Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. Is it true that Disney is working on a Star Wars/Dodgers movie titled “Solo: A Dodgers home run story?”
The playoffs are just around the corner, and while there are no guarantees the Dodgers will get there, let’s take a moment to discuss what the playoff roster could be. For purposes of this exercise, we will assume everyone who has played this season is healthy and available (except Corey Seager). And we will make our determinations based on how they are playing right now.
Yes, I know Barnes is hitting about as well as a blindfolded drunk guy, but his defense is solid, and the Dodgers will usually give the spot to the best defensive guy. And Kyle Farmer isn’t the greatest catcher in the world.
That was relatively easy, but the pitching is a lot tougher.
When Hyun-jin Ryu and Ross Stripling come back this month, the Dodgers will have nine pitchers who have started more than one game for them: Ryu, Stripling, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, Walker Buehler, Caleb Ferguson and Brock Stewart. For the rest of the regular season, I would expect them to go with a six-man rotation, giving everyone an extra day off here and there while keeping Kershaw on a regular schedule. The playoffs need only a four-man rotation, so who will it be? Here’s a prediction:
Walker Buehler or Ross Stripling, whoever is pitching better
If Ryu pitches great when he comes back, he could edge Buehler or Stripling out. Maeda was so great in the bullpen last postseason that I think he could be the consistent setup man the Dodgers need. Ferguson is pitching well out of the bullpen, and I’d be surprised if Stewart is even on the playoff roster.
That leaves the Dodgers with this bullpen:
Buehler or Stripling
Which leaves one spot to go to one of the following: Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Erik Goeddel, J.T. Chargois, John Axford, Zac Rosscup. Whoever is pitching well in late September gets the spot. Ryu probably wouldn't be added to the bullpen because it take him a while to warm up properly.
Of course, the Dodgers have to make the playoffs first for any of this to become meaningful.
OK, I know playing pro baseball is tough and that most of us would have no chance to even a lay a glove on the ball, but, with all due respect, can someone show Yasmani Grandal how to hold on to a baseball?
Grandal has been one of the best hitters in baseball for the last few weeks, but Wednesday’s game could have turned out much differently if he had held on to the throw home from Manny Machado in the eighth inning, allowing the go-ahead run to score in Oakland’s 3-2 win.
I know Grandal is consistently among the best catchers in pitch framing (to me, a bogus stat because how do you know that the umpire called a pitch a strike because of how a catcher framed it? Maybe he would have called it a strike no matter how it was caught. A stat based on what you think an umpire is thinking isn’t too reliable).
But you know what else Grandal is good at? Passed balls. He has led the league in passed balls three of the last four years, and he also seems to have a tendency to misplay balls that are thrown home. Growing up in an era where the Dodgers catchers were Steve Yeager and Mike Scioscia makes these things tend to stand out more.
Hip, hip, ouch
Corey Seager had surgery on his left hip on Tuesday. Seager hurt the hip early in the season, and since he is already out for the year because of Tommy John surgery, there was no reason to wait until after the season to repair his hip.
However, Dave Roberts said something interesting when discussing Seager: “I know we see him as a shortstop. From what I understand, both those surgeries, we expect him to be the player that he was. Obviously with the elbow issues that he had, and the hip, probably a better player than he was, as far as the health side of it. He played at a high level with those injuries. We’d expect him to sustain that.”
Let me do some arithmetic here. Take Roberts saying the Dodgers see Seager as a shortstop. Add in the fact that Manny Machado has said he would like to play shortstop, considering that’s his natural position. Then add in what Farhan Zaidi said the day the Dodgers acquired Machado: "We hope he plays well and creates a good market for himself.”
What does that add up to? To me, it means Machado won’t be back next season. However, with the new math they are teaching kids these days, who knows?
Home run dependent?
I get a lot of emails from readers who say the Dodgers are too reliant on home runs and don’t score many runs otherwise. I am a big believer that human nature wants to find patterns in things, and once we feel we recognize a pattern, we always say, “See!” It reinforces that belief and dismisses things that go in opposite of that belief. So, let’s take a look at teams that have scored the highest percentage of their runs from home runs. Are the Dodgers near the top of that field?
1. New York Yankees, 52.8%
2. Baltimore, 49.1%
3. Philadelphia, 48.9%
4. Toronto, 48.7%
5. Milwaukee, 48.6%
6. Cleveland, 48.2%
7. Oakland, 45.9%
8. Dodgers, 45.8%
9. Washington, 45.7%
10. Colorado, 45.61%
11. St. Louis, 45.58%
12. Angels, 45.5%
13. Boston, 45.3%
14. Houston, 44.3%
15. New York Mets, 44.2%
16. Cincinnati, 44%
17. Seattle, 43.8%
18. Texas, 43.6%
19. Chicago White Sox, 42.3%
20. Arizona, 41.7%
21. Kansas City, 41.5%
22. Atlanta, 40.1%
23. Miami, 40%
24. San Francisco, 39.9%
25. Pittsburgh, 39.2%
26. Minnesota, 38.8%
27. Chicago Cubs, 38.4%
28. San Diego, 37.3%
29. Detroit, 37.2%
30. Tampa Bay, 35.7%
So, of the top 10, nine are solid playoff contenders and the other is Baltimore.
