30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

Holy shit, Shaquem Griffin. Known primarily as UCF’s one-handed linebacker because he literally does not have a left hand, Griffin put on a show at the Combine. He did 20 bench press reps (he had to use a prosthetic left hand) and ran a 4.38(!) 40-yard dash, which is currently the 3rd fastest time of any player at the Combine, regardless of position. It’s also the fastest 40-yard dash time ever publicly recorded by a linebacker. I watched his Auburn game film and I knew he was fast but Jesus Christ! It’ll be interesting to see where teams value him in April. Now that I’ve got my Combine raving done, let’s get to the Dodgers for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 104-58, Won NL West by 11 games over Arizona Diamondbacks, defeated Diamondbacks in NLDS, defeated Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston Astros in World Series

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Tom Koehler, OF Matt Kemp

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Tony Watson, SP Yu Darvish, OF Curtis Granderson, RP Brandon Morrow, RP Luis Avilan, OF Andre Ethier, SS Charlie Culberson, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Scott Kazmir, RP Brandon McCarthy

Best Offensive Player: SS Corey Seager

Best Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez

CF-Chris Taylor

RF-Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp

SP-Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Bullpen-Kenley Jansen (CP), Ross Stripling, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez, Tom Koehler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Roberts (3rd season with Dodgers)

Hitting Coach-Turner Ward

Pitching Coach-Rick Honeycutt

1st Base Coach-George Lombard

3rd Base Coach-Chris Woodward

Bench Coach-Bob Geren

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So close. The Dodgers were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988 but their bats finally failed them in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. However they will be heavily favored to return to the Fall Classic and perhaps even to win the whole thing as they have about as deep a roster as any in Major League Baseball. They didn’t add very much in the offseason but they didn’t need to as it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. Here’s how the Dodgers will look to line up in 2018.

1. Chris Taylor-CF

2. Corey Seager-SS

3. Justin Turner-3B

4. Cody Bellinger-1B

5. Yasiel Puig-RF

6. Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez-LF

7. Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley-2B

8. Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Pretty damn solid if I do say so myself. Chris Taylor was a breakout star for the Dodgers last season. He hit .288 with 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and was worth 4.7 WAR after having had just one career home run prior to 2017. He appears to be slated to be their leadoff hitter this season. Corey Seager was tremendous as usual, as he hit .295 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, and was worth 5.7 WAR as a follow-up to his amazing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Justin Turner was also his usual terrific self in 2017, as he hit .322 with 21 home runs, 71 RBI, had the lowest soft-hit ball percentage in the Majors at just 9.8%, and was worth 5.5 WAR. The 33-year old just continues to get better with age. Cody Bellinger continued the long line of Dodger rookies of the year, as he took home the award in 2017 by hitting .269, an NL rookie record 39 home runs, drove in 97 RBI, and was worth 4.0 WAR. He struggled mightily in the World Series, as he struck out a whopping 17 times in 28 at bats, but that shouldn’t deter peoples’ opinions of just how good he was in 2017. There isn’t a single easy out in this lineup.

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If you try and convince me there’s a better pitcher on the planet than Clayton Kershaw right now, I’ll spit in your face. I mean for God’s sake, the man hasn’t had an ERA over 3 since his rookie year in 2008 and he didn’t even pitch enough innings for his ERA to qualify. Since then, his worst single-season ERA is 2.91 in 2010. Chris Sale’s best ERA was 2.90 last season. Kershaw doesn’t throw the hardest, his fastball is usually somewhere around 94 mph, but it’s the break on his slider and curveball as well as his pinpoint accuracy and the way he sets up hitters that make him the greatest pitcher on the planet. Plus he doesn’t turn 30 for another couple weeks. He recorded 2130 strikeouts before the age of 30. That’s just absolute insanity to me and he did it all while keeping his career ERA at an astoundingly low 2.36. To put that into perspective, I had a Road to the Show pitcher character who had all of his abilities maxed out. His career ERA was 2.41. They just don’t make them better than Kershaw. After Kershaw is a pretty solid rotation. Rich Hill is finally finding his groove as a pitcher in his late 30’s, as his curveball is one of the game’s very best. I thought he was used pretty poorly in the World Series, as despite pitching very well in both of his starts he never got out of the fifth inning. I thought Dave Roberts overmanaged in the World Series but that’s counterproductive to talk about at this point. Alex Wood also had a career year in 2017, as he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. I hate his jerky windup, but it clearly works for him and I can see how it can throw off hitters. I mean look at this thing.

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That windup is absolutely hideous but it clearly works.

