"I think it's fair to say it was an organizational failure. … Our goal was to win 11 games in October and we didn't win one."- Andrew Friedman, Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, 2022. Or 2023.
This past week, the Los Angeles Dodgers' postmortem press conference sounded like deja vu all over again when Andrew Friedman lamented another early Dodgers October exit. The "organizational failure" line from Friedman sounded eerily familiar, because it's the exact same thing he said in 2022.
Despite acknowledging such failures, Friedman didn't give specifics about how to fix what's ailing the organization, nor did he admit any changes would be made. For those who thought manager Dave Roberts might get the ax, Friedman nixed that idea right away.
So if three early exits in October won't bring changes, then maybe it's time the Dodgers got back to a winning October formula.
Dodgers must make these changes in MLB Playoffs
This past season, the Dodgers scored over 900 runs for the first time since 1953 when they were in Brooklyn. Four players -- Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez, and Max Muncy -- became the first Dodgers quartet to drive in 100 runs in a season.
Yet in the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers scored exactly two runs each game, with their foursome only driving in one run. The Dodgers' reliance on a top-heavy lineup reared its ugly head for the second consecutive October, and the rest of the team couldn't pick up the slack.
During their run of deep Octobers, the Dodgers presented opposing starters with the difficult task of grinding through deep lineups. In 2017, Justin Turner was the team's best hitter, but Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, and Enrique Hernández had their own moments and each hit three home runs. In 2018, Puig led the Dodgers with an .855 OPS hitting mostly out of the seventh spot.
Friedman and the organization need to get back to what makes them better. Deeper rosters means deeper runs in October.
Starters Have to Go Deep
Nothing screams Dodgers failure like their starting pitching in October. In the NLDS against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers got 4.2 innings from their three starters. That kind of production is fairly pathetic, but it's not an anomaly for the Dodgers.
In 2022's four-game NLDS loss, no Dodgers starter was able to get past five innings, and the bullpen couldn't keep from melting down. The Dodgers, like most baseball front offices, like to say that in October, you have to get 27 outs however you can. The cold reality, though, is that you need guys to go deep in October or you'll burn out the bullpen.
The Dodgers need only look at what the Philadelphia Phillies have gotten out of their top two starters in recent days. This October, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have each gone at least six innings in every start. For some perspective, the Dodgers haven't had two starting pitchers go six innings in a postseason series since the 2021 NLDS, when Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer did so in Games 1and 3. If you're counting, that's 13 straight games.
In 2023, you can get away with getting 27 outs by using your whole staff, but the Dodgers have proven that strategy isn't working for them. Friedman and his front office need to find frontline starters who can get 18 outs plus more often.
That's the task for 2024. Yes, the Dodgers should strive to get to October, and that means a good regular season. To win in October, though, they need to get back to what worked before, by crafting a deep lineup and prioritizing starters who can save the bullpen by going deep in games.
If they don't do that, it's gonna be easy to know what Friedman is gonna say next October..."I think it's fair to say it was an organizational failure."