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Dodgers Dugout: What kind of manager is Dave Roberts?

Dave Roberts
Dave Roberts
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and we are entering the final week of regular season games.

Here we are, six games left in the season with the Dodgers two games behind the San Francisco Giants. If you were a betting man, you’d bet on the Giants to win the division.

It is looking more and more likely that the Dodgers will play a one-game, wild-card playoff next Wednesday against St. Louis at Dodger Stadium, to be shown on TBS with the time to be announced. The Cardinals have won 16 games in a row and clinched at least a tie for the final wild-card spot. So, barring an epic collapse, they are in.

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Max Scherzer vs. Adam Wainwright would be the matchup.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a chance for the Dodgers to win the division. I remember attending the final three games of the 1980 season, when the Dodgers were three games behind the Houston Astros with three to play. They won all three in dramatic fashion, with the less said about Game 163, the better.

This last week will be interesting. There’s not much to say about it that wouldn’t be completely obvious, and I try to never write about the completely obvious when the merely obvious will suffice.

By the way, my understanding is the San Diego Padres gave away free calendars to all fans before their final home game of the season. Unfortunately, the calendars all ended in September.

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So let’s turn our attention to something I’ve wanted to do all season. After every Dodgers loss, complaints sweep over social media, talk shows and my inbox from fans about Dave Roberts. He doesn’t bunt enough. Doesn’t steal enough. Doesn’t do the little things a team needs to do to win. On the one hand, it’s sort of strange to say that about a manager who has won five straight division titles, a World Series (with one possibly stolen) and averages almost 100 wins a season. And who works for a front office that heavily invests in analytics, which tell you that most of the time, stealing a base isn’t worth the risk of being caught stealing, or that a bunt is a wasted out, that you are given 27 outs a game and you shouldn’t give any of them away. On the other hand, well, let’s look at the numbers and see how Roberts compares to other managers this season in stolen bases, non-pitcher sacrifices and intentional walks.

Stealing second

The Dodgers have had 1,384 chances to steal second (man on first, no one on second) and have attempted 57 steals. That is a 4.1% rate. Obviously, some chances aren’t really a chance. You aren’t going to steal second when you have a 10-1 lead or trail 10-1, but using the stolen-base attempt rate makes for a relatively level playing field for all managers. Let’s see how Roberts’ 4.1% rate compares to the other 30 teams, with the top five, where the Dodgers are, and the bottom five.

1. Miami (Don Mattingly), 8.5%
2. San Diego (Jayce Tingler), 8.4%
3. Texas (Chris Woodward), 8.21%
4. Tampa Bay (Kevin Cash), 7.6%
5. Kansas City (Mike Matheny), 7.3%

26. Dodgers (Dave Roberts), 4.1%
27. Chicago White Sox (Tony La Russa), 4.0%
28. Arizona (Torey Lovullo), 3.7%
29. Boston (Alex Cora), 3.4%
30. Cincinnati (David Bell), 3.2%

Mattingly’s team has attempted 121 stolen bases, Roberts’ 58, Bell’s 45

Stealing third

1. Kansas City (Matheny), 4.2%
2. Oakland (Bob Melvin), 2.7%
3. Cleveland (Terry Francona, Chip Hale), 1.9%
4. Miami (Mattingly), 1.7%
5. Philadelphia (Joe Girardi), 1.6%

7. Dodgers (Roberts), 1.5%

26. Washington (Dave Martinez), 0.734%
27. Baltimore (Brandon Hyde), 0.653%
28. Seattle (Scott Servais), 0.573%
29. Atlanta (Brian Snitker), 0.558%
30. Arizona (Lovullo), 0.4%

Interesting that the Dodgers are among the lowest in trying to steal second but among the highest in trying to steal third. Kansas City has tried to steal third 37 times, Arizona just three times.

Sacrifices by non-pitchers

Again, we go by chances and attempts. The Angels have had 1,356 chances to sacrifice (runner on first with less than two out, or runner on second with no one out) and have attempted 27 bunts to lead the majors with a 2% rate.

1. Angels (Joe Maddon), 2.0%
2. Kansas City (Matheny), 1.9%
3. Cleveland (Francona, Hale), 1.5%
4. Chicago White Sox (La Russa), 1.4%
5. San Diego (Tingler), 1.2%

26. San Francisco (Gabe Kapler), 0.449%
27. Milwaukee (Craig Counsell), 0.389%
28. Cincinnati (Bell), 0.362%
29. St. Louis (Mike Shildt), 0.3%
30. Dodgers (Roberts), 0.2%

Non-pitchers on the Dodgers have attempted three sacrifice bunts all season. That number is probably somewhat suppressed by the fact the Dodgers have won 100 games and haven’t needed to sacrifice that much. The number is astonishingly low though.

