Dodgers: Breaking Down Dave Roberts’ World Series Decisions
As the Dodgers return to Los Angeles down two games to none in this year’s World Series, questions are aplenty regarding some of Dave Roberts’ decisions. In both games, there’s been some Green Monster size moves made, and none have worked out for the Dodgers thus far, which creates a lot of room for criticism, justified or no.
Let me be clear up front. Do I think Roberts’ single-handedly lost Games 1 and 2 with his decisions? No. The Dodgers had numerous chances to cash in on more runs in Game 1, and they couldn’t. They also played poor defense, and Clayton Kershaw wasn’t in top form. In Game 2, they let David Price off the hook after early opportunities and ended the game with only two runs on three hits, all singles.
That just won’t get it done against a team like the Red Sox. And that’s mostly on the players.
With that said, although Roberts isn’t the sole culprit here, he’s decisions are certainly at the forefront. Let’s examine.
Let’s start with the lineup. This has been a point of contention all year. To platoon, or not to platoon… that is the question. Well, the Dodgers have done so all season long, so it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But that doesn’t mean it’s not wrong.
I know what some of you may be thinking. “It’s gotten us this far right… Why change now?”
Well, for starters, because this is the World Series and sometimes adjustments should be made. There’s no longer any room for error. Also, it may be possible the Dodgers got to where they are now in spite of their strategy, and not because of it. But that’s a topic for another time.
Getting back to the lineup, there’s a couple of decisions that stand out the most. For example, sticking with guys like Brian Dozier and Kike Hernandez against left-handed pitching over the likes of Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger.
Dozier hasn’t been good in a while. He had a horrible end to the season and was relegated to a bench role by the time the playoffs rolled around. He’s yet to show any major improvements thus far in the postseason either (2-15, .133.)
Hernandez has been bad too. Like, real bad. He’s hitting .094 this postseason with a .216 OBP.
On the flip side, neither Muncy nor Bellinger have exactly been killing the ball. Both are batting under .200 themselves in the playoffs. But despite his hitting struggles, Muncy has still been able to get on base at a high rate. His .370 OBP is the 4th highest on the team this postseason, higher than Justin Turner and Manny Machado.
Muncy has hit lefties well all season, and his .891 OPS against them is 4th best in baseball among left-handed hitters. Playing with the DH in Boston, it seems like his bat should have been in the lineup. And although Bellinger hasn’t been great vs LHP this year, he’s still come up clutch at big spots this postseason. And considering Dozier and Hernandez’s struggles, going with Cody seems like the better option.
Game 1 and going with Alex Wood
Moving on from the lineup, there’s also the question of Roberts’ bullpen decisions. In both games, his calls have backfired at key times, resulting in huge momentum shifts.
In Game 1, going with Alex Wood instead of sticking with Pedro Baez was over-managing at its finest. Baez had looked great, striking out both hitters he faced that inning, including lefty Mitch Moreland. But when Rafael Devers came up, Roberts choose to go with Wood for the lefty on lefty matchup.
Only, it wasn’t that simple. The Red Sox countered with righty Eduardo Nunez, who promptly took Wood deep for a 3-run homerun, effectively ending the game.
Okay, here’s the deal with the Wood decision. It’s no secret that he hasn’t been very good at all this postseason. Meanwhile, Baez has been great. Now, if you truly had a lefty on lefty matchup, and the Red Sox had to stick with Devers for some reason, you might be able to justify the move. But even that’s debatable given how Wood has pitched lately, and the fact that Baez actually had better numbers against lefties this year (.608 OPS vs LHB & .672 vs RHB) and he’s retired 32 left-handed batters in a row now.
What makes this such a bad move is that Roberts should have known the Red Sox had Nunez to use in that situation. It wasn’t a surprise move. Knowing that, it’s hard to explain his rationale.
To be fair, the Nunez homer just added to the lead Boston already had. The Dodgers were down one run at the time and didn’t score again the rest of the game anyway. So, you could say it didn’t matter much, although that would be simplifying things a bit. It was undoubtedly a crucial call by Roberts and one that didn’t work, or make much sense.
Game 2… why Madson?
With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, Hyun-Jin Ryu was cruising along. Then, he gave up a hit to the #9 hitter, Christian Vazquez, followed by a single to Mookie Betts. He then walked Andrew Benintendi to load the bases.
The next move was going to be huge either way. Do you leave Ryu in for one more hitter? If not, who do you go to?
Roberts decided to go with Ryan Madson, and we all know what happened from there. He walked in the tying run, and then gave up a go-ahead two run single to J.D Martinez. The Dodgers were unable to recover.
Unlike the Game 1 decision, which almost everyone hated, I’ve seen some people try to defend this move by Roberts. Here’s why they shouldn’t.
In Game 1, Roberts went with Madson to relieve Clayton Kershaw in the 5th inning, and he immediately walked the first hitter he faced on four pitches, with one of them being a wild pitch. He got the next two outs but then gave up a 2-run single to Devers.
