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Playing With A Big Lead

I am a glutton like all fans.  I want to win every game.  But over 162 game season, to be at the pinnacle for every game is nigh on impossible.  And yet this year marks 3 of the last 6 years, when the Dodgers have had huge leads in September heading into the playoffs.

In 2017, the Dodgers had a 21.0 game lead on August 25, before they lost 16 of the next 17, including 11 straight games (September 2 thru September 11).  They limped home going 13-22 after August 25.

In 2019, the Dodgers also had a 21.0 game, but it was much later in the season…September 29.  They were 18-6 in September, their best record for a single month that year.

Contrarily, the team fought and scratched all the way into the 2018 playoffs needing a win in Game 163 against Colorado to win the Division, and avoid the Wild Card.  That was the game that Walker Buehler became synonymous with clutch pitching.  He pitched 6.1 scoreless innings allowing 1 hit and 3 walks to win the Division.

But perhaps they needed that game 163 to stay sharp.  Maybe, maybe not.

In 2017, limping home after August 25, I remember clearly the calls for Dave Roberts’ head for taking the foot off the pedal. While I was not calling for his head, I was certainly in the group that did not want the Dodgers to let up.  Fans were screaming that it is the team that is hot going into the playoffs that overwhelmingly succeeds.  At the same time as the Dodgers were 13 – 22 after August 25, the DBacks went 22-11.  The Dodgers faced the hot DBacks in the NLDS with an even hotter JD Martinez.  Result – 3 game sweep by LAD.

After August 25, the Cubs also got hot and went 24 – 11.  They beat a team (Nationals) in the NLDS that was five games better than they were over the 162 game season, but not quite as hot at the end, as were the Cubs.  In the NLCS, the Dodgers trounced the Cubs 4 games to 1.

So after going 13-22 post August 25, and a 21.0 game lead, the Dodgers easily dispatched Arizona and the Chicago Cubs 7 games to 1 to move into the World Series, where they would have beat the Houston Asterisks if not for the cheating.  Yes, pure conjecture on my part, but I cannot be convinced that Clayton Kershaw loses Game 5, and the Dodgers would not have overcome the bullpen mismanagement earlier in the series.

In 2018, the Dodgers never got hot during the season.  Their biggest lead of the season was 2.5 games, in mid-September.  They fought their way to the final weekend of the season, down by a game to the Colorado Rockies.  The Dodgers went into SF and swept the Giants, while Colorado beat Washington 2 games out of 3 at home to tie the Dodgers after 162 games.  And then behind Walker Buehler, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger they beat Colorado 5-2 in Game 163 to win the Division. The Dodgers never had more than a 5 game winning streak all year.  The most games over .500 they ever got was on October 1, after Game 163 (21 games). They were actually 10 games under .500 in mid-May. They lost Corey Seager for the season, and had to play with the anti-Johnny Hustle malcontent, Manny Machado.

LAD went on to beat Atlanta 3 games to 1 in the NLDS and followed up by beating Milwaukee in a fantastic and thrilling NLCS, 4 games to 3.  The Cinderella story ended when Boston handily beat the Dodgers 4 games to 1 in the WS.

In 2019, the Dodgers were the hot team facing off against a lesser manned but fortuitous Washington Nationals club in the NLDS.  The Dodgers were undoubtedly planning on playing the Milwaukee Brewers, but a Trent Grisham 8th inning fielding error and a Josh Hader blown save, gave the Nats the lead and a Daniel Hudson save away from facing the Dodgers.  In the NLDS, the Dodgers were outplayed and outmanaged by the lesser Nationals, and lost in their 1st round of the playoffs after winning 106 games, including their last 7 consecutively.

  • The Dodgers limp into the playoffs and get to the WS.
  • The Dodgers scratch and claw to get into Game 163.  Never too hot, and eventually get to WS.
  • The Dodgers were the best team in MLB and hot going into the playoffs, and get bounced in the NLDS.

Can we draw any conclusions from any of this?  For me, only one.  It is meaningless to worry about whether the team is taking their foot off the gas pedal while they are so far out in front of the Division, the League, and MLB.  It is highly doubtful that NYM will catch them, just as it is doubtful that Houston can catch them.  The magic number to clinch home field for the NLCS is 1, and 5 for the World Series.

They are 2 wins away from setting their single season record of 107 wins, and should clear that objective rather easily.  They need to go 5-5 the rest of the way to get to 110 wins.  Doc is going to continue to rest players, and pitchers.  Michael Grove is starting against Adam Wainwright on Sunday instead of Tyler Anderson.

The LAD offense will go as far as the top 6 in the order will take them.  Mookie, Trea, Freddie, Will Smith, JT, Max.  Undoubtedly, 1 or 2 of those will sit for one game at a time, leaving 4 or 5 (and sometimes all 6) always in the lineup.  Freeman has been out the last two nights but because of illness, not manager’s choice.  I suspect Belli and CT3 will get more than their fair share of opportunities to show they belong in the starting lineup beginning October 11.  I can also see Miguel Vargas getting more starts against LHP.  It is not the days off that are causing the LAD offensive lethargy, but rather the lack of incentive and adrenaline that comes when the games do not mean much of anything.  Of course they are professionals, and try to win, but it is without that competitive spark.  The offense will (should) kick in when the games do matter.

Houston was shutout two straight games by Baltimore (Thursday and Friday).  Should they be concerned?

 

The first of many to come…Miguel Vargas!!!