Intentional walks

We’ll go with the straight number this time.

1. Washington (Martinez), 44
1. Arizona (Lovullo), 44
3. Dodgers (Roberts), 43
4. Miami (Mattingly), 40
5. Philadelphia (Girardi), 35

26. Oakland (Melvin), 11
27. Detroit (AJ Hinch), 10
27. New York Yankees (Aaron Boone), 10
27. Toronto (Charlie Montoyo), 10
27. Houston (Dusty Baker), 10

NL managers call for more intentional walks than AL managers because they sometimes walk a hitter to get the pitcher to the plate. The NL manager who has called for the fewest intentional walks is Colorado’s Bud Black, with 17.

Challenges

Which managers have called for the most replay reviews? Here’s the number, with success rate:

1. Montoyo (Toronto), 25, 36%
2. Roberts (Dodgers), 22, 54.5%
3. Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota), 21, 42.9%
4. Maddon (Angels), 20, 30%
4. Woodward (Texas), 20, 45%

La Russa of the White Sox has had the highest percentage of replays ruled in his favor (77.8%). Melvin of Oakland is the worst with 10%. Milwaukee’s Counsell has made the fewest challenges, only seven.

Ejections

1. Tinger (San Diego), 7
2. Boone (Yankees), 6
2. Melvin (Oakland), 6
4. Luis Rojas (Mets), 5
4. Bell (Cincinnati), 5
4. Counsell (Milwaukee), 5.
T7th. Roberts (Dodgers), 4

Kapler (Giants), Cash (Rays) and Snitker (Braves) have not been ejected.

So, there you have it. Roberts doesn’t play small ball. But what if he did? Would the Dodgers have won 110 games instead of 100? Unlikely. And maybe they would have run themselves out of a key inning or two and have only 95 wins today. We’ll never know. But keep in mind, all of the decisions we make on the couch watching the game turn out to be 100% right.

It reminds me of a story Tommy Lasorda often told. He was managing in Cuba, and (I’m paraphrasing here) the owner of the team would send him notes after the game like “You should have stolen second in the eighth inning,” or “You should have called for a bunt in the seventh inning.” He got these after every game and it began to wear on him. The team owner sat behind the dugout every game. In the fifth inning of a game and a man on first, Lasorda popped out of the dugout and asked the owner, “Should I steal here? Hit and run? Sacrifice? Swing away? Hurry, you have to make the decision now.” The owner, flustered, said, “I don’t know, you’re the manager!” And Lasorda said, “That’s exactly right. And it’s my job to make the decision before things happen. Anyone can tell me what to do after things happen. You can be a second-guesser, I have to be the first-guesser.” The owner never bothered him again.

Fernandomania @ 40

Fernandomania at 40
Fernandomania.

The Los Angeles Times invites you to The Montalbán Theater in Hollywood for the exclusive finale celebration of “Fernandomania @ 40,” the Times’ documentary series that examines Fernando Valenzuela’s impact on the Dodgers, Major League Baseball and the Latino community in Los Angeles. This live event will feature series highlights on the big screen. In addition, former county supervisor Gloria Molina, Culture Clash’s Richard Montoya, and longtime Valenzuela confidant Ray Lara will join Times columnist Gustavo Arellano and deputy sports editor Iliana Limón Romero to discuss the fan frenzy surrounding the pitcher’s record-setting rookie season and answer questions from the audience.

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4

Where: The Montalbán, 1615 Vine Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90028

Tickets: $30. Tickets can be bought at this link.

COVID Safety: Upon registering for the in-person event, you will receive a link in the order confirmation to fill out a required health screening form.

The Los Angeles Times’ “Fernandomania @40" Finale event will take place inside The Montalbán Theater. All guests are required to provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test within 72 hours for attendance via the link provided on our ticketing confirmation page. Masks will be required at all times when inside the theater.

NL West race

x-San Francisco, 102-54,
x-Dodgers, 100-56, 2 GB

x-clinched playoff spot

Wild-card standings

Top two qualify for the wild-card playoff game. Winner of that advances to NLDS.

y-Dodgers, 100-56, +13
St. Louis, 87-69, —

Cincinnati, 82-75, 5.5 GB
Philadelphia, 81-75, 6 GB

y-clinched at least the top wild-card spot

The rest of the schedule

Who do the Dodgers and Giants play the rest of the way? Let’s take a look.

