Know Your Man: Looking at The Dodger’s In-Game Decisions This Week

Cody Bellinger

An important 4-game series with the Cardinals closed rather quietly Sunday night in a 5-0 defeat, however, taking 3 out of 4 and pulling even in the wild card race, while gaining a game against the first-place Rockies when they were in San Francisco is a definite win for the Dodgers. Over the weekend two decisions loomed rather large in getting LA to that point, and here they are:

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Dodgers 2   Cardinals 0   Bottom 8th

Walker Buehler was attempting to finish off the best outing of his young career when he walked his second batter of the inning bringing up MVP candidate Matt Carpenter with the tying runs on 1st and 2nd. Dave Roberts had a decision to make as rested left-handed relievers Scott Alexander and Zac Rosscup were available to face the left-handed Carpenter. Buehler just threw his 100th pitch of the night, and although his velocity was just as strong now as it was in the 1st inning, his command had begun to waiver allowing his first two walks of the night earlier in the inning.

Zac Rosscup has not been used in these types of high-leverage situations often when Scott Alexander has been a rested arm out of the pen, so it’s unlikely Roberts would look to him here. Also, Carpenter has faced Rosscup five times previously, with a homerun and 3 walks.

Scott Alexander was the matchup the Dodgers would look to go to out of the bullpen for this at-bat, and very easily could have chosen to go with the left-on-left matchup or with a possibly tiring rookie starter on the mound. The history between Carpenter and the lefty is limited, as he’s only faced him twice, while striking out once.

Walker Buehler’s success against Matt Carpenter may have been the deciding factor in this decision as Carpenter had already struck out twice in three at-bats in the game, and was 0-6 with 5 strikeouts lifetime versus the rookie. Also, Carpenter is almost equally tough against lefties than righties, so a blind matchup play would not be a factor in this scenario.

In a situation where most managers would pull a young pitcher when facing the go-ahead run late in a game, especially with the high-leverage matchup lefty ready and rested in the bullpen, what would Roberts do in this most critical of spots?

The Result: Buehler was left in the game, and struck out Carpenter to end the inning. Dodgers won 3-0.

Saturday, September 15 @ St. Louis

Cardinals 4   Dodgers 3   Top 5th

After surrendering a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th on a grand slam by Patrick Wisdom, the Dodgers were looking to respond, and had loaded the bases with one out and Cody Bellinger at the plate. The Cardinals had gone to their lefty Tyler Webb to face Bellinger, who was 1-5 with a home run and a strikeout, previously off of Webb. Cody was hitting sixth and playing center field in the Dodgers’ left-handed dominated lineup against the Cardinals right-handed starter, John Gant. This meant that Dave Roberts had three options for this high-leverage at-bat: Let Bellinger face Webb in a lefty versus lefty matchup; pinch-hit Chris Taylor and leave in to play CF; pinch-hit Kike Hernandez and leave in to play CF.

The Case for Cody Bellinger: It was early in the game, and could be perceived as too early to be making major changes to the lineup, although they’re playing with a deeper than usual bench in September. He had at least some success against Webb with a previous home run when he was with the Padres. Cody has looked better against lefties in recent days, however, he’s still hitting just .230 against them with a 31% strikeout rate.

The Case for Chris Taylor: Taylor has seemed to come out of his nearly season long slump in the past week, hitting .391 with five extra-base hits in his last 23 at-bats. He’s faced Webb twice before with a single and a strikeout. Chris doesn’t necessarily prefer lefties, as his splits over the past two seasons are fairly even. He would be a seamless pinch-hit option, as he could slide into CF to replace Bellinger. The downside is he has nearly a 30% strikeout rate while leading the National League in strikeouts.

The Case for Kike Hernandez: Another seamless right-handed pinch-hitting option, Hernandez could also slide into Cody’s spot in the lineup and play CF. Historically, Kike destroys left-handed pitching, although his splits have evened out this year. He had just 1 hit in his last 12 at-bats, and a substantially higher ground ball rate of 46% compared to Taylor (34%) and Bellinger (39%), as staying out of the double play is an important note.

The Result: Cody Bellinger singled in two runs. Dodgers won 17-4.

One of the most important parts of being a manager is knowing, or possibly feeling when your man is going to come through in a situation no matter what the numbers might say. It may not always work in their favor when they stick with their guy in a given situation, but Dave Roberts certainly knew his man this weekend, and it has put the Dodgers in control of their own destiny in the NL West and Wild Card races, as the biggest series of the season against the Rockies begins this week. A few more close decisions where the results tilt in favor of the Dodgers, as these two did this week, and LA could be tasting champagne in a couple weeks while celebrating their sixth consecutive NL West crown.

