Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 2: My Five Takeaways

So, that sucked. After six quality innings from Kenta Maeda, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the bullpen give up four runs and ultimately the team lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks by the final score of 4-2. Even in losses there can still be positive contributions, but there were also a few worry spots.

This also marked the final home opener for legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, so it was a little bittersweet to see the Dodgers open up their home slate with a loss because of what Scully has meant to the franchise over the duration of his time here. Scully, as always, was class in the way he called the game.

Dodgers – Diamondbacks Live Game Thread

Takeaway #1: Kenta Maeda is deceptive, and that deception should help him all year. There really isn’t anything other to say about Kenta Maeda thus far than that he’s been sensational. He pitched six innings of shutout baseball today, and the final out he recorded was assisted by a putout at home plate as a runner tried to score from first base on a double. So, he did get some luck there, but Maeda was fantastic in his own right. He gave up just five hits and one walk while striking out four batters. His season FIP is at 2.51, and you’ll definitely take that out of a starter if you can get it.

Also, consider this: so far Maeda has faced 47 batters this season, and only four of them have registered an exit velocity of at least 100 MPH. I don’t care who you are, that’s impressive as hell. Maeda threw 39 sliders and changeups today, and only three of them resulted in hits. He generated eight swings and misses on the 20 swings batters had on them. His offspeed stuff remains downright dynamite. There really is no telling what the talented right-hander could be capable of this season, but his first two starts have been sensational.

Takeaway #2: Yasiel Puig is fun as heck to watch, and he makes a difference all over. Let’s get it out of the way first. That slide by Puig was one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see on a baseball field. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the other stuff.  Puig went 1-for-3 today with a double, which is where the slide happened, but other things did happen out there. He also got hit by a pitch, but rather than do anything to hover around home plate, the right fielder sprinted hard to first base in order to get to the next batter. He’s hustled all year.

Secondly, his defense was fun to watch. In the first inning, there was a runner on first with nobody out when a line drive came right at him. Puig caught the ball, and then he fired a laser to first base in an attempt to catch the runner napping. The runner was safe, but Puig’s desire to make every play imaginable was evident from the beginning. In the top of the sixth, he got to a ball that was rolling around down the right field line and fired a dart to cutoff man Justin Turner so that Turner could throw a runner out at the plate. Puig trusted a cutoff man, and that alone is worthy of praise. 2016 Puig is not 2015 Puig, and that much is already certain.

Takeaway #3: The bullpen is a dumpster fire, but, in his defense, Pedro Baez wasn’t bad. On the surface, the bullpen’s struggles started with Pedro Baez giving up a two-out solo home run to Nick Ahmed that allowed the Diamondbacks to tie the game at 1-1. However, it wasn’t a bad pitch. Baez threw a changeup that was out of the zone, and Ahmed simply golfed it out to left field for a little bit of a cheap home run. How cheap? Well, it was the fourth shortest home run (347 feet) of the baseball season so far. It’s hard to blame Baez for throwing a good pitch that Ahmed simply golfed out of the shortest part of the stadium by mere inches because of the tiny wall.

Still, the rest of the bullpen was pretty darn terrible. Chris Hatcher and Louis Coleman combined to pitch two innings, but they also gave up three runs, two walks, and three hits. The most demoralizing of those three hits and three runs being a solo home run that Hatcher served up to fantastic first baseman Paul Goldschmidt on a 3-0 count. It makes you wonder what was even going on then. Even then, the Dodgers still would have had a chance if the bullpen had held it to just a one run deficit, but instead they gave up two more runs in the ninth inning and ultimately put too much distance between themselves and their goal. It was another bad day for the bullpen, but Baez’s wasn’t as bad as people will try to say it was.

Takeaway #4: Dave Roberts has to do a better job of in-game and situational managing. This is where the beef with the Goldschmidt at-bat comes into play. You never want to get beat by the other team’s best player. You always want to force someone else to do it. Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best hitters on the planet, so with one out and a 3-0 count during a tie game in the top of the eighth inning, the manager should never allow the pitcher to just fire a pitch right in there to a fantastic hitter. You’re better off just walking the batter at that point. Imagine that the batter is Bryce Harper. If the count got to 3-0 late in a tie game, would you ever throw him a strike? You would not. You’d intentionally walk him at that point. So why not do the same for Goldschmidt?