Dodgers

Home (6)

Tonight-Thursday: San Diego (9-7 against Padres this season)
Friday-Sunday: Milwaukee (1-3)

San Francisco

Home (6)

Tonight-Thursday: Arizona (14-2)
Friday-Sunday: San Diego (9-7)

Fun stats time

Dodgers batting since the All-Star break

Will Smith, .281/.393/.599, 166 OPS+
Corey Seager, .313/.405/.522, 151 OPS+
AJ Pollock, .331/.338/.518, 145 OPS+
Mookie Betts, .295/.375/.518, 141 OPS+
Trea Turner, .322/.373/.519, 141 OPS+
Gavin Lux, .295/.386/.410, 119 OPS+
Max Muncy, .223/.306/.491, 113 OPS+
Justin Turner, .232/.310/.408, 94 OPS+
Austin Barnes, .229/.250/.386, 70 OPS+
Chris Taylor, .224/.281/.429, 90 OPS+
Matt Beaty, .241/.362/.310, 88 OPS+
Albert Pujols, .227/.289/.400, 86 OPS+
Cody Bellinger, .148/.199/.284. 30 OPS+

Top 12 Dodgers of all-time ranked by WAR

Clayton Kershaw, 72.0
Pee Wee Reese, 68.5
Don Drysdale, 67.1
Duke Snider, 65.3
Jackie Robinson, 61.8
Zack Wheat, 60.0
Dazzy Vance, 59.1
Willie Davis, 54.6
Sandy Koufax, 48.9
Don Sutton, 48.8
Ron Cey, 47.7
Nap Rucker, 47.1

Top 15 since moving to L.A.

Clayton Kershaw, 72.0
Don Drysdale, 67.1
Willie Davis, 54.6
Sandy Koufax, 48.9
Don Sutton, 48.8
Ron Cey, 47.7
Orel Hershiser, 39.6
Steve Garvey, 36.6
Fernando Valenzuela, 33.0
Bob Welch, 32.6
Davey Lopes, 32.3
Mike Piazza, 32.0
Maury Wills, 32.0
Justin Turner, 31.9
Bill Russell, 31.3

Bottom 15 since moving to L.A. (minimum 502 plate appearances or 162 innings)

Henry Rodriguez, -2.4
Billy Ashley, -2.3
Cory Snyder, -2.0
Juan Castro, -1.7
Alfredo Griffin, -1.6
Joe Moeller, -1.5
Chris Gwynn, -1.0
Mickey Hatcher, -0.8
Candy Maldonado, -0.8
Phil Ortega, -0.7
Ken Howell, -0.6
Von Joshua, -0.6
Nate Oliver, -0.6
Dave Goltz, -0.5
Jeff Hamilton, -0.5
Dan Haren, -0.5

Dodgers teams that won at least 100 games since 1901:

2019: 106-56, Lost in NLDS

1953 (Brooklyn): 105-49, Lost in World Series

2017: 104-58, Lost in World Series

1942 (Brooklyn): 104-50, Finished second in NL

1974: 102-60, Lost in World Series

1962: 102-63, Finished second in NL

1941 (Brooklyn): 100-54, Lost in World Series

2021: 100-56, future cloudy, ask again later

In case you missed it

Cody Bellinger eager to return and end slump with a refined swing

Dodgers’ championship mettle keeping them in NL West title chase

They ran out into Dodger Stadium to remind L.A. of a dark moment in Latino history. But fans booed

Dodgers’ bat boys are different than they appear to be. Here’s the inside info

One-game playoff for Dodgers in 2021? Blame one Dodgers game in 1996

Second base can wait for now: Gavin Lux is helping the Dodgers in the outfield

The Dodgers have played 17 winner-take-all playoff games; here’s the story of each one

Up next

Tonight, San Diego (Yu Darvish, 8-10, 4.21 ERA) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 14-4, 2.58 ERA), 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

Wednesday, San Diego (TBD) at Dodgers (Max Scherzer, 15-4, 2.28 ERA), 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

Thursday, San Diego (TBD) at Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin, 4-1, 3.00 ERA), 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020

*-left-handed

And finally

Vin Scully‘s call of Mookie Wilson‘s at-bat in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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