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 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series to even the Series at 3 games apiece to force a winner-take-all Game 7 set for Wednesday night. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Justin Verlander got the loss, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save. Some takeaways:

-Kenley Jansen looked like Kenley Jansen for the first time in this World Series. Dave Roberts brought him in to get the 6-out save, which did not go well in Game 2, however he was dominant this time out. Astros hitters looked completely lost up there as he retired all 6 batters he faced, including strikeouts of Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran to end it

-With Francisco Liriano’s appearance in the 8th inning, only Houston third-string catcher Juan Centeno has yet to appear in a game in this World Series. I don’t have any stat on if there has ever been a World Series where everybody played because Baseball Reference won’t return my Tweets. Sad.

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When everyone gets to play in the World Series except you (photo credit: Houston Chronicle)

-Cody Bellinger became a part of baseball immortality in this game for all the wrong reasons. He went 0-4 with 4 K’s for the second time in this World Series, which has never happened before, and has struck out 14 times in this series, which is a record.

-Again, I had a problem with Dave Roberts’ handling of Rich Hill. This video right here was the entire offense for the Astros:

Hill got pulled with 2 outs in the 5th inning. To start that inning, he let up a single to Brian McCann, which was a great play by Yasiel Puig in right to hold him to a single because that ball easily could have gone for extra bases. Then Marwin Gonzalez hit a double under the dive of Justin Turner at 3rd base to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out (McCann would have scored had Puig not held him to just a single). Hill then strikes out Josh Reddick after falling behind 3-0 then strikes out Justin Verlander. Dave Roberts leaves him in long enough to intentionally walk George Springer then pulls him for Brandon Morrow. The crowd met this decision with a chorus of boos, then a standing ovation for Hill, who was seen slapping at some cups in the dugout. Last time Roberts pulled him early in Game 2, he slammed his glove. I really feel for Rich Hill because he has pitched his heart out this World Series without the confidence of his manager.

-Speaking of Brandon Morrow, he has pitched in all 6 games of this World Series. The only man to pitch all 7 games was Darold Knowles in the 1973 World Series for the Oakland A’s. One thing to note, his team won. Morrow was significantly better in Game 6 than Game 5, where I broke down his outing pitch-by-pitch. In Game 5, Morrow’s fastball was about 95 mph. It’s supposed to be about 98, which it was in Game 6. Rest helps.

-Play of the game has to be this double from Chris Taylor:

He fights off the pitch for a double off Verlander, who had been DOMINANT up until that point. This was the moment where the Dodgers revived their hopes for this series, as next at bat was this Corey Seager sac fly that probably would’ve left the yard if this was Games 1-5

I can only imagine how loud the crowd would’ve been had it gone a couple more feet. It was wet and damp for the middle innings of this game and that likely was the main reason this was only a 1-run play and not 3. But it was plenty considering how well the Dodgers pitched.

-Joc Pederson is probably the most fun dude to watch round bases

He’s got 3 home runs this postseason and continues to make me look like an idiot for thinking Curtis Granderson should’ve gotten the roster spot over him. For as much shit as I have given Dave Roberts in these blogs, he has shown time and again that he knows more about baseball than me.

-Justin Verlander just couldn’t catch a break this series. In Game 2, he pitched 4.2 no-hit innings before serving up a home run to Pederson, then a 2-run homer to Seager in the 6th. In this one, he serves up an excuse-me double and a sac fly for the only runs he allowed and he gets hit with the loss. He had allowed only 1 hit through the first 5 innings and that was on a blooper by Yasiel Puig that Springer MIGHT have been able to catch had he dove, though he may have been having second thoughts after what happened in Game 5, the last time he dove (he missed and Bellinger ended up with a triple).

-The home plate umpire was Dan Iassogna tonight. Bill Miller was relegated to right field duties. I’m not sure if Iassogna’s strike zone was good or not, but if I’m not thinking about your calls more than the actual game, that’s a good sign.