Everyone deserves blame on that sequence: the manager, the pitcher, and the catcher. The manager should know better, the catcher should never call for a fastball to such a dangerous fastball hitter, and the pitcher should not serve it up on a silver platter. The blame is equally distributed, but Dave Roberts needs to manage better. That’s a situation where knowing the count, the score, and the opponent needs to be common sense. When it got to 2-0, they should have thought about walking him. When it got to 3-0, it should have been a foregone conclusion. Instead, the 3-0 pitch landed a county away and the chance of victory probably went with it.

Takeaway #5: The general frustration within the fanbase is real, and somewhat understandable. It’s hard to disagree with the notion that the Dodgers have essentially given away four games already this season. After all, they’ve had a lead in all eight games that they’ve played so far, and they’ve lost half of them. That doesn’t exactly endear a team to its fans. Blowing leads, especially half of the time, is a surefire way to tick people off. So, it might come as a real shock (read: nope) that the fanbase has started to get riled up over every little thing. It’s understandable.

The fans are ticked off at the bullpen, the offense at times, and other factors. However, the biggest factor that fans are mad at is Andrew Friedman and the front office, but it’s hard to understand why. At least from my perspective. The constant berating online by calling them “nerds” is so devoid of intellectual property that it’s insulting to baseball fans everywhere. I get it, you don’t like the fact that they look at the numbers and the game within the game. That’s fine. Yet there is a plan that they’re trying to follow in order to deliver a title to Los Angeles, and it involves far more than just this season.

We’re still just five percent of the way through the games, so buckle up. You might have an aneurysm if you’re going to get bent out of shape over every single game, good or bad. And directing the vitriol towards Friedman and company doesn’t do you any good. If you think they don’t know the bullpen has been bad, you’d be mistaken. But for those who shout from the mountaintops that they should have done something about it, what would you have done? There weren’t premier free agent relievers out there this season, and they tried to trade for Aroldis Chapman before then backing out because of his legal troubles. There just wasn’t much outside of Joakim Soria and Darren O’Day. Just give it another month or so before jumping off the cliff.

Dodgers Social: Fans Come Out for Vin Scully and the Dodgers Opening Day

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  1. Point well taken Russo. Hatcher made the same mistake this past Friday against Trevir Brown of the Giants. Fell behind in the count and threw a 3-0 pitch down the pipe that ended up in left field bleachers. I agree, Hatcher is not the only one to blame.
    The challenge with fixing the bullpen is that the Dodgers need 2 to 3 new quality pitchers not just 1. One of those guys has to be a lefty. All we can hope for now is that a couple of those bullpen pitchers play decent enough to win some games to stay within contention and hope the front office pulls off some trades come all-star break. And at some point the Dodgers need to think about bringing up Urias to give him a shot.

  2. Bringing in Culberson to bunt over one of the slowest runners in baseball with TWO catchers on the bench was just atrocious

  3. PRS209 That was actually a point I never got to. I’m okay with bunting there, but not with someone as slow as Ellis on first base. It’s a fundamental waste of resources at that point, and Arizona knew what was going to happen the second Pederson got called back for Culberson. Once they knew that, they gameplanned and the bunt was executed poorly.

  4. Blaming Friedman for the bad bullpen is exactly the right call.
    The bullpen mess was completely predictable and preventable. All you have to do is go back and read the commentary on this website to find fans who were begging for a bullpen upgrade beginning last fall.
    But Friedman and his “brain trust” did nothing substantive to address the obvious weaknesses. They didn’t go after O’Dowd or Soria or Clippard or any free agent other than Joe Blanton, for heaven’s sake. The Chapman fiasco was not of their making, but there were other relievers available in trade. They didn’t make the trade.
    If you go back a year, they could have had Andrew Miller or other good relievers. Instead they signed added Chris Harcher and Juan Nicasio.
    Instead of trying to correct the problem, Friedman gambled that the group that screwed up last year would improve. Even at this early date it’s obvious he was wrong.
    Despite the Dodgers vaunted depth, there are few options within the organization at this time. They have to wait for the injuries to heal on the pitching staff and then mix and match, trying to find the right combo?
    I agree Friedman is pursuing a long range plan, but he has an Achilles heal that could undo the whole thing and that is is inability to judge talent. He keeps signing and trading for players who aren’t up to the job.

  5. I don’t hate the bunt call, I hated the awful execution of the bunt. Pretty much anyone would have been thrown out on that horrible bunt. Ellis just made it look worse.

  6. I agree on your point on Goldschmitt. Walk his ass. You’re down on the count already. Make someone else best you. But the bullpen is horrible. I don’t trust anyone except Jensen.