Last season, the juggernaut Dodgers scored 50.3% of their runs on homers, so they actually have improved in that area.
More clutch hitting
In the last newsletter, I listed the Dodgers who had the highest batting average with two out and runners in scoring position since the team moved to L.A. in 1958. Many of you emailed to ask who were the worst. Here’s your answer.
Minimum 100 plate appearances
1. Dave Anderson, .179
2. Rick Monday, .185
3. Steve Yeager, .190
4. A.J. Ellis, .193
5. Scott Van Slyke, .194
6. Cody Bellinger, .19567
7. Todd Hundley, .19565
7. Derrel Thomas, .19565
9. Mariano Duncan, .1958
10. Joc Pederson, .197
Minimum 200 plate appearances
1. Dave Anderson, .179
2. Rick Monday, .185
3. Steve Yeager, .190
4. A.J. Ellis, .193
5. Joc Pederson, .197
6. Dave Hansen, .200
7. Yasmani Grandal, .203
8. Greg Brock, .209
9. Tim Wallach, .211
10. Yasiel Puig, .215
Three current Dodgers are on that list; that’s not good.
Minimum 300 plate appearances
1. Steve Yeager, .190
2. Yasiel Puig, .215
3. Frank Howard, .217
4. John Roseboro, .220
5. Joe Ferguson, .226
6. Mike Scioscia, .228
7. Jim Gilliam, .232
8. Raul Mondesi, .233
9. Andre Ethier, .237
10. Dusty Baker, .240
Ask Ross Porter
Walter McClure of Westerville, Ohio, asks: Ross, help me settle a bet. Have there been more no-hitters or batters hitting for the cycle in the modern era?
Ross: It's close. Players have hit for the cycle 319 times and there have been 299 no-hitters, including 23 perfect games.
The Dodgers have the most no-hitters, 26, four by Sandy Koufax. The Red Sox and White Sox each have 18. San Diego has none. Koufax has the only Dodger perfect game, but the franchise has been the victim of the most perfectos, three, by Don Larsen, Tom Browning and Dennis Martinez. The most no-hitters and perfect games have come since 2010. More no-hitters have been thrown on Saturdays and in September. Only three Dodgers have hit for the cycle (single, double, triple and home run in the same game): Wes Parker in 1970, Orlando Hudson in 2009, and Cody Bellinger in 2017. The Marlins have never had a player hit for the cycle.
Richard Rorex of Apple Valley asks: Ross, how many three-pitch half-innings have there been, and has there been a worst ninth inning than the one I saw in 1990 when the Phillies scored nine runs in the ninth inning to beat the Dodgers 12-11?
Ross: There have been over 200 three-pitch half innings in history. Walter Johnson did it three times. In that game 28 years ago, Richard, the Dodgers were ahead 11-1 after seven. In 1901, Washington led Cleveland 13-5 with two out and no one on base in the bottom of the ninth. The Indians scored nine runs to win 14-13 and the game was played in two hours.
Alice King of Quincy, Calif., and Jim Worthen of Pismo Beach ask: What is the function of the first base coach?
Ross: A batter who gets a hit uses the coach to decide whether to go for a double. If there is a runner on first base and the batter hits a line drive, the coach must find the ball and instruct the runner to go or stay. The baserunner may forget or miss a sign and relies on the coach to help him, perhaps asking for a timeout and holding a conversation in foul territory away from the first baseman. To keep the runner from trying to read the scoreboard, the coach can remind him of the count, number of outs, and can scream if there is a pickoff attempt. He can tell the runner to break for second base if there is a wild pitch or passed ball. If the runner is a potential base stealer, the coach can hold a stopwatch to time the pitcher's delivery to the plate, give a verbal sign such as a name or number, and might even whisper in the runner's ear.
Scott Yates of Valrico, Fla., asks: Ross, how are minor league players paid when they are called up to the majors and then back down to the minors?
Ross: The payment of a player called to the big leagues depends on that player's individual contract with the stipulation that a player added to a major league team for the first time is entitled to the major league minimum. Players could be paid a certain amount at the minor and major league levels, perhaps even above the MLB minimum. A major league club is responsible for the minor league contract.
More KTLA games
For those of you who live in the Los Angeles area and are unable to see Dodgers games on TV, there will be four games televised on KTLA (Channel 5). Those games are:
Wednesday, Aug. 15, vs. San Francisco, 7 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 20, vs. St. Louis, 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 31, vs. Arizona, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 4, vs. New York Mets, 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, there is no agreement between DirecTV and Spectrum SportsNet coming in the near future.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m.: Dodgers (Ross Stripling, 8-3, 2.68 ERA) at Colorado (Tyler Anderson, 6-4, 4.05 ERA).
Friday, 5:30 p.m.: Dodgers (Kenta Maeda, 7-7, 3.73 ERA) at Colorado (Jon Gray, 9-7, 4.73 ERA)
Saturday, 5 p.m.: Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 4-4, 3.65 ERA) at (Kyle Freeland, 10-7, 3.04 ERA).
Sunday, noon: Dodgers (TBD) at Colorado (Chad Bettis, 5-2, 5.67 ERA)
Dodgers hope to find right bullpen mix for October. Read all about it here.