Looking Ahead:

The two best words in sports: Game Seven. The pitching matchup is going to be Lance McCullers vs Yu Darvish, a rematch of Game 3. McCullers was seen playing catch after Game 6 was done. Interesting call by him, that might be something worth talking about during his start in Game 7. But he pitched decently last time out in Game 3, better than his stat line might have suggested, while Darvish is coming off a disastrous performance. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself and face Yuli Gurriel for the first time since the little incident with Gurriel making squinty eyes after homering off Darvish. Though based on the way Darvish responded to the incident (about as professionally as humanly possible), I doubt that’s going to be too heavy on his mind. All hands will be on deck for this one because it will be do or die for this winner-take-all Game 7. Both starting pitchers will be pulled at the first sign of trouble and everyone except Hill and Verlander will be available for this game (Hell, Clayton Kershaw tried to convince Roberts to let him go in this game. He was the starting pitcher in Game 5).

Prediction:

Yeah, I’m not going to try and predict how this one’s going to go. The way these two teams have played, anything is possible. This has been an all-timer of a World Series and it’s only fitting that it goes 7 games. But I guess if you really want a prediction, I’ll flip a coin again. Heads Dodgers win first title since 1988, Tails Astros win first title in franchise history. *Flips coin*. Congrats Dodgers.

World Series Game 3 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 to take Game 3 of the World Series and have a 2-1 series lead. Lance McCullers was the winning pitcher, Yu Darvish got the loss, and Brad Peacock earned the save. Some takeaways:

-Yu Darvish did not have the good stuff at all. He looked solid in the first inning but in the second all movement on his breaking pitches just vanished. The pitch he served up the homerun to Yuli Gurriel on was about as flat a pitch can be.

He was yanked after 1.2 innings of work, allowing 4 runs. I wrote in the Game 2 blog that Darvish needed to go deep in this game to help Dave Roberts and the bullpen. He did no such thing, of course.

-Dave Roberts still used a ton of relievers in this game, but to significantly more success than in Game 2. They didn’t allow a single earned run (1 unearned run was charged to Tony Watson on an error he himself committed) in their 6.1 innings of work. The Astros were constantly getting on and threatening to do damage but they couldn’t push the runner home after that 4-run second inning.

-Kenta Maeda was a godsend for Roberts. After using every single reliever in Game 2, Roberts had to be sweating bullets when he had to pull Darvish in the second inning. But Maeda was able to go 2.2 strong innings, only letting up 1 hit and striking out 2, throwing fewer pitches than Darvish while pitching one more total inning.

-This game really wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. The Dodgers couldn’t get anything going offensively all night. Their first run was scored on a double play after Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded with nobody out in the third. That was their only run until the 6th when they got runners on second and third with nobody out. Cody Bellinger then struck out, Yasiel Puig got an RBI groundout, then Justin Turner scored from third on a ball that skipped through Brian McCann’s legs. So the Dodgers score 3 runs but only 1 RBI on 4 hits.

-Corey Seager’s aggressiveness at the plate came back to bite him in this game. I’m talking in particular about his at bat in the third inning after McCullers had walked three straight hitters to load the bases after waiting 30 minutes between pitches because of the Astros’ offensive outburst. In that situation, if a guy isn’t throwing strikes, don’t swing unless he can prove he can get it in there, ESPECIALLY, if he just walked the bases loaded with nobody out. But instead, Seager went up there hacking on a couple of pitches that were definitely out of the zone. The first one he fouled off, the second he bounced into a very aesthetically pleasing 3-6-1 double play. I know he’s only 23, but he’s smarter than that.

-Brad Peacock has to be your player of the game. Lance McCullers was really shaky and was lucky to come out of this game with a decent line (5.1 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 3 K’s) and Peacock got off to a shaky start, as he let Puig hit the RBI groundout and threw the wild pitch that allowed Turner to score. But after that the Dodgers couldn’t touch him. Peacock went 3.2 innings, didn’t allow a single hit, walked one batter and struck out 4. He was in such a groove that manager AJ Hinch left him in there in the 9th inning with a 2-run lead despite having Ken Giles in the bullpen. In fact, he didn’t have anybody warming up in the bullpen in the 9th. Chris Devenski did warm up in the 8th, but that’s about it. The fact that Hinch only had to use one reliever sets the Astros up nicely for the remainder of the series. If it were Roberts in this situation, he would’ve sent out Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to get the final six outs.

