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Dodgers Skipper Dave Roberts Just Reinvented the Game of Baseball

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a long tradition of changing the game of baseball – from Jackie Robinson tearing down the biggest wall of all, to Maury Wills creating the stolen base specialist, a new offensive weapon to be feared.

As much as I love to ride the Dodgers’ brain trust and ownership over bullpens and television deals, I have to keep things real, and give credit where credit is due. The Dodgers had a huge decision to make when it came time to choose Don Mattingly‘s successor. Fortunately for all involved, in this case, they chose extremely well.

They added to the Dodgers’ legacy of breaking color barriers by hiring Dave Roberts, the first minority skipper in Los Angeles.  He was the sentimental choice for a lot of us. Many only knew him from his performance on the diamond, but we also knew Roberts possessed a winner’s heart.

Dave Roberts has taken a hearty grab of the Dodger Blue reigns, and with smart instincts, he has reinvented the club as his own. Just before Spring training broke, Roberts chose Andre Ethier, a regular in Mattingly’s doghouse and trade rumors, to be the Dodgers’ new lead off batter. Unfortunately, his brilliant experiment was put on hold when Ethier’s leg was broken in a ST game – but it foreshadowed the savvy of a skipper who recognizes players who can get the job done.

Roberts showed the craftiness of a World Series manager during last night’s game when he resurrected a new baseball professional – the Two-inning Saver. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and boy, did Roberts have the necessity of inventing some way to win a game other than how Dodgers’ G.M., Farhan Zaidi, had carefully planned it out.

What’s that adage about insanity? When Dodgers’ starter Alex Wood left last night’s game with a 3-1 lead in the 7th inning, Roberts did what 100% of managers do. He went to the bullpen. The same bullpen he has seen repeatedly blow up completely winnable games.

He brought in Pedro Baez who promptly placed the tying runs aboard the bases. This was the moment Roberts changed baseball. He was not going to repeat the same thing and expect different results. He bypassed the rest of the Dodgers’ atrocious bullpen, and went straight to the big man himself, Kenley Jansen, who promptly disposed of the snakes for the two-inning save.


With the Dodgers’ bullpen constructed of highly questionable materials, Roberts has wisely decided to not toss away any more wins via the ineffective tools Zaidi handed him. He is going to fashion Kenley Jansen into a new defensive weapon: a pitcher who can regularly throw two quality innings to close the game. Roberts didn’t invent using the saver for more than the ninth inning, but that move is generally thought of as a last resort, and not to be done often, lest you blow out the pitcher’s arm or prematurely wear it out.

Roberts is going to take this sometimes frowned-upon move two steps further and regularly use his closer in such a role. Why not? The present bullpen arms aren’t getting it done, and chances are pretty good if anyone can become a two-inning saver, it’s Jansen. Used efficiently, his firepower should easily earn two-inning saves on back-to-back nights. Mark those words.

If Roberts and Jansen can pull it off, Jansen will have greatly increased his bargaining power at the end of the season, and the skipper will have birthed another Dodgers innovation for the game.



Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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Oscar Martinez
I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

36 thoughts on “Dodgers Skipper Dave Roberts Just Reinvented the Game of Baseball

  1. Dave knows the definition of insanity and he ain’t having it!

    OK, so Hatcher goes on the Paternity Leave List. OK, that explains where his head has been.

    Adam Liberatore has been lights out at AAA. We need a real lefty as I feel JP is toast. I feel that from last year…. not just now.

  2. Roberts may have rediscovered it, but Larry Sherry, Ron Perranoski, and Mike Marshall were pitching two inning-plus saves back in the day. Of course, sometimes they got a day off when the starter pitched a complete game. Look it up.

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I changed the article to reflect he resurrected that role as a regular go-to option. If I’m right, the roster of two inning savers you cited means that role pops up about every 10-20 years. It’s been over 40 years since Marshall, so the time may be right for the idea to go further than one club and to pop up around the league as a valid “thing”.

  3. It’s not something that Roberts should have to do all year however as far as KJ going 2 innings an outing. He won’t last a year, and even the thought of him having to do this says VOLUMES AND VOLUMES about the very poor efforts made to get a halfway descent BP in the off season. Just like last year after the trade deadline as far as the BP goes. Check here:

  4. I’m glad that Liberatore is getting another chance. He is more a pitcher, then some of the other guys in the pen. And he pitched well last year, and he only really had his era go up, because Mattingly pitched him, against almost as many righties, as leftys. He is pitching good in AAA, so why not give him a chance.

  5. Oscar I totally agree with you about Roberts. He might be a even better manager then Madden, and he is younger, so he might relate better, to the current players. When I was a little girl, I remember seeing Jackie at Dodger stadium, on TV, and I think it was the last time, he was there, before his death. And I remember him saying, that there has to be Black managers in baseball, so he is probably looking over Roberts.

    1. MJ, I’m blown away! I thought I knew the difference way-way back but I have to admit that I hadn’t even the smallest question you being other than a man. I never tried putting a face on you so I can’t really blame myself. I sure hope I’ve never been too rude. At any rate you’re still the same friend.

