Dodgers Dugout: Here’s why it’s time for Cody Bellinger to sit
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and, let’s reveal some random thoughts about the last week while we await the final 21 games of the regular season.
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—The Dodgers began Sunday tied for the division lead. Since then, they have gone 2-3, the Giants have gone 4-0 and the Dodgers are 2.5 games back.
—That play in the first inning of Wednesday’s game, where Mookie Betts got thrown out trying to score, would have been totally different in seasons past. He would have scored and the Dodgers would have had a big inning. The little things are not going their way this season, but they still have the third-best record in baseball. Remarkable.
—Getting Clayton Kershaw back should be a big help. He will start Monday against Arizona. And having Tony Gonsolin back helps too.
—Who would have guessed in April or May that it would be the Dodgers offense causing them problems in September and not their bullpen? Let’s look at some Dodgers hitters in September:
Corey Seager: .391 (9 for 23)
Will Smith: .353 (6 for 17)
Trea Turner: .313 (10 for 32)
AJ Pollock: .286 (2 for 7)
Austin Barnes: .250 (3 for 12)
Max Muncy: .241 (7 for 29)
Albert Pujols: .222 (2 for 9)
Mookie Betts: .214 (6 for 28)
Justin Turner: .214 (6 for 28)
Chris Taylor: .067 (2 for 30)
Steven Souza Jr.: .167 (1 for 6)
Billy McKinney: .000 (0 for 7)
Cody Bellinger: .000 (0 for 23)
This may be a good time to point out that Matt Beaty is hitting .357 in Oklahoma City.
—Let’s hope there are no more Dodgers games on ESPN this season. Matt Vasgersian is OK, but Alex Rodriguez talks more and says less than any analyst I have ever heard. And Buster Olney tries to get Rodriguez on his side on almost everything he says. “I think, and Alex, who has played, would agree with me on this...” “Alex, wouldn’t you say...” I mean, ask him to the prom already and get it over with.
—The only thing worse would be a Joe Buck-ARod combination.
—Since I am already getting emails about this: If Vin Scully wanted to call part of a Dodgers playoff game, Joe Davis or Joe Buck would gladly drive to his house and pick him up. Scully is retired and doesn’t want to do it. And he has earned that right.
—Since his meltdown against the Giants, Kenley Jansen has gone 1-0 with nine saves and no blown saves, giving up eight hits in 19 innings with eight walks and 25 strikeouts. His inherited runners who scored percentage is 0%. The walks are a bit high, but those are good numbers. If the Dodgers traded for a guy who replaced Jansen and pitched like that, Dodgers fans would be ecstatic.
—Walker Buehler had a tough outing against the Giants. It was one bad outing, nothing to worry about. It happens. It was a bad time for it to happen, but the best starting pitchers in history have had bad outings.
—Barring an epic collapse, the Dodgers will win 100 games this season. They happen to be in the same division with the other NL team that will win more than 100 games this season. Yet the outrage of some people in email or on social media is astounding. And troubling. There are more important things to get angry about. Every team has things it can improve upon. Every team does things that are frustrating. Every team makes decisions that don’t seem to make sense. And fans should question and criticize those things. But to be embarrassed and angry? Go outside and take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK. If you are still angry about a non-playoff loss more than 15 minutes after the game ends, you are doing it wrong. This is supposed to be fun.
—Cody Bellinger is two for 48 against the Giants this season. Think of it like this: You or I would go 0 for 48 against Giants pitchers, but could console ourselves after the final out by saying to ourselves “Well, Bellinger got only two more hits than I did.”
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So I’m going to go off on a rant here. And I’ve written this before, but...
Why is Cody Bellinger in the lineup? I know the reasoning: Defense. Bellinger is hitting .158/.232/.292. His OPS+ is 42, which means he is 58% worse than a league average hitter. He struck out Thursday on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate. Let me repeat that. He struck out Thursday on a pitch that bounced in front of the plate.