-Another note about Peacock’s performance. Basically the same formula that won Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros against the Yankees worked here in Game 3 of the World Series: let your starter go just enough innings, then have another guy who started games this year finish the last few innings. I also bitched about Peacock in Game 1 and how he kept going to the same pitch in the same spot and wasn’t fooling a single Dodgers hitter. He did the exact opposite in Game 3. He was mixing his spots really well and I don’t know if I really saw any Dodger get a good piece on any of Peacock’s pitches

-Are Cody Bellinger and hitting coach Turner Wade having some sort of feud or something where they refuse to talk to each other? Because Astros pitchers keep throwing Bellinger the same pitch, curveball low and inside, and he keeps whiffing at them. It came to a head in Game 3 as he struck out 4 times in 4 at bats, the second youngest player to do that in World Series history (youngest was Mickey Mantle, so Bellinger has that going for him). But I can’t believe Wade hasn’t had some sort of conversation with Bellinger saying “hey, they’re probably going to throw you a curveball low and in. Don’t swing at it.” Or at least something along those lines because it’s getting really frustrating to watch a young hitter with as much talent as Bellinger make the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again. It wasn’t just this game, either, he’s been doing this all series. Normally, when a guy is slumping like this (Bellinger is 0-11 in the World Series), you sit him down and let him reset and work on things. But you can’t do that now in the World Series with one of your most potent hitters. Wade and Bellinger NEED to come up with something right now if the Dodgers want to even things up in Game 4 because whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

-This could get problematic for Gurriel:

I’m not just talking about his hair either, which looks like a cross between Pidgeot and Yu-Gi-Oh. It was a very brief shot where Gurriel seems to grab his eyes in a squinting motion, seemingly making fun of the fact that Yu Darvish is Japanese after Gurriel hit a bomb off the Dodgers pitcher. It was done so quickly that I’m not so sure if that was intentional or if he was just grabbing his face for some reason, but nonetheless there will be questions for the Astros first baseman and possibly a punishment on the way

-Should Gurriel get suspended for this gesture, there is a relatively easy fix despite Gurriel being the only player listed as a first baseman on the roster. Marwin Gonzalez, who has been the left fielder for most of the season, has a lot of experience at first base and the Astros can slide in Cameron Maybin into left field in his stead. I don’t think a suspension will come of this unless Major League Baseball can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gurriel’s gesture was racially charged.

-When Alex Wood makes the start for the Dodgers tomorrow, every single Dodger on the World Series roster will have appeared in the World Series, which is pretty crazy, but that’s what happens when your manager makes every move imaginable. If all goes well for the Dodgers, Roberts will only have to use Josh Fields, Brandon McCarthy, and Jansen in Game 4 because those were the only guys he didn’t go to in Game 3. Unfortunately for him, the fact that it’s Wood on the mound doesn’t bode too well for that outcome. He averages fewer than 6 innings per start this season and the way the Astros have been hitting of late, we may get more of the same.

Looking Ahead:

Game 4 pits Alex Wood of the Dodgers against Charlie Morton of the Astros. The Dodgers will have a very tired bullpen while the Astros have everyone except Peacock at their disposal. It’s going to be up to the Dodgers offense to wake up and get some runs on the board because they haven’t been able to consistently manufacture runs (8 of their 12 runs this series have come via the home run). We don’t know what we’re going to get with Morton in this game. He was absolutely terrific against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, but prior to that he had been a punching bag for opposing offenses. If the Dodgers are going to pounce on a guy and try to regain some momentum, this would be the guy because after him it’s Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 and Justin Verlander in Game 6 if they even get that far.

Prediction:

The coin toss called it right last time out and right now I’m not super confident in the Dodgers so I think I’m going to stick with the Astros in Game 4. They’re riding a huge wave of momentum right now and they have the city of Houston rallying behind them after they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I’m going to predict Astros win 6-3.