Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and here's a suggestion for SAT creators, in the simile section: Pedro Baez: ? as gasoline: fire.
Pedro Baez must be stopped
If you listened really closely Tuesday night at the start of the seventh inning of the Dodgers-Phillies game, you could hear people all across L.A. shout "No! Not him!"
That sound was caused by Dave Roberts bringing Pedro Baez into the game with a 2-1 lead. Here's what happened next: Triple. Hit by pitch. Pop out. Walk. Fly ball. Walk in a run. Bases clearing double. Dodgers trail, 5-2.
And it didn't happen quickly. You see, Pedro Baez likes to take his time between pitches. It's like pouring thick cough syrup out of a bottle. It takes forever, and when it finally does come out it tastes horrible. So we had to suffer more than normal through every pitch
I received more emails after Tuesday's game than for any other game in the history of this newsletter (three seasons now). And they all said the same basic thing. Why did Dave Roberts bring in Pedro Baez?
Here's a theory:
1. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will be deciding the Dodgers' playoff roster.
2. Dave Roberts knows that, while Baez has his good moments, when it comes to pressure situations, he tends to fall apart (his postseason ERA is 6.52 and he gave up six runs in three innings against the Cubs during last season's NLCS).
3. Everyone could see that Baez had totally lost command, but while Baez was falling apart on the mound, Roberts sat stone faced in the dugout.
4. After the game, Roberts said: "Where Pedro was at a few weeks ago, versus now, he's in a different spot. You've got to take your best 25, when you're talking about potentially getting a postseason roster together."
5. Roberts doesn't decide the playoff roster, so the statement above is aimed directly at Friedman and Zaidi.
6. Roberts was proving a point and left Baez out there on purpose.
Of course, Roberts isn't going to admit that publicly, but it all makes sense. If the playoffs started today, Baez would not be on the roster. But it's not like the Dodgers are overwhelmed with great options in the bullpen, because…
Wait, there's more bad news
With a gigantic lead heading into the month, the Dodgers were planning to use September as an open audition among the relief crew to decide who would be their key setup men for Kenley Jansen. Here we are, on Sept. 22, and the audition process has led to almost no one. Let's take a look at each member of the bullpen in September.
Kenley Jansen: He's fine. The Dodgers have been so bad this month that he has had to pitch only 6 2/3 innings, but when he does pitch he's as good as ever.
Brandon Morrow: He has become a decent set-up man for Jansen, striking out 12 in the 7 2/3 innings he has pitched this month. He will be the eighth-inning guy in the playoffs.
Tony Watson: After a shaky start, he has settled down to become a reliable pitcher, striking out seven and giving up just four hits in 7 1/3 September innings.
Tony Cingrani: The biggest surprise. He has the best strikeout rate among any Dodgers pitchers this month (14.1).
That's where the good news ends. Before we talk about the rest of the bullpen, let's look at their ERAs in September
Luis Avilan: 3.86
Brock Stewart: 4.32
Josh Fields: 5.14
Ross Stripling: 9.82
Walker Buehler: 10.13
Josh Ravin: 13.50
Pedro Baez: 20.77
A couple of these guys are going to have to turn things around because the Dodgers are going to need good relief pitching in the sixth and seventh inning. Just look at the average innings per start for the rotation:
Clayton Kershaw, 6.52
Alex Wood, 5.87
Hyun-jin Ryu, 5.42
Brandon McCarthy, 5.41
Rich Hill, 5.31
Yu Darvish, 5.28
Kenta Maeda, 5.05 (After Thursday's game in which Maeda lasted three innings, Roberts said he would be moving to the bullpen).
As you can see, only Kershaw reliably pitches into the seventh inning. They will probably stick with him longer in the postseason, and they were hoping Darvish would pitch more than five innings a start. But otherwise, expect relievers to start coming into the game in the sixth inning.
And right now they have no reliever who can do that without making everyone nervous, unless they want Jansen to pitch four innings every game.
Why is this happening now, when the bullpen has been solid all season? I think the guys are exhausted. Most of them have pitched or are close to passing their career highs in innings pitched and/or games played, and that doesn't count the times they have warmed up in the bullpen and not been used. They look tired.
One more thing, and this is just for you Dodgers relievers who are reading this: Would it kill you to throw inside occasionally? Everything is away. Batters are just sitting on that pitch. I want to see one reliever come up and in on a batter and let the other team know that they shouldn't get too comfortable up there. Because right now they look very comfortable, and if it continues like that into the playoffs, then the Dodgers aren't getting past the first round.
It looks to me like Corey Seager is in a lot of pain out there, especially when he swings the bat. He's playing with a sore right elbow, and probably would be on the DL if it wasn't September. Meanwhile, in September he is hitting .180/.236/.280.
