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Dodgers Dugout: Ask Orel Hershiser; Andrew Friedman discusses the bullpen

Orel Hershiser
Orel Hershiser
(Tom Gannam / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m looking on eBay for a Joc Pederson first baseman’s mitt, lightly used.

Ask Orel Hershiser

I’m pretty excited to announce that Dodger legend Orel Hershiser has agreed to answer reader questions. It will work similarly to “Ask Ross Porter” or “Ask Fred Claire”. You email me your question for Orel and he will answer selected ones in a future newsletter. This is a rare chance to connect with one of the best Dodgers of all time. My advice: Try to come up with a unique question. You don’t want to be the 112th person to ask “What was it like to break the scoreless inning streak.” And thanks to Orel for agreeing to take part. Start sending in your questions now.

Random thoughts

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As we wait for the playoffs to begin, here are some random thoughts and news.

--The Joc Pederson experiment is over at first base. Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger will split time at first base as the Dodgers believe Bellinger has strengthened his shoulder enough to where he won’t dislocate it there. It was a move long overdue, as Pederson looked about as comfortable there as a baby deer on roller skates. That being said, you have to give Pederson credit for trying, for working hard to improve and for accepting the switch without too much complaining.

--Then, in one of his first games off first after the announcement, they stick Pederson in right and Alex Verdugo in left. I’m pretty sure that the computer the Dodgers use to select their lineups likes to play practical jokes.

--The Dodgers put Hyun-Jin Ryu on the 10-day IL with a sore neck that sounds like a great way to get him 10 days off before the playoff push.

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--Dustin May got his first major-league start on Friday. He looked good. His throws hard and his pitches move. He seemed to have a bit of a problem with precise command, but you can imagine he was a bit amped up. One of the big differences between triple-A and the majors is that while batters in the minors will often swing and miss at that ball two inches off the plate, batters in the majors will just lay off that pitch. He is scheduled to start again Wednesday and could end up an important part of the Dodger bullpen.

---If the Walker Buehler who pitched Saturday is the same Walker Buehler who pitches in the playoffs, the Dodgers won’t need to worry about their bullpen in those games.

Buehler’s ERA by month this season:

March-April: 5.22

May: 2.90

June: 2.45

July: 3.20

August: 1.00

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--Speaking of July, here’s how the Dodger hitters fared last month:

Will Smith, .462/.467/.1.154, 2 homers, 9 RBIs

Khristopher Negrón: 3 for 8, 2 homers, 3 RBIs

Kiké Hernandez: .352/.417/.574, 3 homers, 11 RBIs

Matt Beaty, .293/.341/.634, 3 homers, 10 RBIs

A.J. Pollock, .267/.328/.550, 5 homers, 13 RBIs

Cody Bellinger, .265/.386/.566, 7 homers, 13 RBIs

David Freese, .250/.348/.500, 1 homer, 4 RBIs

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Tyler White, 1 for 4, 2 RBIs.

Corey Seager, .250/.319/.344, 1 homer, 8 RBIs

Alex Verdugo, .247/.295/.395, 3 homers, 7 RBIs

Justin Turner, .241/.323/.566, 7 homers, 13 RBIs

Chris Taylor, .214/.361/.286, 2 RBIs

Max Muncy, .203/.333/.443, 6 homers, 13 RBIs

Joc Pederson, .200/.300/.357, 3 homers, 10 RBIs

Austin Barnes, .163/.213/.256, 5 RBIs

Russell Martin, .129/.341/.226, 1 homer, 4 RBIs

--For those of you convinced that the Dodgers effectively ended their World Series chances by not acquiring a shutdown reliever at the trade deadline, Andrew Friedman has some words for you:

“I think narratives are always an interesting thing, and the narrative going into the 2017 playoffs was that the Astros didn’t have a bullpen strong enough to win the World Series. Going into the 2018 playoffs, the narrative was the Red Sox didn’t have a bullpen strong enough to win a World Series.

“There are obviously a lot of different ways to win a game, and [the] bullpen is probably the most emotional because it happens in the latter part of a game. But last year our issues were in the batter’s box. It wasn’t with our bullpen. And we feel like our starting pitching is elite, our position players are elite, and our bullpen has a chance to be well above average. And that’s what we’re going to work towards to put them in position to be able to be helpful in our pursuit to win a championship.