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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18 thoughts on “Know Your Man: Looking at The Dodger’s In-Game Decisions This Week

  1. I do not know if any of you have seen the Clint Eastwood movie, Trouble with the Curve. It expresses my baseball philosophy perfectly. Clint is an old time baseball scout who is losing his eyesight. He works for the Atlanta Braves. One of the scouting directors is a FAZ wanabee. He uses his computer and spread sheets. There is a kid in the Carolina’s who is just killing the ball. Since Clint’s contract is up in 3 months, the owner and the scouting director, Robert Patrick and John Goodman send him down to scout the kid. But Goodman notices some things and asks Clint’s daughter, Amy Adams, to go down there with him. She is a lawyer who is doing a big case and trying to get a partnership. The plot is that the Braves have the #2 pick behind the Red Sox, who send their own scout, Jason Timberlake, who also happens to be a pitcher that Clint signed and then had his arm blow out on him after he was traded to the Sox. Anyway, there is the normal interaction between the father and daughter, and Clint is every bit as grumpy as he was in Gran Torino, and he keeps trying to get her to go home to Atlanta. They watch the kid for a couple of games, Clint almost gets them both killed in a car accident. Jason and Amy get a little romance thing going. But at the 3rd game, Clint notices that when the kid hits a homer off of a curve, it does not have the same sound. He sends his daughter to watch the guy from the 3rd base line and she sees his hands drift when he is swinging at a curve. Anyway as they are leaving, Clint tells the Boston scout that the guy cannot hit a curve. So on draft day, Boston passes on the guy because of what they are told by their scout and they are convinced the Braves will do the same. Nope, the computer whiz guy talks the owner into drafting the kid. Jason gets POed and fired by the Sox, and leaves in a huff. Eastwood and his daughter argue and he takes a bus home. Meanwhile the daughter stays until the next day and low and behold, the hotel managers kid is pitching off of a mound and throwing heater after heater to his little brother. She asks to catch the kid, who is a lefty, and then she says can you throw a curve, and he has a nasty one. Plot thickens. She talks Goodman into letting the kid tryout in Atlanta. He comes up there and the phenom, who knows the kid because he sold peanuts at the ball park, is at the plate. The kid goes to the mound and proceeds to make the phenom look like a whiff machine especially when he throws the curve. The computer whiz gets fired for wasting a first round pick, Adams becomes the kids agent, Eastwood is offered a new contract, decides to think about it, and just for fun Timberlake shows up at the park as they are leaving so the romance can be sealed. The moral to me? No matter what the spreadsheet or data tells you about the tendencies and the numbers, you cannot measure heart and desire on a computer, and that my friends is why some guys who are not as skilled as others become great baseball players and those phenom’s end up spending a lot of years in the minors. Pete Rose is a great example, not a lot of talent, but had the drive and desire and made himself a great ballplayer. That’s my kind of baseball, not this computer backed by the numbers BS they are into now, All about launch angle and velocity. Yesterday’s game was a prime example of what is wrong with that philosophy. The Dodgers knew what was coming and still could not hit it with any kind of authority. They are lucky that they got the hits they did. 12 more K’s. Pitiful.

    1. I like that Michael Norris likes a fictional movie about baseball scouting better than the real thing. For the record, I like the way most actresses look in fictional movies better than how they look in real life.

      A’s broadcast on Mike Trout, who was chilling in the Angels dugout:

      “That man right there? Him? Yeah, him. He’s better than your dad’s favorite player, your dad’s dad’s favorite player… He’s better than all of them.”

  2. Great analysis Chad and those two moments you picked were good ones.

    On the Bellinger decision, my thinking would have been the same. The issue with Bellinger is lefty vs lefty, and also we have the bases load and one out, so the worse thing there is a GIDP, and the second is a SO or any type of weakly hit ball.

    So I go with Bellinger there. In terms of SO, neither Taylor or Kike are much better, and pulling Bellinger there probably triggers a counter move from the Cardinals (everyone has plenty extra relievers and bench players in September), and I think Bellinger being lefthanded is not only a better bet to stay out of a GIDP, but with a history of bunting success would keep the Cardinals (especially their pitcher) guessing a little.

  3. Bear
    They had to play Kemp tonight as this is his bobblehead night. Not playing him for 5 games and then expecting him to play great is crazy. Every Dodger Fan should be saddened by the Management of this team.

  4. DeGrom has a 9.1 WAR (br) and 8 wins.

    To me he’s a no brainer for the Cy Young, but some people still oddly value pitcher wins.

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