small market mentality and ruined what once was a 94-win ball club, turning them into what they are now which is essentially a .500 team. They could actually be worse. Or they could be better. What it really boils down to has nothing to do with sabermetrics.
Sure I love to make fun of the front office on twitter and post pictures of old computers. The truth is that while they do rely heavily on data, the front office’s failures to build a good club this year boil down to two problems; inexperience, and egotism.
They rebuilt the club in their image when coming over because they wanted to show everyone how smart they were. We routinely hear that from everyone. “They’re smarter than you”. “These guys have a vision that you just don’t understand”. If they were so smart you would think they would be able to build a better bullpen. Smart people can see how bad Chris Hatcher is.
So I regularly hear from people that I should offer solutions. The front office supporters will say, “Why don’t you tell us what you would do to make the club better”? That would be my pleasure. So here is what I would do to make this Dodger team better, right now without making any trades or signing any players via free agency.
Note that many of these moves would be marginal improvements. Don’t expect for the Dodgers to all of a sudden have the best record in baseball if they made the moves I am going to suggest. Perhaps they would suck a little less though and become more competitive. And that is the point. Suck less. Play better. Some of the moves may seem obvious, while others may not. Of course I can just type “Call up Julio Urias” and then drop the keyboard and walk away. I have to give more than that.
The pitching staff
In order to fix the pitching staff the Dodgers are not only going to need immediate talent, but also innings. A big problem is that Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling are unable to pitch past the fifth or sixth innings. That leads to increased stress on an already awful bullpen. The easiest solution is to call up Julio Urias. Move Stripling, and Mike Bolsinger into the bullpen.
Call up Julio Urias, and move Stripling, Bolsinger into the bullpen.
The Dodgers have been considering calling Urias up for some time now. While they hem and haw and twiddle their thumbs he continues to dominate the Pacific Coast League. What has he pitched now 28 consecutive scoreless frames? I think he has a 1.10 ERA? This kid is obviously ready to come up and is very talented. The talk has been to use him out of the bullpen because the club is very scared that he may blow his arm out. He’s very young and the club has been careful to set major pitch count limitations on him. I am going to go on a limb and say that it’s ok to use him in the rotation. Why break his normal routine of pitching every fifth day? Using him in the rotation would give the Dodgers a great number 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw, and Kenta Maeda. The club would then have a solid 1-2-3 in the rotation, instead of just two starting pitchers and a bunch of fifth inning strugglers. Here is what the rotation would look like with Urias in it, without Hyun-jin Ryu.
Rotation with Hyun-jin Ryu
The rotation is going to be even better once Ryu returns from injury. When you do call up Urias, just make sure he doesn’t go over 90 pitches. Watch him carefully. You can’t act scared. He’s going to make some mistakes, but his unique talent should come through. The Dodger rotation would be a lot better.
Fixing the mess that is the Dodger’s bullpen is going to be the most difficult. It’s such a disaster that there is little we could do to make it into the shutdown pen the Dodgers need to reach deep into October. What we are looking to do is to make it a little better. The only way I see to do this right now at this point in the season is addition by subtraction. That means cutting the dead weight. Getting rid of the terrible pitchers and replacing them with serviceable ones. Doing that would mean a huge upgrade.
DFA Chris Hatcher
Option Pedro Baez
It’s no surprise that the two relievers struggling the most are the guys that are the converted pitchers. Not every player can be a pitcher just because they can throw hard. Kenley Jansen is an exception. He’s an incredibly rare find. Hatcher has absolutely no pitchability. His pitching mechanics are terrible, and his command is spotty at best. We could spout off BABIP and release points all day long but the problem is he’s just not suited to be a pitcher. I would say the Dodgers are better off just designating him for assignment. Trust me nobody would ever claim him, and he would probably clear waivers and end up back at Oklahoma City. That’s fine by me I guess. There’s no way he can continue wasting a roster spot any longer. He’s a nice guy, but this is baseball and tough decisions have to be made.
Baez has to go too. His command is just as bad if not worse than Hatcher’s is. I believe Baez has options so he can just be sent back to the minors to work on his problems. With those two guys off the roster you can insert two pitchers to take their place.
Insert Mike Bolsinger and Ross Stripling into the bullpen.