“We got into a little bit of a rut where guys weren’t executing or optimizing their pitch selection for how to attack that hitter. But I think it got cleaned up and for the most part, the other guys that we are looking at as strong contenders into October I think are in a good place right now. But that’s something that we have two months to continue to evaluate.”

OK, back to your host here. I think the general point Friedman makes, that acquiring someone like Felipe Vazquez would have guaranteed nothing is correct. If the Dodgers have a 25% chance of winning the World Series, acquiring him would have improved it to what, 30% at the most? And he’s also right when he says the last two World Series winners had their closers basically implode during the playoffs.

But I also think he is taking a huge gamble in that the criticism will fall squarely on his shoulders if the Dodgers don’t win the World Series this year and the bullpen has anything to do with that failure. A lot of readers ask me if I would have traded Gavin Lux for Vazquez. No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t trade a guy who could be a standout position player for the next 15 years for a reliever. Because relievers have a tendency to fall apart quickly. If the Pirates had asked for Dustin May and Keibert Ruiz I may have done that, because pitchers are very erratic and because we already have Will Smith and last I checked two guys can’t start at catcher at the same time.

That doesn’t mean it would have been the right thing to do. You could trade May and Ruiz and they go on to have Hall of Fame careers while Vazquez could have gotten hurt in his first game.

In some ways I admire the fact that Friedman came to the Dodgers with a plan: to stockpile young talent to keep the Dodgers competitive for years and not to foolishly trade that talent in hope of one year of glory. And he has stuck to that plan when the easy thing to do would have been to trade Lux for Vazquez.

The Dodgers still could win the World Series. And they might not. They could lose in the first round. And they might not. I try to not get angry over things like this, because as we were reminding over the weekend, there’s enough in the real world to get angry about that if you get angry for more than five minutes over baseball decisions, well, it’s time to find a new hobby.

But it sure is going to be a long two months. And if there is no World Series title at the end, it will be a long offseason and long 2020 until next year’s playoffs begin.

Speaking of World Series percentages

Many websites will use a baseball simulator like Strat-o-matic or Dynasty League baseball to simulate the rest of the season 1,000 times and report who won the World Series as a percentage. Say, for example, you run the rest of the season 1,000 times and the Dodgers win the World Series 250 times, then the Dodgers have a 25% chance of winning the World Series. It’s mainly a fun exercise. And isn’t this supposed to be fun? So, let’s take a look at the percentages to win the World Series, as of Sunday, from baseball-reference.com:

Dodgers, 22.6%

Houston Astros, 18.3%

New York Yankees, 12%

Minnesota Twins, 10.6%

Chicago Cubs, 9.9%

Atlanta Braves, 8.5%

Tampa Bay Rays, 4.7%

St. Louis Cardinals, 2.7%

Arizona Diamondbacks, 2.4%

Oakland A’s, 2.3%

Washington Nationals, 1.9%

Cleveland Indians, 1.8%

Every other team is below 1%

Dodgers poll

Last week we asked (and my apologies to those of you who got a broken link) if you would have traded Gavin Lux for Felipe Vazquez. After 13,651 votes, here are the results:

No, 71.5%

Yes, 28.5%

This week: Which team has the best 1-2-3 rotation in baseball? Is it Houston, with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Gerrit Cole; Washington with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin; the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler or some other team? Vote by clicking here.

More KTLA games

Five more Dodger games will be televised on KTLA Ch. 5 this season. They are:

Saturday, Aug. 31, 5 p.m. at Arizona

Saturday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m. vs. San Francisco

Saturday, Sept. 14, 4 p.m. at New York Mets

Saturday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies

Saturday, Sept. 28, 1 p.m. at San Francisco

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: St. Louis (Michael Wacha) at Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin), 7 p.m.

Tuesday: St. Louis (Miles Mikolas) at Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw), 7 p.m.

Wednesday: St. Louis (Jack Flaherty) at Dodgers (Dustin May), noon, YouTube

*-left-handed

And finally

Highlights of Walker Buehler’s 15-strikeout game Saturday. Watch it here.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.


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