It’s hard to judge the Dodger’s 2016 season as a success or a failure. The 2016 season was a roller coaster ride of frustrating and heroic moments all rolled into one. There were ups, and there were downs, and there were moments of accomplishments. Unfortunately the moments of frustration probably outweighed the moments of achievement. The season ended with the Dodgers unable to win the pennant again. This time they were knocked out in the NLCS round by the Chicago Cubs. They got further then they normally would have, but still chocked at the end only two wins shy of the World Series.
How the Dodgers got to that inevitable and predictable October choke was unconventional, yet totally conventional for a front office that follows the latest money ball trends. This season was chalk full of injuries. More than you or I could ever imagine.
The Dodgers broke the major league record for most players on the disabled list. The amount of days could add up to more than the180 days of the regular season. The list of players was larger than an entire 25-man roster. A team of broken players.
This season taught us some things that I already knew. You have to have strong reliable starting pitching to win a championship. If you have a 280 million dollar payroll and have to start Nick Tepesch in a major league baseball game then you are doing something wrong. You’re probably wondering how I would build a starting rotation. Let me explain my strategy. I would start by having an ace fronting the rotation. The Dodgers already have that in Clayton Kershaw. Then I would add three healthy reliable starters behind him. Those would be three guys that can take the mound every fifth day and provide the club quality innings. The fifth starter can or could be a rookie, prospect, or reclamation project, but the top four have to stay on the mound most of the season and take the toll off the bullpen. Innings and health are very important when building a successful starting rotation.
No more signing injury riddled arms. Stop giving chances to guys that have long and established histories of injuries. Other front offices jettison those guys long before they set the team back and waste roster spots. Instead the club lets these types of pitchers linger on and fester on the roster for years. They make comeback after comeback and it should come as no surprise to anyone when they fail or get hurt again.
The offense has to do more than just hit home runs and draw walks. The Dodger offense this season was lackluster and overall below average. Justin Turner and Corey Seager had awesome seasons, but the rest of the position player roster was unproductive. The club has to be able to hit left handed pitching in 2017. The Dodgers were the worst team in the majors in hitting lefties. Platoon and marginal players are not the answer to that. The Dodgers have to be able to manufacture runs and hit with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers had little to no base running and needed a better lead-off hitter than Chase Utley. Lineup speed is valuable too.
The Dodgers continue to need strong defense. Pitching framing and game calling are still important, and shifts are not as vital as turning double plays when runners are on base. The Dodgers were a very strong defensive club in 2016, and I was most impressed by that.
The Dodgers had the best manager in baseball this season. Dave Roberts won the manager of the year not because of his mixing and matching or managing of the injuries, but because of his strong personality. His never say die approach rubbed off on the players. A team tends to take on the personality of their manager, and the Dodgers finished with 46 come from behind wins this season. That was second in all of MLB. The Dodgers became known as a team that battled back and never gave up, until they eventually gave up.
The Dodgers need to be more aggressive in the free agent market. The team with the most resources and riches as the Dodgers are should have one or two stars. That doesn’t mean the Dodgers have to spend 200 million dollars on free agents, but it does mean that it’s unlikely to have an entire roster of prospects and utility players and expect to win. It’s really about balancing the roster.
This isn’t about money ball, or market inefficiencies, or payroll flexibility, or even farm system development. This is about winning championships. The Cubs have taken over as the team to beat in the National League. As we saw this season they are extremely talented in all facets of the game. If the Dodgers are going to beat them and break this awful World Series drought, then they are going to have to more than they currently have been.
The 2016 season was a success in many ways, but it was also a failure. That’s what this is all about. It’s all about winning championships. The Dodgers have to do more.