But wait, maybe he has been hitting better lately and no one has noticed. Let’s take a look at his September numbers: Let’s see... Bellinger is 0 for 23 in September. Since August 15, he is hitting .093 (7 for 75) with no homers and four RBIs.
There is not a center fielder in history, not Willie Mays, not Garry Maddox, not Curt Flood, not Paul Blair, not Gary Pettis, not Andruw Jones, not Jim Edmonds, not Terry Moore, whose defense was so great that they could play while hitting that poorly. In his last 135 games, which dates before his shoulder injury, Bellinger is hitting .198/.282/.370. That’s not a slump, that’s a bad hitter.
Of course, the choices to replace him (with AJ Pollock injured) don’t hit much better. Billy McKinney (.146/.281/.238, 45 OPS+), Zack McKinstry (.215/.263/.405, 79 OPS+) and Steven Souza Jr. (.161/.235/.355, 60 OPS+) aren’t hitting well and aren’t as good on defense. And in the Dodgers’ defense, they did announce Bellinger would not start against left-handers anymore before Pollock was injured.
This might be a good time to again point out that Matt Beaty is hitting .357 in Oklahoma City. They also have Gavin Lux playing the outfield at Oklahoma City.
And for those of you wondering why Matt Beaty is in the minors, there are a couple of reasons. His defense is subpar, so that’s one. The second is he has options left for the minors. Try to send McKinney down, and you could lose him to another team. The Dodgers don’t want to take that chance right now.
However, despite all of that, an outfield of Beaty in left, Chris Taylor in center and Mookie Betts in right is your best possible outfield when you take everything into consideration. And, when you have a lead late in the game, you can bring in any of the outfielders to replace Beaty on defense.
—I think we are at the point of the season when it’s OK to stop resting players. I mean, there are only 21 games left, and it’s not like all the rest prevented Pollock from getting injured. I don’t think an outfield of Souza, Bellinger and McKinney, like the Dodgers started on Thursday, is the ideal lineup when you are two back with 22 to play.
—Even though it’s strange to say this about a team that is on pace to win 101 games, the Dodgers at times have missed Kiké Hernández. McKinstry didn’t make up for Hernández’s loss, and Hernández would more than likely have been better that Souza or McKinney. The knock on Hernández is he couldn’t hit right-handers, and that was accurate until this season, where he is hitting .244/.322/.424 against righties. It’s not the Dodgers’ fault he left. They wanted him back, but Hernández wanted to start every day, and that wasn’t going to happen with the Dodgers.
—Depending on what you consider a bullpen game, the Dodgers are either 9-7 or 13-14 in bullpen games this season.
—Don’t look now, but after struggles early this season, the Dodgers now have an effective bullpen. Look at the numbers for these key men since Aug. 1:
Kenley Jansen: 1-0, 8 saves, 17 IP, 6 hits, 6 walks, 21 K’s, 1.59 ERA, 0% Inherited Runners who Scored%
Blake Treinen: 3-0, 2 saves, 6 holds, 18.1 IP, 6 hits, 7 walks, 24 K’s, 0.98 ERA, 12.5% IRS%
Phil Bickford: 2-1, 5 holds, 17.1 IP, 10 hits, 6 walks, 22 K’s, 2.60 ERA, 0% IRS%
Joe Kelly: 0-0, 1 save, 1 hold, 9 IP, 5 hits, 4 walks, 7 K’s, 3.00 ERA, 0% IRS%
Alex Vesia: 2-0, 4 holds, 13.2 IP, 4 hits, 3 walks, 22 K’s, 1.32 ERA, 11% IRS%
Brusdar Graterol: 2-0, 2 holds, 19 IP, 18 hits, 7 walks, 16 K’s, 2.84 ERA, 16.7% IRS%
Corey Knebel: 2-0, 1 save, 2 holds, 13.1 IP, 12 hits, 4 walks, 12 K’s, 2.70 ERA, 0% IRS%
Justin Bruihl, 0-0, 2 holds, 12 IP, 7 hits, 6 walks, 9 K’s, 1.38 ERA, 12.5% IRS%
—The Dodgers are 2.5 back with 21 to play. If the Giants go 11-11 in their remaining games, then the Dodgers will have to go 14-7 to win the division outright. The Giants have 10 games left with the Padres, seven at home, three in San Diego. The Dodgers have six games with the Padres, all at Dodger Stadium. The Padres, who are battling to get the second wild-card spot, are going to play the spoiler this season it looks like, but will they spoil the Dodgers’ or Giants’ bid to win the division?
