Dodgers: Are Dave Roberts and the Front Office Getting Better?

I’ve been one of the critics of many of the moves that Dave Roberts has made throughout his term as the manager of the Dodgers. His performances in the postseason from 2016 through 2019 were full of question marks. For example:

  1. 2016 – intentionally walking the bases loaded with the bad hitters Jason Heyward and Chris Coghlan
  2. 2017 – handling of the pitching staff in World Series games 2, 3, 5 and 7
  3. 2018 – pulling Rich Hill
  4. 2019 – pitching Clayton Kershaw in relief when better options were available

These are just an example of the many issues that are pretty well known about the track record of Dave Roberts. Now, let’s spread the credit around a bit bigger. It is well known that Doc does not run everything. There is a huge collaboration between the front office and the coaching staff for the lineups and the game plan, so not everything falls onto Doc.

The latest example that proves that Roberts does not pull all the strings comes via The Athletic from Andy McCullough’s article about how the Dodgers executed their game plan for game 5 of the NLDS against the Giants:

The execution of the plan, which called for relievers to open the proceedings rather than 20-game-winner Julio Urías, required an effort that spanned the organization. The front office of Andrew Friedman completed the research needed to sell Roberts’ staff. The coaches convinced the principals and rallied the clubhouse. The players performed at an elevated level against a high-quality opponent in a hostile environment.

What some of us are seeing is an improvement in how the Dodgers manage what happens during the game. Let’s take a look at some examples.

2020 Postseason Handling Of Kenley Jansen

During the 2020 postseason, Kenley Janson had some difficult moments. Sometimes he looked great and sometimes he looked shakey. In game four of the 2020 World Series, Jansen gave up the tying and winning runs on some soft contact off of pitches that missed their location by quite a bit. This was after pitching an inning the day before. For the last couple of seasons, Jansen had struggled in back-to-back games and he struggled in game 4. Of course, there were some defensive issues behind him which hurt also.

The next day was game five and the Dodgers went with Blake Treinen to close the game instead of automatically going with Kenley. It showed that lessons were FINALLY being learned and that there are other closer options. The good moves continued in the World Series game 6 as Julio Urias closed out the final game. Julio was cruising and Doc wisely let him finish the game.

2021 Postseason Bullpen Management

The 2021 postseason started with a Wild Card game against the Cardinals, starting Max Scherzer on the mound. Unexpectedly, Scherzer only went 4.1 innings which left at least 4.2 innings for the bullpen to cover. The coaching staff, lead by Dave Roberts, did an amazing job in bringing in the right bullpen pieces at the right time. Of course, the biggest credit goes to the guys actually playing but it is up to the manager to utilize players where they are most likely to be successful. The Dodgers ended up winning and the bullpen was spotless during that game.

Before game five of the NLDS against the Giants, the whole baseball world was shocked by this announcement.

It was fully expected that the Dodgers would start 20-game winner Julio Urias and that would be the most non-risky move that could be made. However, the Dodgers’ management team made a choice to try and see if this daring move would work. They had to convince everybody on the team that it was a good call and the team bought in.

Before the game I tweeted out the following:

As the game went on it all seemed to be working and the Dodgers ended up beating the Giants 2-1 to advance to the NLCS. After the game, I did a quick analysis of the big and seemingly risky move.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes the best teaching moments are from failure and the management team of the Dodgers has had a few of them. I think that the management team of the Dodgers during the NLDS game five out-managed the Giants. Some of this must be credited to having so much experience with so many post-season situations and learning from them. One of my previous concerns was that it seemed the same basic mistakes were being repeated. Now, it seems that Doc has stepped it up as a manager and is making some really good decisions. As the Dodgers continue their 2021 playoff run, this experience that the management team has gained could be invaluable.

Final Thoughts

From the playoff issues we’ve seen in the past, to the deft moves we see now, the on-field management team has clearly improved. As stated earlier, the experiences of the past have helped fuel the improvements. There is no doubt that there will be moves we will disagree with (I know I will) but I’m starting to see that the moves are a lot more visibly successful in the post-season. During the regular season, Dave Roberts is working through a long season where a lot of other things other than what is going on in one game of 162 are factored in. In the post-season, the Dodgers are being managed with a sense of urgency that seems to be missing during the regular season and that makes sense.

