Managerial Blunders Continue to Haunt the Dodgers
The 2017 loss to the Astros was devastating as much as it was a learning opportunity. The Dodgers were new to the World Series and Dave Roberts was no exception. But when Houston took home the trophy and the blame game commenced, Los Angeles’s loss on the world’s biggest stage was predicated on Dave Roberts making poor decisions
That was last season. Roberts was able to learn from past, forget the horror and plan for the future. Gone should have been the days of pulling pitcher too quickly, playing with the lineups after just one pitching change and exhausting a bullpen far too early in the series. This was not a hope, this was a necessity and through two games in 2018’s World Series- Dave Roberts is making the same mistakes he made just a year ago.
The first big mistake of the series came in game one when Roberts went with his all-righty lineup. On paper it makes sense- start the righties against a lefty and pray that the splits fall in your favor. The issue, however, was Yasiel Puig was in the lineup and Brian Dozier was set to hit at the top of the order.
Puig is a reverse splits guy. In 2018, the right fielder hit .297 against right-handed pitching and just .209 against lefties. Puig hit 23 home runs in the regular season, 19 of which came off a right-handed pitcher. Who could have replaced him you ask? Cody Bellinger, the NLCS MVP, was patiently watching game one on the bench.
This mistake was not too bad. Sure, there was a better lineup somewhere in this roster but that specific lineup was not bad. The real issues came in the same spots the did last year: crucial pitching changes.
If a manager needs to master one thing it is managing his pitching. Don Mattingly could not do it so he was let go by the Dodgers. Gabe Kapler, current manager of the Phillies and former Dodger front office member, changes the pitchers too quickly and he drew heavy criticism for it this year. Dave Roberts, a World Series caliber manager does not struggle so much with when to make a change rather, who he should bring into a game.
Roberts ran with Ryan Madson in game one to replace Kershaw. The decision was justified as Madson has quickly become the Dodgers’ momentum killer and his job has been to clean up a mess on the bases. Quickly after coming into the game, we learned Ryan Madson had no control that night. His pitches were all over the place, opening the appearance with a spiked changeup that bounced about three feet in front of the plate, advancing the base runner.
Both of Madson’s inherited runners scored and again, while there was nothing wrong with going to Madson, bear that information in mind as you continue to read.
The disaster begins here. Pedro Baez was inserted into the game after Julio Urias allowed a tough-luck double to Andrew Benintendi. The Dodgers were down just one run and Baez has been the best reliever on the Dodgers for a while now. In his last 18 regular season appearances, Baez had a 0.47 ERA. In the postseason, he has allowed just one earned run in 7 1/3 innings.
Baez faced Mitch Moreland first and struck him out. Roberts elected to walk the Sox best hitter in J.D Martinez and now there were two on one out. Baez was looking incredible. He struck out Xander Bogaerts and was just one batter away from getting out of the mess and then Dave Roberts walked out from the dugout, raised his left arm and signaled Alex Wood to come in from the bullpen.
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Wood has looked really weak since joining the bullpen. He has been a liability, not effective. Wood came in, Cora countered with Eduardo Nunez at the plate and the rest was history. Nunez blasted a three-run home run to left and put the nail in the coffin for game one.
The mistake cost the Dodgers a win and it was not the last mistake Roberts would go on to make.
In game two Roberts again ran with the righty lineup but to be fair we won’t pick on it. Ryu was the started he was pitching well until he ran into trouble in the fifth inning, loading the bases with two outs. Roberts went to the pen (as he should have) but he called for Ryan Madson.
Normally this is not a bad move. Madson has been great but he was just one day removed from blowing a lead and allowing two inherited runners to score. Madson said to the press after game one that his control was not there anymore and still, Roberts brought him into the game.
As if it were to prove a point, Madson allowed three of three inherited runners to score and the score was now 4-2. That score did not change for the rest of the night.
Baez was the right move there. Put your best guy in for the toughest spots and let him do the work. Do not risk putting in a guy who has publically said he is struggling.
Dave Roberts wants a World Series ring as much as anyone affiliated with the Dodgers does. But, until he cleans up the rookie mistakes and manages the game like he wants to be in the World Series, the Dodgers deficit to a team that is already superior, is magnified. And again, history is repeating itself.