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The Dodgers have one of the top bullpens in the game in addition to a stacked rotation. Kenley Jansen is arguably the best closer in the game and his 2017 season was a continuation of his dominance. He had a 1.32 ERA, recorded 41 saves, and struck out over 14 batters per 9 innings. Jansen is practically untouchable in the 9th inning although the Astros didn’t seem to have a problem with him, as he had a 3.12 ERA in the Fall Classic, though a lot of that can be attributed to Dave Roberts having him typically go longer than he normally does in games, as a lot of the damage done by the Astros came after Jansen had already pitched one inning. The Dodgers did lose quite a few pieces in their bullpen, such as Brandon Morrow, Luis Avilan, and Brandon McCarthy, but there are still several quality relievers left to set up Jansen. Ross Stripling struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings, Tony Cingrani had a K/9 of nearly 11, and Josh Fields had an ERA of 2.84. Pretty much all of these guys should have Roberts pretty comfortable with a lead late in the game, which should be something they’ll be used to given how potent their lineup is.

Overall, I expect the Dodgers to be the favorites to repeat as National League champions. They didn’t lose anybody of significant importance (unless you count Trade Deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, however he was only with the team for a couple months) from a team that won 104 games and was a win away from the World Series. They didn’t add much, either, however like I said at the outset, it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. This year might be a little more difficult for the Dodgers because the Diamondbacks look to be gaining on them in the division, the Rockies will be trying to repeat their breakout success, and the Giants totally reloaded in the offseason by acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However I think the Dodgers are simply too deep to really be phased by this and I expect them to come out as NL West champs once again.

Projected Record: 100-62, Win NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Miami Marlins, who don’t seem to have changed a whole lot with new ownership, as they once again gutted their team the moment they showed promise. Let me know what you think of the Dodgers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 2 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

Before I get into this game, I have to mention Vin Scully’s ceremonial first pitch. That was probably the best ceremonial first pitch I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Mark Wahlberg airmail one to the backstop in person. Scully’s still got the flair for showmanship, too. Any more words just wouldn’t do it justice, so here it is below.

Now that that’s gotten its due:

-The Astros won their first World Series game in franchise history 7-6 in 11 innings, Chris Devenski got the win and Brandon McCarthy was saddled with the loss. Devenski technically also recorded the save but baseball doesn’t award saves to the winning pitcher for some reason.

-I don’t even know where to begin with this game. I really can’t. It should’ve been over on at least four different occasions. Here are a couple of facts surrounding what happened:

-8 home runs were hit by 8 different players (a World Series record), 6 of which occurred in the 9th inning or later

-5 extra innings home runs were hit, which is a record for an entire SERIES, let alone one World Series game

-The Dodgers used every single member of their bullpen

-The Dodgers bullpen had a postseason ERA of 0.83 entering this game. They allowed 6 runs in their 7 innings of work in Game 2, all of which came in their final 4

-Before I go much further, I have to get something off my chest. Big rant coming: Dave Roberts completely overmanaged this game. I’ve been singing his praises all year, rightfully so, but a large part of the way this game ended was on him. The first mistake was pulling Rich Hill after only 4 innings and 60 pitches. I get that you want to use your all-world bullpen. But Hill was looking pretty sharp in his 4 innings of work. Yeah he allowed a run on this play right here:

But otherwise he had been really sharp. In his 4 innings, he only gave up 3 hits with 3 walks (1 was intentional) and 7 strikeouts. The fact that he only had 60 pitches after 2 real walks and 7 strikeouts means that the Astros hitters were aggressive with him and weren’t having a ton of success, which was true. Hill was visibly pissed, and rightfully so, slamming his glove on the bench after he was told his night was done. Then came his usage of Tony Watson in the sixth inning. In the sixth, Kenta Maeda allowed a hit to Carlos Correa, then retired Yuli Gurriel. Roberts brings in the left-handed Watson to face the left-handed Brian McCann. Now for one, McCann hadn’t been swinging the bat really well all postseason, regardless of what handedness the pitcher was. You totally could’ve left in Maeda against McCann and probably gotten a similar result to what Watson got. That’s one beef I’ve had with managers is that they tend to play the lefty/righty matchups a little too fiercely, especially when it probably wouldn’t matter given the way a certain hitter has been hitting. But Roberts brings in Watson to face McCann and Watson gets a one-pitch double play. Awesome, Watson will be totally rested for the 7th inning. But instead, out trotting from the bullpen for the top of the 7th is Ross Stripling, who surrenders a four-pitch walk to Marwin Gonzalez and then HE gets pulled. That’s already four relievers that Roberts has gone through and you haven’t even gotten an out in the 7th inning yet. You’d think the Astros had put up 10 runs by that point, but they only had the 1 on the board. Morrow dominated the 7th inning, then let up a double to Alex Bregman that was nearly caught on what would have been an amazing play by Yasiel Puig. Roberts then baffles me by bringing in Kenley Jansen for a six-out save in a 2-run game. Look, Dave, I get it, Jansen is the best closer in the game. But he didn’t look that great in Game 1 the night prior and now you want him to get six outs with an inherited runner? The run does score and makes the game 3-2 but Jansen is able to get out of the 8th inning with the lead intact. Heading to the ninth and this happens:

And there goes Jansen’s record streak of consecutive converted saves to begin a postseason career (12). Jansen was able to recover and got the next three outs. But then the 10th inning happened. No issues here with Roberts’ decision to go with Fields, it’s not his fault that Fields decided to hang a couple of pitches to the Astros’ two best hitters:

Gurriel then hit a double to follow up the back-to-back home runs and Roberts had seen enough and pulled Fields for Tony Cingrani. Right call. Cingrani got the next three outs. It’s now the bottom of the 10th and the Astros hold a 5-3 lead. Closer Ken Giles, who had come in the 9th and sent the game into the 10th, was back out there to face Yasiel Puig. Puig proceeds to do this:

Love how Puig gently placed his bat on the ground after that. Giles gets the next two outs, then walks Logan Forsythe. He bounces a pitch and Forsythe takes second base with Kike Hernandez at the dish. Then Hernandez gets the first Dodgers hit that didn’t leave the yard.

Puig’s reaction was pretty great too.

That sent the game to the top of the 11th. Roberts brings in Brandon McCarthy to replace Tony Cingrani. I understand Roberts’ thinking here, McCarthy is normally a starter and you may need him to eat up innings. But McCarthy is your last remaining reliever! Cingrani only threw 5 pitches and has starter experience! McCarthy promptly gives up a single to Cameron Maybin, Maybin steals second to earn everyone a free Taco, then George Springer came up:

7-5 Astros. McCarthy gets the next 3 batters. Astros leave in Chris Devenski, who finished off the bottom of the 10th. He gets the first two batters, then Charlie Culberson gets in on the fun.

Based on the way Culberson was rounding the bases, it’s possible that he thought he had tied the game. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was trying to hype up his team similar to the way Joc Pederson rounded the bases on his home run way back in the 5th.

Devenski responded by striking out Yasiel Puig on a long and suspenseful at bat to finally end this instant classic. I have to say, Dave Roberts needs to do better with managing his bullpen if the Dodgers are to advance. Or perhaps he handled it as well as anybody and he just had the worst luck. That’s equally likely. But a lot of the blame has to fall on his shoulders. Rant over.

Some other notes from this game.

-Some de ja vu in Game 2. Game 1 saw Keuchel serve up a 2-run homer to the number 2 hitter in the order after a 2-out walk from Chris Taylor to make the score 3-1 Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. The exact same thing happened in Game 2 to Justin Verlander.

Baseball is weird.

-Verlander had been no-hitting the Dodgers up until Pederson’s home run that narrowly missed Josh Reddick’s glove. He was really good all night, going 6 innings allowing only 2 hits and striking out 5. Unfortunately for him, both hits he let up left the yard.

-I didn’t like the move to have Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Granderson’s experience and Pederson’s reckless swing made Grandy the obvious choice in my brain, but it worked in Roberts’ favor in Game 2, as Pederson’s home run gave the Dodgers the spark they needed against Verlander.

-What would’ve happened had Yasiel Puig been able to make that diving catch to rob Alex Bregman of a double, which started the scoring for the Astros? We can only wonder. Can’t blame Puig for not catching it, though. It was amazing he even had a chance to make a play at it.

Looking Ahead:

We have a full day off to digest this game before Game 3 on Friday in Houston. The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the hill to face Lance McCullers. The Dodgers will need to rethink their strategy, as Houston has yet to lose a game at home this postseason (which had been the case for LA prior to this game). Lucky for them, they have a full day off to rest their bullpen, but Darvish NEEDS to go deep into this game to preserve the ‘pen.

Prediction for Game 3:

After what we just witnessed, I haven’t the slightest idea as to what’s going to happen in Game 3. Literally anything could happen. I’m just going to toss a coin. Heads the Dodgers bounce back, Tails the Astros keep up momentum. *Flips coin* It’s Tails.