Let’s hope that the management staff continues to pull the right levers during the trek to the 2021 championship. The Dodgers truly have an advantage over most other remaining teams in the playoffs and it will help.

NEXT: Dodgers Had a Very Specific Plan of Attack to Win it in the 9th, According to Gavin Lux

Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger


  1. Gone are the days of managing by feel. Modern day baseball has been taken over by the “quants.” While the success or failure of a particular strategy will be forever tied to the manager, it’s roots are firmly established by the organization as a whole.

    Welcome to 21st century baseball. Just ask Mike Shildt. Guess setting a franchise record winning streak isn’t enough to keep your job.

      1. 4life, as far as Kike and Joc goes not every player ‘buys in to the Dodger’s plan of being in and out of the lineup each game. Kike plays daily now and I believe instead of moving all over the place, he’s been at 2nd and CF only.

        1. Paul, yes we know playing time was an issue. However, Joc still ended up being a platoon guy with 2 other teams! He wouldn’t even be starting today if Soler wasn’t out for Covid! He is a below average defensive outfielder who couldn’t even cut it at 1B when the Dodgers tried him there. He’s less of a loss than what might go down as the greatest playoff performer in MLB HISTORY! Kike “Babe” Hernandez has already etched himself in the postseason record books and he’s not close to being done yet. He was a gold glove defender at multiple positions! Ask any of his Dodger teammates about his clubhouse presence.

          When he asked for something, the FO’s response should have, ok Mr. Hernandez!

          You don’t take a Rolex disguised as a Timex and flush it down the toilet!

  2. Tim like you I have been a critic of Roberts as the moves you mentioned kept the Dodgers from getting to the WS or lost the WS.
    The Dodger bullpen is much improved this year Mark Prior has done an outstanding job. At the start of the year who would have thought we would be in the playing for the NLCS without Kershaw, May, and Bauer?
    Roberts and the Front Office have learned how to better use their entire pitching staff. Let’s hope that knack continues and wins the WS.
    The offense has to start hitting that is the bottom line. The pitching staff has carried this team but the Braves are better this year and Freeman and others are hot.

    1. Can’t knock Doc against Houston in the World Series….In games 2,3 and 5, we were completely screwed by the strike zone or lack thereof. I was literally counting, it went double digits in Houston’s favor all three games! Agree with the rest of your analysis, Prior has been great, the bullpen lights out and our starting rotation minus two big arms and yet we are one step away. Like you said, we have to hit, and I believe we will.

    2. Tmax, the offense is missing (by some measures at least) the greatest player in postseason history! While I have given the FO credit for the HEIST OF THE CENTURY, which brought the Dodgers Scherzer and Trea Turner, they equally responsible for the BLUNDER OF THE CENTURY as well! Not re-signing Kike “Babe” Hernandez!

      Let’s go Dodgers! Win this thing for Kershaw and Muncy!

      1. Well we can finally thank God the Dodgers finally got rid of the other ‘Babe’, Billy McKinney.

        Question is, how will Roberts manage a game going forward without his favorite ‘go to’ guy on the roster?

        We shall see….

        To the Dodgers management: THANK YOU for finally getting ‘Babe’ McKinney off the ML roster.

        1. Doug, you still have one barb target left….that playoff beast Souza lol. But guess what, he had just as many hits as JT with only 2 AB’s!

          1. 4Life….

            Souza over Billy Mc, any day!

            BTW, before Roberts brings in Tony G tonight, please give him some cat-nip!


  4. Dave Roberts is a legend in his own mind. Continues to over manage, has no feel for the game. He inexplicably inserts himself into games at the wrong time with strange moves. A good manager achieves more with less, Roberts always has plenty of talent and never fails to under achieve. Advice to Roberts; Put the Superhero cape away, quit moving the players around and let them play!!

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