The Dodgers are trying to clinch best record, and Thursday they had their center fielder playing shortstop, their first baseman playing center, one second baseman playing first and their other second baseman playing third. I know it was because Justin Turner got hurt, but wow, that seems to be doing it the hard way.
Best record in baseball
The Dodgers are trying to play for the best record in baseball. Here's how it stands:
Cleveland, 96-57, one game back
Houston, 93-59, 3 ½ back
Washington, 92-60, 4 ½ back
Up in the air
When Yasmani Grandal homered on Tuesday, the 2017 Dodgers became the first team in franchise history to have six players with at least 20 home runs.
2017 Dodgers (6): Cody Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner.
2000 Dodgers (5): Adrian Beltre, Shawn Green, Todd Hundley, Eric Karros, Gary Sheffield
1979 Dodgers (5): Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Joe Ferguson, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes
2016 Dodgers (4): Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Justin Turner
2001 Dodgers (4): Shawn Green, Marquis Grissom, Paul Lo Duca, Gary Sheffield
1999 Dodgers (4): Todd Hundley, Eric Karros, Raul Mondesi, Gary Sheffield
1997 Dodgers (4): Eric Karros, Raul Mondesi, Mike Piazza, Todd Zeile
1977 Dodgers (4): Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith
1956 Dodgers (4): Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider
1955 Dodgers (4): Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider
1953 Dodgers (4): Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider
Shameless plug dept.
On Wed., Oct. 11 at 7 p.m., I will be moderating a discussion with former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti at Chevalier's Books at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. in Los Angeles. Colletti will also be signing copies of his book at the event. So if you've ever wanted to boo me in person, please stop by.
Also, if you are a fan of horse racing, The Times is starting a horse racing newsletter that will work very much like this Dodgers newsletter. It will include entries and results and the news of the day. And it's free! To sign up, click here: http://lat.ms/2wVt9oq.
Ask Ross Porter
A very happy 90th birthday to Tommy Lasorda today!
Here's a tip from Tommy: Don't tell people your problems. 80% don't care and 20% are glad you got 'em.
Johnny Tillotson asks: Any theories, Ross, about why the Dodgers lost 16 of 17 games?
Ross: Baseball is a game of adjustments, Johnny. Pitchers adjust to hitters and hitters adjust to pitchers. A scout whose opinion I respect tells me that Dodger batters made no adjustments during the cold spell. They continued doing what they had done for five months and rival pitchers began to change the way they challenged them and were successful. In their last 26 games, the Dodgers have lost 20.
Stan Kunin asks: Todd Frazier of the Yankees hit a foul ball Wednesday which hit a little girl in the stands while traveling 105 miles an hour. Ross, I never understood why, 1. Parents bring little kids or babies to a game especially in the lower stands; 2. Why MLB has not put up protective netting down the line. Will it take a death of a fan to open the eyes of the front office before action is taken?
Ross: MLB mandated that netting or screens be extended to at least each dugout before the 2016 season. Stan, the Yankees declined to extend their netting to the foul poles. Do owners want to justify the cost of field level seats?
Kris Kemp asks: Chris Taylor hit an inside-the-park home run Monday night. Weren't they more common in the past?
Ross: In 1901, 35% of homers were inside-the-park. By 1920, it was just over 20%, in the 1950s down to 4% and since the 1960s, 1% or less. In 1974, of 3,433 homers, only 31 were I-T-P. Last season, MLB hitters slugged 5,610 dingers and just NINE were inside-the-park. Why the drastic dropoff? Smaller parks and better outfielders. Jesse Burkett hit the most — 55. Sam Crawford had 12 one season, and there's been only one in the World Series since 1929.
Barbara Massa asks: Is Maury Wills in the Hall of Fame? If not, do you think he has a chance of getting in?
Ross: No, Maury has not been inducted, but I believe he should be because he revived the stolen base as an offensive tool. Wills led the NL in steals for six straight seasons and wound up with 586 in his big-league career, which didn't begin until he was 26. Maury received nine of the 12 required votes by the Hall of Fame Golden Era Committee in 2015. His next chance will be in 2018. Maury now lives in Arizona and will celebrate his 85th birthday in 10 days.
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will answer select reader questions throughout the season. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on. Please include "Ask Ross" in the subject line of the email.
Friday, 7 p.m. PT, San Francisco (Jeff Samardzija, 9-14, 4.42) at Dodgers (Rich Hill, 10-8, 3.60)
Saturday, 6 p.m. PT, San Francisco (Madison Bumgarner, 3-9, 3.48) at Dodgers (Hyun-jin Ryu, 5-7, 3.46)
Sunday, 1 p.m. PT, San Francisco (Chris Stratton, 3-3, 3.94) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 17-4, 2.26)
Note: Pitchers are subject to change
Dodgers to give Kenta Maeda and Hyun-jin Ryu a chance to make postseason roster as relievers. Read all about it here.