 

 

Finally, on April 13, 2022, MLB’s Greg Amsinger said the following:

Everybody is making too much out of the prediction.  Amsinger said #700 was going to be off Clayton Kershaw.  WRONG!!  😉

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Badger

I’m a swimmer too, but not competitively. Too busy playing ball. Grew up in Seal Beach area, body surfed The Wedge in early and mid 60s. WSI, Lifeguard through college, swam the rivers and lakes in Northern California for years. Still watch races. Mark Spitz is my all time favorite.

Good piece this morning. I would say there’s no perfect strategy for large lead entry into post season. Depends on the team. This is an experienced, veteran team. They all know what needs to be done. If it were me I’d see to it everyone was getting at bats the rest of the way. e.g. I think I would have tried to get Gallo an at bat. Records are nice, but what’s more important is home field. We should get that even going .500 the rest of the way.

My biggest criticism remains not giving Gonsolin rest earlier. And imagine how good this team would be with Buehler, Gonsolin and May at full strength. Long seasons are often not kind.

Last edited 2 months ago by Badger
Fred Vogel

Body surfing was my enjoyment as well, from Malibu up North. The Wedge was too much for me but I enjoyed watching those brave souls. I couldn’t surf worth a lick. Or ice skate, roller skate, water ski, snow ski. I needed my feet on the ground: baseball, football, soccer, basketball, etc. As The Moody Blues said, A Question Of Balance.

Badger

My experience there ended when I joined the Corps in ‘66. Never saw 20’ waves, but 12’-15’ was quite consistent there, and as you know they way they broke none were ever safe. They parked ambulances there for good reason.

Yep, young and crazy. Thank goodness we were strong. There were plenty out there that didn’t belong.

Bumsrap

Tight pennant races are exciting as are tight baseball games but I prefer the Dodgers to dominate everywhere.

I remember the Rockies getting really hot and going undefeated or close to it all the way up to the World Series and then having to wait for the World Series to start and the wait made them cold. When was that?

I like watching Vargas, Grove, Pepiot etc. and if the Division title were in doubt earlier, we probably would not be seeing them as they would have been traded at the deadline.

Bumsrap

Only once have I had a chance to watch a competition swimmer in person and he was only a college team swimmer. He wasn’t a state champ or an olympian but it was so impressive how much faster he swam than anybody I had ever seen. Television does not capture their speed or how different their speed is from non competition swimmers.

Badger

I know what you’re saying Fred. I had a friend at Chico State that, as a grad student, was the coach of our very successful swimming team at Chico. I would attend the meets when I could and watching those people swim, men and women, was a thrill. I actually swam a 50 and had him time me. I would have been 2nd on the ladder… on the women’s team. Any longer swim than that and I was left behind. Was in no shape to compete.

I admit that I would have probably moved Pepiot if it brought in Castillo. I really wanted another quality ML starter for this run at a championship. Still do.

Last edited 2 months ago by Badger
Badger

Swimming against Spitz impresses the heck out of me. Don’t know if it matches that but I was on the same field with Johnny Rodgers. Pitched off the same mound that Walter Johnson did too. Ok, I’m done.

I still swim, with short fins and gloves for added resistance but only in the pool here. 6-7 strokes and I’m across it. Can’t flip turn anymore, makes me dizzy. Too many concussions over the years. So I just mostly tread water, stroke a bit, make it aerobic. I can’t run very far anymore either. Knees. Mostly just walking with an occasional 25 meter sprint to get the heart rate up.

Last edited 2 months ago by Badger
Bumsrap

I rode in an elevator with Vin Scully.
Mary Hart said my name on TV.
I’m done.

Fred Vogel

Howard Cosell predicting the Jets over the Colts in Superbowl III was pretty good as well.

Fred Vogel

On second thought, I think it may have been Jimmy the Greek with that prediction.

Fred Vogel

On second thought, it may have been Jimmy the Greek with that prediction.

Badger

Does anybody in Miami really give a rat’s ass about that team?

Fred Vogel

It doesn’t seem like it judging by their sparse attendance.

Badger

Who in that group do you see sticking around all of October? I really don’t know who can be counted on at this point.

Last edited 2 months ago by Badger
Badger

Yeah, I’m with you on Gonsolin. Though I can’t say optimistic, I’ll just say hopeful.

Singing the Blue

Not that there was much doubt, but Doc confirmed this morning that Anderson would be part of the playoff rotation.

Looks like at least one of Koufax, Drysdale, Podres will not get a start this year.

Bumsrap

It shouldn’t have taken May going down though IMHO.

Bumsrap

Unless one of the playoff games will be played in The Field of Dreams, I think of the three, Koufax has the best odds of pitching.

Singing the Blue

Valid point, Fred.

And why did Mary Hart mention your name on TV?

Badger

I think she said Fred and was talking about Fred Gwynn. I could be wrong about that.

Fred Vogel

And here I thought she was talking about me. Dammit.

Badger

Well Fred, I think it’s safe to assume if she knew us, she’d be talking about us, filling out reports and all.

Badger

I doubt this ump gets a post season assignment. Hope not anyway.

Singing the Blue

Really nice to see Ajax pitch so nicely today. He had shown some real promise and then during the season, he seemed to completely lose his way. Looks like he may have found himself again.

Playoff rotation:
Urias
Kershaw
Anderson
Grove/Jackson/Gonsolin (3 innings each) – too bad there wouldn’t be room for all of them on the roster at the same time. It would get us the equivalent of one right handed starter.

Last edited 2 months ago by Singing the Blue
Badger

Grove and Jackson are a pleasant surprise to me. I assumed Heaney would be given 3 innings somewhere in there. I’ll say he takes Gonsolin’s 3. I don’t trust a split finger thrower’s tender elbow. Not after a career high 128 innings. If it were only 90… maybe.

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