After the game, Madson admitted to not being able to get as warm as he’d like, mostly due to the cold weather. It showed on both of his appearances, as he walked the first hitter he saw both times, and wasn’t close to the strike zone.
Reasons and excuses aside, Madson just wasn’t the best option there. Sure, he’s been solid in the two previous series, but that’s only been a span of 6.1 innings. He’s still the guy that had a 5.47 ERA and 1.405 WHIP on the year, and I’m not sure six innings out-weighs a year’s worth of stats.
If you want to go to the bullpen there, Pedro Baez certainly seemed like the better option. What was Roberts “saving” him for? For a possible close game in the later innings? Meanwhile, you have an actual close game at hand.
That spot in the 5th inning was the most crucial of the game (4.17 leverage index.) High leverage situations should be the spots for your best relievers, regardless of what inning it is.
To put it in perspective, Kenley Jansen has pitched the same amount of innings in the World Series that I have… zero. He’s the team’s best reliever, and there’s undoubtedly been some vital spots for the Dodgers bullpen in the first two games that he could have pitched in.
Managers have to get out of this mindset that you need to have your relievers come into the game in some certain order. You don’t. It should be dictated by the importance of the situation. Madson was not the guy for that situation in Game 2, especially considering how he pitched in Game 1, and the other options at Roberts’ disposal.
Just to reiterate, these first two games have not been solely on Dave Roberts. The Dodgers offense hasn’t capitalized on various opportunities. The pitchers haven’t made the quality pitches that they need to. However, his decisions have definitely been a big part of why the Dodgers find themselves in the hole they’re in.
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I completely agree with your editorial; another thing that really bothered me was the visits to the mound by Barnes to Ryu and the last one on Roberts’s request. Just let the man pitch, let’s not add to the pressure. Ans they took no chances on the bases. they should have set up a hit and run especially with some speed on the bases.
You made some good points with great examples first off. I won’t drag this out too long but here are more. First Ryu should have started game 1 and CK game 2. Any Dodger fan knows CK past experience on more rest. If i’m the manager I take a chance and start Hill game 1 though and save Ryu & Bueller for home games where their ERA’s are half what they are on the road. I argue we go back home 1-1 with that with arguably are 2 best P lined up. Also, the way he used his PH’s in the LCS was laughable, but fortunately Milwaukee wasn’t good enough to make us pay for it. Lastly, on Roberts or not, this team refuses to perform situational hitting or even smart defense most of the time. It’s one strike out after another instead of putting the ball in play and advancing runners. As a life long player and coach I can’t take the approach this team takes in key situations. No all or nothing team like the Dodgers’ have become, will ever win the WS. Whether this is Roberts fault, Turner Wards’, or the players it’s inexcusable. I debate we should have scored 5 more runs at this point with simple execution and easily more.
Ryan I agree whole wholeheartedly about giving Kershaw the extra day rest…I think he made it clear his feelings were hurt when he didn’t pitch the opening game of the NLDS against the Braves….but the proof was in the pudding–with the extra day of rest he pitched one of his best games of the year…In his heart he wants to be the man but he has got to understand that age is catching up to him..And letting these guys swing for the fence is ridiculous…We had the bases loaded and no one out and got 2 runs where it should have been 3 or 4 easily…Boston showed how it’s done having 2 outs and no one on and then loading the bases and scoring 3 runs with shorter swings …
You can not expect an offense to get on a streak or get hot when they bat once a game. The platoon idea doesn’t work. Get a line up and stick to it so players have a chance to produce.
Hill should have started in Boston , leaving Ryu for a home start, where he’s dominant. And the Dodgers’ pitchers’ inability to finish off batters with two strikes is huge. Christian Vazquez is their #9 hitter. You HAVE to get poor hitters (and other ones) out when you have two strikes on them. It kills me when they go 0-2 or 1-2 on guys and cannot get them out. Execute better–or it will be an another frustrating postseason.
I love Dave Roberts as a person. Wonderful man…..but does anyone else wonder why the Dodgers didn’t interview Alex Cora a few years ago? There was a short list, and as far as I know, I never heard his name mentioned as a candidate. He is more aggressive, and that is what is lacking here, too. The irony–Dave Roberts ran and stole bases and made things happen. However, the team he manages does nothing of the sort.
He is terrible and I won’t watch another Dodger game as long as Dave Roberts is mananger and the gm is still Andrew freedman and his boss.
No mention of the geek squad pulling the wizard of ozs moves from behind their upstairs curtain? How much direction do they give Roberts and the coaching staff before each game? Who is actually making out the daily line ups? Regardless, if we don’t start to hit, this series is over. Let’s all hope that their bats wake up today and put us back in contention for a competitive WS. Also agree strongly that Hill should have started one of the first two games.
If all these moronic moves aren’t on Roberts and are in fact because of those two buffoons in the front office the Magic and Billie Jean King and the rest need to be looking to replace them with some people who know baseball.