  7. Let’s not forget Friedman gambled on Alex Wood, Matt Latos, Jim Johnson, and Luis Avilan, while giving up Hecter Olivera and Paco Rodriguez. Boy, we could sure use Paco right about now with Howell struggling.

  8. This bullpen sucks. The Dodgers should be 7-1. Only loss by a starter was Wood. Everything else is on the arson squad.

  9. All relievers generally suck. With a few exceptions they are failed starters, yet we evaluate them using the same standard as starters (fip, k/bb%, etc). They are generally asked to get 3 outs without giving up a run, but far to offen a Dodger starter will throw 5-7 innings allowing 0 or 1 run only to have a reliever allow a run in a single inning. It’s one thing if the guy is coming in to try to clean up a starters mess, but the Dodgers do a pretty good job of letting the relievers come into clean innings. Sorry for the hot take.

  10. West Coast Ram  Relievers nowadays are pretty much groomed in the minors, and not all are failed starters. Jansen was a catcher. Some were relievers in college. As you say, most, save the long man, are asked to get 3 outs. Hatcher when he blew Stripling’s lead, could not throw strikes. And that meant he pretty much had to groove one. Since his fastball is his best pitch, and most MLB hitters sit on the fastball, it was a HR waiting to happen. In Baez’s defense, that pitch he threw to Ahmed, was pretty much unhittable for most guys, he just laid a lucky swing on it. But Goldschmidt’s blast? That was just dumb pitching….

  11. Michael Norris West Coast Ram While it’s true Baez was unlucky yesterday, he does have a history of giving up homers. This was the second so far this year. As Vinny said during the broadcast, Baez throws hard but doesn’t have much movement on his fastball, and big league hitters can hit straight fastballs, even in the high 90s.

    The Dodgers tend to slot all their pitcher signees as starters. A good example is Joshua Sborz, the top reliever in college in 2015 and the MVP in the College World Series, where he won three games and saved one while working out of the bullpen. The Dodgers drafted him and are using him as a starter in Rancho Cucamonga. This is a guy who could get to the big leagues faster, maybe this year, if they groomed him for the bullpen, where he obviously feels at home. But no, that would be too easy. 

    They do have some guys in AAA being groomed as relievers, but most worked in the bigs last year and didn’t cut it.

  12. I remener Vince Scully in Ebbets Field.  I was 10 years old at the time and his commentator voice hasn’t changed. Vince and Red Barber were a great duo at the time.  I always bled Dodger Blue and as Tommy Lasorda once said ” you must bleed Dodger Blue if you want to go to heaven”  I laove the Dodgers.  I am a printer and now I know the pantone color blue to print on my business cards.  I AM REFERRING TO YOUR PARTY PANTONE 294.

  13. Since every manager follows a pitch count it must be added to the rule book.  That is what uniformity results in.  Let’s makie it a law.  We use to say the picher is blowing up, not anymore.

  14. Blue58 Michael Norris 
    Even guys that are groomed as relievers in college are done so because they lack command of more than 2 pitches.  You might have a kid that throws a great fastball and a pretty good slider, but has no feel for a curve or change-up.  Or he can throw those pitches but has no ability to command the location.  My whole point is that a starter goes out there and works his ass off going through the lineup multiple times and the team asks the reliever to simply get three outs before allowing a run (not a hit, not a walk, but a run) and to many times for any team does someone in the bullpen fail.  Maybe not enough to lose the game but certainly not to meet expectations. Everyone makes excuses for relievers saying that one bad outing and their numbers balloon, but when compared to the expectations there should be no excuse.  In four appearances (3.1 innings) Hatcher has looked like crap twice, surrendering 2 HR and 4 BB.  If you are expected to get 3 outs, without allowing a run, every third game on the schedule then your success rate should be in the high 90’s.  Hatcher history is that he allows about a half run an inning or failing about half the time.

    I don’t blame our FO or any FO, I think relievers are failures by nature.

  15. West Coast Ram Blue58 Michael Norris  Most pitchers go through bad stretches. Last year Hatcher was so bad he was sent down. When he came back he was nails. Baez, and Garcia in the first 4 weeks of last year were nearly unhittable, then the homer barrage started for both. Relieving takes a certain mentality. Gagne was a failed starter, but he had a killer instinct as a reliever. Do not know much about Sborz. But a lot of relievers in college get tested as starters. Reason? Good starters are hard to find. And if you have a reliever who has killer stuff, then the transition is attempted. I think they make some bad decisions on pitchers. They have gone for retreads the last 2 years, they do not really trust the arms in the minors right now. Baez, and Garcia were inherited from the last GM. This to me is all on the front office. Honeycutt can only do so much. They have what they have because they went on the cheap in the pen. Coleman has nasty stuff, but yesterday was a little wild. Other than Jansen, I do not trust any of these guys to hold a lead. Howell has been abysmal……….they can’t send him down, he has no options. So that means release, or suffer until he finds himself…if he ever does. They have 3 lefty relievers at OKC. Liberatore, Avilan, and Bennett. They have a couple relievers there who have MLB experience….Blanton had 1 good game…..this pen is in total disarray……they need solutions soon because stuff like this will get into the starters heads…..