  6. Oscar, I do not think that Jansen will be getting a lot of 2 inning save opportunities. I think Doc was making a statement that he was going to do whatever he could to not let this game get away. Wood pitched a fine game, and Doc was going to do everything he could for this not to be a redo of the Stripling game. I thought that with Jansen going 1.2 last night that it would be doubtful for him to go again tonight, so FAZ would make some change today to have a full bullpen. Liberatore was the logical choice because he has been better than very good with OKC, and as Mark pointed out, the Dodgers need a LHRP. But I did not count on Hatcher going on paternity leave. I truly thought Baez would be optioned (and he still might before the end of the weekend). I am sure both Chris and FAZ want the paternity leave to go the full three days; Chris, so he can be a Dad (and husband), and FAZ so they can give Liberatore a full “interview”. I believe this will be the first of a few necessary moves to address the bullpen. Either the current occupants will get the message, or others will follow Liberatore.

  7. I believe that baseball will evolve back to some relievers pitching 100 or more innings very soon.

    It makes perfect sense and they don;t have to go through the lineup even once.

    1. I agree – but it helps to have co-aces, unless you plan on having someone like Mike Marshall who pitched 205 innings in short relief in 1974.

      In 1965, Perranoski pitched 104 innings and Bob Miller threw 103; in 1966, Phil (the Vulture) Regan pitched 116 innings and Miller and Perranoski both threw over 80. In 1963, Co-aces are definitely possible. You could throw ace #1 for 3 innings and then have ace #2 do the same the next night.

      I’m glad that some people like Roberts but really, based on what at this point? It’s more that you want to like him rather than for him doing anything. Walter Alston was considered a bad manager after his 1st season in 1954 but he won the only Brooklyn World Series the next year. Let’s see how he is at keeping the team together after a losing streak or 2 (Mattingly was pretty good at that); let’s see how he is at game management (hopefully better than Donnie was); let’s see if he is any good after a year or 2 and then we will know something. (That assumes that the Braintrust actually lets him manage.)

      1. That is the main question DR! Who is managing the team? We shouldn’t assume it’s all Dave Roberts.

      2. Dodger rick Roberts has used the bunt. How often did Mattingly use the bunt, especially with a runner at third, with less then one out?

        Look at how Puig is playing, and Mattingly wasn’t talking to Puig in the end of the season. Roberts communicated before the game with Kenley, to have him in the right mind set, and Mattingly never used Kenley for more then four outs.

        And I guareentee that Mattingly is not the communicator Roberts is. Roberts is not changing the line up, in every game like Mattingly. He has for lefty pitchers, but not much with a rightie pitching.

        And it has only been a very short time, that Roberts has managed the team. Mattingly was given the job, and was here five years.

        1. And MJ, when Mattingly bunted it’s usually to move runner from 1st to second in obvious situations. Never hit and run or run and hit, where the batter and the runner have to work together, and the batter needs to know when to foul off bad pitches to protect their teammate. Or the runner needs to know how to take a big lead on a 2-2 count to get the pitcher to overthrow their pitch. This was how we won in 1988.

      3. And Mattingly had two, almost three aces, except for last year. Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, could be an ace on some teams.

  8. “…Dave Roberts, the first minority skipper in baseball…”

    Think that should read the Dodger’s first minority skipper

    I’m a Dave Roberts fan and think he will be here for many years to come. Like what I’ve seen so far. He seems to be learning and adapting

    1. Tommy Lasorda is Italian. That’s a minority. Patsy Donavan was probably Irish. That’s a minority.

      Ok. Im done. Sorry.

  9. It shouldn’t be a shock that a relief pitcher goes two innings. Sadly it is, but as Mark pointed out, maybe we will go back to something g like that.

    Do you think Roberts will flip the pyramid upside down? Go with Jansen in the 7th to protect a slim lead in a “high leverage” situation then go with everyone else to get the last 6 outs? Probably not at least not in the regular season.

  10. Thanks for pointing out the important decision.
    These kinds of things are what makes the game great.

  11. I think I would rather have Utley playing instead of Barnes. He would at least get a walk, and try to make something happen.

  12. So SD has been shut out in 5 of 10 games! Hint….hint.

    Speaking of offense can we score a couple please.

    1. And since I posted that – 4 for 4. I’ll take note of that. How to break a slump? Have me mention it.

  13. 8 baserunners; no runs. Need to learn to learn to hit with runners on base; even productive outs help.

    1. Ok I cannot resist. This is not directed at D-Rick.

      One of my pet peeves is the WRISP stat. I love it when runs score without any hits. Walk, SB, ground out to second to advance the runner on a hit and run, sacrifice fly or squeeze. Love small ball scoring and pitchers duels. I think it just makes the team tighter when pitchers (and catchers) are on top of their games and the whole team must work together to scratch out runs. There must be stats that pinpoint productive outs, in a team setting. is this old school? Or modern sabermetrics haven’t caught up yet to “old school”. Seems like the stats can predict everything except playoff wins, but maybe the thing that correlates with playoff wins are “productive outs”.

      Anyways, I know it’s early but so far I see a whole lot more productive outs from Roberts than Mattingly. Let’s just hope we can get into the post season ….

      1. YF saber metrics don’t value a batting average, and put to much value on OBA. And they believe a strike out, is just like other outs, and we know that isn’t true, because strike outs, are almost never productive outs. And almost never tests the defense. And contact, challanged a pitcher more, especially when a batter is fouling off, a lot of pitches, wearing a pitcher out, and bringing there pitch count up.

        1. I will take a strike out over a double play grounder any day. With no one on base there is no difference between a strike out and a pop out. A singles hitter should be a contact hitter but a guy that hit home runs is also good to have on a team and those players are going to strike out more than a contact hitter.

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