Yes, I’m well aware that you could all do a much better job than Dave Roberts. Screaming from the rooftops, “Fire Dave Roberts!!”. I hear you. But let’s get practical here. Dave Roberts and staff have led the Dodgers to two consecutive trips to the World Series. Unfortunately, they fell just short of the ultimate goal of a World Series Championship.
It’s only fair to give credit where credit is due. There was obvious questionable decision making during the 2018 World Series. Whether those mishaps may have involved over-using Madson in back-to-back games or pulling Rich Hill from Game 4 too soon, there were obvious mistakes.
Manager, Dave Roberts
The Dodgers were one accurate Ian Kinsler throw away from a potential World Series sweep. That is considering game 4 plays out as it did, of course. Dave Roberts and the Dodgers butts’ were saved for the time being. Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. Rich Hill absolutely shoves against the opposing Boston Red Sox. 6 1/3 innings of one hit, one run baseball, alongside 7 strikeouts. By far one of Hill’s more dominant starts of the year. On a beautiful Los Angeles night, no one wanted a piece of “Dick Mountain”.
Well, we all know what happened next. The Dodgers blow a four-run lead and lose game four 9-6. For whatever reason, Roberts continued to call on Madson in the stickiest of situations. In games one, two, and four combined, Madson inherited a total of seven runners in his short amount of work. All seven runs scored. That made quite the difference in the outcome of each of those ball games.
Dave Roberts trusted both analytics and his “gut” in the World Series. Chris Sale and David Price faced the Dodgers in games one and two in Boston. Both Dodger lineups consisted of only righties, as power bats like Muncy and Bellinger watched and waited. It didn’t work out. Roberts trusted the match-ups with his righties versus the dominant starters in Sale and Price. Oh yeah, one of the most questionable decisions of the game one was replacing Pedro Baez for Alex Wood. Roberts forced the hand of Alex Cora and he went with Nunez as a pinch hitter for the lefty Devers. Nunez blasted a three-run home run over the green monster on Wood’s second pitch.
Just a day after the Game 5 World Series defeat, the Dodgers announced that Dave Roberts will receive an extension. Personally, I was not surprised by the extension for Roberts. Still, Roberts has led the Dodgers to three NL West titles, three NLCS appearances, and back-to-back World Series appearances. The wheels are turning and the Dodgers are on the right track to completing the ultimate goal of a World Series Championship.
Turner Ward, Hitting Coach
Turner Ward and Yasiel Puig. Name a better duo, I’ll wait. Better yet, the relationship between Turner Ward and the Dodger bats. From Puig smooches to the Ward devil horns following a Grandal bat drop. The unique connection between Ward and the Los Angeles Dodgers offense is unlike any other.
We were all witnesses to the fun and healthy clubhouse that was the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers. Turner Ward has worked some magic when joining this ball club along with Dave Roberts. In the 2015 season, the Dodgers averaged a mere 4.12 runs/game. Roberts and company took over the next season and the runs/game sky-rocketed to 4.48 in 2016. There was no sign of slowing down. The runs/game went up to 4.75 in 2017 and 4.93 in this 2018 season.
The two categories that stood out the most for this season were home runs and strikeouts. In 2017, the Dodgers hit 221 home runs and struck out 1380 times. This season, 235 long balls and 1436 strikeouts. Obviously the home runs were a plus, but resulted in over 50 more strikeouts compared to last season. Relying on the long ball is never something you want as a ball club.
My biggest issue this season was the lack of small ball. Whether the front office doesn’t want the “small ball” brand or Roberts just refuses to have anyone bunt besides the pitcher. I am a big believer in the small ball game. Now I understand the big hitters like Turner and Muncy may not bunt as much as others. I loved that Machado squared up and sent a bunt down third base in the NLCS against the Brewers. Machado reaching base resulted in a two-run blast from Bellinger the next at-bat. The Dodgers ranked 26th in baseball in runners left on base with 14.80 per game. Working on small ball in the spring is a definite possibility for this ball club.
Rick Honeycutt, Pitching Coach
Rick Honeycutt, the season baseball vet, has held the title as Dodgers pitching coach since back in 2006. He’s been through a few different managers, but his style of coaching hasn’t changed. Honeycutt’s been fortunate enough to develop guys like Kershaw and Jansen.
The unfortunate cycle of injuries from the Dodgers pitching resulted in young arms such as Caleb Ferguson and Walker Buehler to step up in a big way. Buehler appeared in a handful of games toward the back-end of the 2017 season. The Dodgers somewhat lop-sided starting rotation made way for Buehler and his strong arm. Injuries to Stripling, Maeda making the transition to the bullpen, and many other factors played in to Buehler and Ferguson stepping in.
This season’s team pitching 3.38 ERA is exactly the same as last season’s. The SO/9 was very similar as well as HR/9 compared to last season’s. We witnessed Kershaw struggle from time to time. Alex Wood’s inconsistencies did not fare well and resulted in a move to the bullpen at the end of the year and in the playoffs as well.
The bullpen was really all over the place this season. Kenley struggling with heart issues in August, Baez coming back stronger than ever after his injury, and Maeda playing as the long reliever in those long bullpen-like games. Honeycutt and staff saw it all. The 14 year veteran Rich Hill, also known as Dick Mountain, put on quite the show this season. His 132.2 innings of work was the third most in his adventurous career. His 150 strikeouts was also third most in his career, using his rainbow-like curveball to throw hitters off.
Dylan Floro showed up in the back end of the bullpen late in the season and proved his worth as the Dodgers fire-baller. The 2019 Dodgers could be looking at a young(ish) starting rotation. Buehler, most notably and now obvious ace, and Kershaw as the number two guy. Depending on how the Dodgers want to develop Urias and Ferguson, both of those young arms could play as potential starters. Other options such as Stripling, when healthy, and Maeda are also options. And we can’t forget Ryu in that mix, as a possible three slot guy in the starting staff.
The future looks promising. The Dodgers are fortunate enough have a great mix in young talent (Buehler) as well as older veterans like Hill. Health is the most important factor that plays into every new season. With Jansen’s surgery coming up, the Dodgers hope to welcome him back as soon as they can.
The Dodgers coaching staff did a great job this year. Both offense and pitching were dominant. Questionable decision making from Roberts in the postseason may have resulted in some unfortunate endings to the long season. Nevertheless, my biggest concern is health. Turner missing the first few months and guys like Kershaw and Jansen missing valuable time played a big factor in the season.
Dodgers Coaching Staff Grade: B+Clayton Kershaw Is Back!