Hall of Fame: third basemen
We continue our look at who the top Hall of Fame candidates at each position are in Dodgers history and whether they deserve entry or not. To determine the top candidates, we look at two stats, WAR (wins above replacement), which gives us a good idea of how players with long careers compare to each other, and JAWS (Jaffe WAR score system), which is their career WAR averaged with their seven-year peak WAR. It was created by Jay Jaffe and is detailed in his excellent book, “The Cooperstown Casebook.” It can be used as a way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by comparing him with players at his position who are already in the Hall, using advanced metrics to account for the wide variations in offensive levels that have occurred throughout the game’s history. For example, of the top 10 third basemen in JAWS, eight are in the Hall of Fame, one, Adrian Beltre is not yet eligible, and one, Scott Rolen has not been elected to the Hall but is still on the ballot. And again, like I always say, no one stat is perfect. But this gives us an easy comparison, and, this is supposed to be the fun part of the newsletter. Debating stuff like this should be enjoyable.
The top 10 third basemen, with their JAWS score:
1. Mike Schmidt, 82.8
2. Eddie Mathews, 75.0
3. Wade Boggs, 73.9
4. Adrian Beltre-x, 71.1
5. George Brett, 71.0
6. Chipper Jones, 66.0
7. Ron Santo, 62.1
8. Brooks Robinson, 62.1
9. Paul Molitor, 57.7
10. Scott Rolen-y, 56.9
x-not yet eligible for Hall; y-not in Hall of Fame
There are 17 players in the Hall of Fame as third basemen. Here’s where the other nine Hall of Famers rank in JAWS:
12. Home Run Baker, 54.8
21. Jimmy Collins, 45.9
37. Deacon White, 35.9
49. George Kell, 32.9
50. Pie Traynor, 32.6
71. Jud Wilson, 28.5
80. Freddie Lindstrom, 27.4
169. Judy Johnson, 14.1
310. Ray Dandridge, 5.4
A quick note here: Not counting Dandridge, Johnson or Wilson, there are a few third basemen listed who appear to be questionable Hall of Fame choices compared to third basemen who are not in the Hall.
Now, let’s look at the top 10 highest JAWS totals for third basemen not in the Hall of Fame:
4. Adrian Beltre, 71.1
10. Scott Rolen, 56.9
11. Graig Nettles, 55.2
13. Ken Boyer, 54.5
14. Buddy Bell, 53.4
15. Sal Bando, 53.0
16. Dick Allen, 52.3
17. Evan Longoria, 49.7
18. Darrell Evans, 48.0
19. Robin Ventura, 47.4
And now, the top third basemen not in the Hall who spent some years with the Dodgers:
22. Ron Cey, 45.4
42. Tim Wallach, 34.5
47. Bill Madlock, 33.3
58. Ken McMullen, 32.0
63. Justin Turner, 31.3
We’ll stop there.
The strongest Dodger candidate to make the Hall is Ron Cey (I know Robin Ventura is also a former Dodgers, but he only played part of one season with the team, so it’s hard to think of him as a possible Dodger Hall of Famer). Cey was unfortunately a direct contemporary of Mike Schmidt and George Brett, who many think are the two greatest third baseman in history. When you play at the same time as those two, it’s hard to look like one of the all-time greats. I mean, look at Graig Nettles, who grades out here as the 11th-greatest third baseman of all time and fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after four seasons.
It’s highly unlikely that Cey makes the Hall of Fame, and equally unlikely that Justin Turner will eventually build Hall of Fame credentials.