Bolsinger and Stripling could both pitch as long men, or possibly in the eighth innings. They couldn’t do any worse than Hatcher or Baez. This might work out really well for Stripling because of his pitch count limitations. If Stripling can’t go more than 80 pitches in a start, then there is no reason to keep him in the rotation. The Dodgers need innings as much as they need anything else. Here’s what the bullpen would look like after the change.
Kenley Jansen CL
J.P. Howell LHP
Adam Liberatore LHP
At some point Yimi Garcia will come back. I am also assuming that Frankie Montas will eventually make his debut as well. Those guys should certainly help. Until that happens this is the best way to make the bullpen a little better. When Ryu returns, you could also move Alex Wood to the bullpen and DFA Blanton too.
Moving onto the offense. The Dodger’s offense has been the biggest disappointment this season. The club ranks at the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. The Dodgers rank 18th in batting (.244), 13th in runs scored (188), 18th in home runs (41), 21st in OPS (.702), 19th in OBP, and 24th in slugging (.388). Those numbers are not going to cut it. The biggest concern with the bats is the team’s inability to hit and score runs at Dodger Stadium. Their home and road splits are quite astonishing. On the road the Dodgers are hitting .264 and rank sixth in runs scored (109). However at home, they rank 26th in batting (.223) and 19th in runs scored (74). I have no idea why the Dodgers can’t hit at home. The only possible theory that I can come up with is that the club just doesn’t see the ball well at home. Otherwise I can’t explain why 13 hitters come up goose egg every home stand.
One thing that could help the Dodger offense is better lineup creation. The first thing that we need to do is remove some more flotsam from the roster. In order to do that we need to….
Release Carl Crawford
This is a long time coming. Unfortunately the time has passed for Crawford being a productive MLB player. He is unable to stay healthy, can’t hit, and has no throwing arm. He’s a liability on both sides of the ball and is just wasting another roster spot. I don’t mean DFA him. Release him. Eat the salary. The Dodgers have to cut bait at this point.
In Crawford’s place I would like to see Rob Segedin get a shot. He’s batting .322 at Oklahoma City and can play multiple positions. They could call up Austin Barnes again which I would be fine with. They could also recall Charlie Culberson or even call up a guy like O’koyea Dickson. Just get rid of Crawford and call up somebody from triple-A.
As for lineup creation the best hitters need to be batting at the top of the lineup. This means no more lineup shuffling. no more platooning. Guys have a hard time getting into grooves when they don’t know when or where they are playing from day to day. This is how the lineup should look.
The kids are the guys carrying the offense right now. You have to put them at the top of the lineup. Adrian Gonzalez should bat third, as he is still the most consistent hitter on the club in my opinion. Puig and Kendrick can bat behind Gonzo and the kids. Gonzo needs proper lineup protection. You have probably noticed that Justin Turner is not in there. That’s because I’ve moved him to the bench.
I am hoping that Turner’s home run last night helps get him back on track. It may not though and he may never hit this season. If his struggles continue the Dodgers might be best putting him on the bench and letting Utley play third base. No shame in that. Scott Van Slyke and Andre Ethier will eventually come back from their injuries, which will make things clearer.
For god’s sakes Dodgers, get a running game. Once again for the second consecutive season the Dodgers are merely a station to station club. They don’t steal bases, and they don’t take extra bases on extra-base hits. It’s very disappointing considering the Dodgers have a manager who used to be a big base stealer in his playing days.
The Dodgers rank 29th in stolen bases with just 9. Not only that, but the Dodgers rank 25th in HAR (hitting advancement opportunities with runners in scoring position) with a -4.51 rating. That means the club doesn’t go from first to third on a hit or second to home. The Dodgers need some kind of running game. Good base running is essential to scoring and manufacturing more runs.
There is my plan. That’s what I would do if I were the GM of the Dodgers right now. This article is not made to disparage the front office. I like to joke around, but not everything they’ve done has been a failure. They have acquired a few good players. They traded for Trayce Thompson and he’s been great. Kenta Maeda has been good. Chase Utley has been a pleasant surprise.
The good thing for the Dodgers is that there is plenty of time left to work on all of this. As Mark said, Baseball is a long season. There are certainly plenty of games remaining for the Dodgers to make moves and turn things around. However they can’t wait any longer. Baseball is a game of adjustments. Players have to adjust. Hitters must adjust to pitchers. Pitchers must adjust to hitters. Managers must adjust their lineups, and front offices must adjust their rosters. The Dodgers have to start making adjustments now or they won’t contend this year.
Adjust Dodgers. Adjust.