  16. Michael Norris Blue58  Don’t believe the myth that it takes a certain mentality to be a reliever, as all relievers were once starters.  There maybe a physical difference as you could be pitching on consecutive days and you may “try” to get ready in the pen faster than you should, but the mentality thing is just a crutch.  Gagne’s instincts as a closer were that he had two great pitches which played will as a one inning pitcher but not as a starter.  It had nothing to do with a change of mentality.
    I think that baseball managers should change the paradigm and break the pitching staff into pods.  Each pod would be responsible for that day’s game and therefore each pitcher would know when they will throw and can take as much time as necessary to get prepared both physically (and in your opinion mentally).  Just like at one time closers routinely threw more than one inning, this just requires that you look at the game differently.  Each starter should have a partner that can get both lefties and righties out and can pitch multiple innings (2-3), which would put you at 10 pitchers, the team carries 2 high strikeout pitchers to rotate alternate games in which a save is required. 12 pitchers, 13 players. It is worth a try, at one time people that it was stupid to change pitchers just to get a righty or lefty match-up.  It is those that never look at a situation from different angles that fail.

  17. West Coast Ram Michael Norris Blue58  I disagree with that statement….not ALL relievers are failed starters. Jansen was a catcher, never a starter. Baez was an infielder. Jim Brewer never started, neither did Perranoski. And contrary to what you might think, the mental part of it is huge. Most pitching coaches and baseball people agree on that. And your idea of pods would not sit well with the pitchers. It is all about economics to them. The more they pitch, the more they can make. What you see as a crutch is a vital part of baseball. Hitters have to have a certain mentality too. Everyone saw what happened to Joc Pederson. He lost confidence, which is mental…then that screwed up his mechanics..and he was totally lost……What you think is a myth, is very real to ballplayers..

  18. Do you think either Jansen or Baez would be relievers if they could’ve hit? Just because Perranoski wasn’t a starter in the majors doesn’t mean that when he was originally signed it wasn’t as a result of being a starter.
    As someone that had the opportunity to run a team are you going to be concerned with maximizing the players earning potential or win games for the team? Just because the majority of baseball people view something a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s correct. There are innovators in every sport through out and along the way the majority thought they were wrong. Pitchers throwing every fifth day instead of every forth, defensive shifts, platoons, batting a fast guy at the top of the order regardless of obp. The game changes constantly.

  19. There’s lot of blame to go around. People blaming the front office because they have consistently failed, for 2 years that Friedman took rein, to bring in players to fix the bullpen. Casting doubt in their ability to evaluate talent that will deliver.

  20. Consistantly failed? Three straight division titles. The playoffs are a roll of the dice in baseball so getting beat there is certainly not failing.

  21. We are taking about the bullpen, not the team as a whole. The titles are attributed more to starting pitching. What kept the Dodgers from going deeper in each of those playoff runs? The bullpen!

  22. West Coast Ram  You ignore the history of the game. You also ignore the fact that most baseball people who make those statements know a hell of a lot more about the game than you do. I see by your logo that you are a Ram fan..you should stick to football because you know crap about baseball

  23. There are no relievers in the game anymore.  Everything is pitch count. ‘Pitch Count pitchers” enter the game at the start of an inning with no men on base.  So let us change the name of reliever to Pitch Count Pitchers.  There is no room for the word Relief pitchers.  Since all teams have a pitch count, it must be a new baseball rule.
    Imagine sitting on the edge of your seat with bases loaded, the game on the line and here walks in from the bullpen a relief pitcher.  That’s BASEBALL

  24. West Coast Ram  Well good for you….still doesn’t mean you know anything. Ignoring what is right in front of you is pretty stupid, and ignoring history is just dumb. Yeah, I might be old, but I played the game too, and learned a lot about it. I have studied it all of these years. I do not ignore history, I embrace it, hate saber metrics, think DM was not all that bad a manager, and dislike this front offices modus operandi. I have watched this team a lot longer than you so I think I know a little more about how they operate…and their history,,,,,,,runt

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