Actually, the strongest Dodger candidate to make the Hall is Adrian Beltre, of course. He’s not eligible yet, but when he makes the Hall, it probably won’t be as a Dodger. He had his great Dodger season in 2004, signed with Seattle in the offseason, and went on to play 14 more seasons in the majors, half of those with Texas.
One of my favorite memories at Dodger Stadium is sitting in the stands on the third-base line and watching a bunt or slow roller up the line. Beltre would run in, barehand it, and basically just flick his wrist, shooting the ball to first like it came out of a cannon. If it was quiet enough, you could hear the “zip” of the ball as it traveled to third. Beltre and César Izturis were the two best defensive infielders I saw play for the Dodgers. They were a joy to watch.
Next week: Shortstop.
NL West standings
San Francisco, 90-50,
Dodgers, 88-53, 2.5 GB
San Diego, 74-65, 15.5 GB
Colorado, 64-77, 26.5 GB
Arizona, 45-95, 45 GB
Top two qualify for the wild-card playoff game to advance to NLDS
Dodgers, 88-53, +13
San Diego, 74-65,—
Cincinnati, 74-67, 1 GB
St. Louis, 71-68, 3 GB
Philadelphia, 71-69, 3.5 GB
New York, 70-71, 5 GB
In case you missed it
These names look familiar
A look at how players from the 2020 Dodgers who are no longer on the team are faring this season (through Wednesday):
Pedro Báez, Houston, 0-0, 0.00 ERA (4.1 IP, 2 hit, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, on 10-day IL)
Dylan Floro, Miami: 5-6, 2.89 ERA, 8 saves (53 IP, 47 hits, 21 walks, 49 strikeouts)
Kiké Hernández, Boston: .255/.341/.458 (30 doubles, 3 triples, 17 HRs, 51 RBIs, 111 OPS+)
Adam Kolarek, Oakland: 8.00 ERA (9 IP, 15 hits, 5 walks, 4 strikeouts), in minors
Jake McGee, San Francisco: 3-2, 2.76 ERA, 30 saves (58.2 IP, 43 hits, 10 walks, 58 strikeouts)
Joc Pederson, Atlanta: .231/.308/.411 (16 doubles, 3 triples, 16 homers, 56 RBIs, 90 OPS+)
Josh Sborz, Texas: 3-3, 4.14 ERA, 1 save (50 IP, 42 hits, 30 walks, 57 strikeouts)
Ross Stripling, Toronto: 5-6, 4.34 ERA (93.1 IP, 86 hits, 28 walks, 91 strikeouts), on 10-day IL
Alex Wood, San Francisco: 10-4, 4.08 ERA (125.2 IP, 116 hits, 39 walks, 125 strikeouts), on 10-day IL
And now, how players who were with the Dodgers this season are faring elsewhere:
Josiah Gray, Washington: 0-2, 5.40 ERA (35 IP, 37 hits, 12 walks, 35 strikeouts)
DJ Peters, Texas: .206/.263/.439 (6 doubles, 10 homers, 28 RBIs, 69 OPS+)
Jake Reed, New York Mets: 0-0, 0.00 ERA (4 IP, 2 hits, 0 walks, 5 strikeouts), on 10-day IL
Keibert Ruiz, Washington: .133/.188/.233 (1 homer, 2 RBIs, 15 OPS+)
Dennis Santana, Texas: 2-4, 5.08 ERA (28.1 IP, 26 hits, 16 walks, 27 strikeouts)
Yoshi Tsutsugo, Pittsburgh: .235/.330/.568 (4 doubles, 1 triple, 17 RBIs, 89 OPS+)
Tonight, San Diego (Joe Musgrove, 10-8, 2.87 ERA) at Dodgers (*Julio Urías, 16-3, 3.11 ERA), 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Saturday, San Diego (Chris Paddack, 7-6, 4.95 ERA) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 13-3, 2.31 ERA), 6 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Sunday, San Diego (*Blake Snell, 7-6, 4.22 ERA) at Dodgers (Max Scherzer, 13-4, 2.28 ERA), 1 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Ross Porter interviews Vin Scully. Watch it here.
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