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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Thoughts on the Dodgers’ NLDS win and the NLCS they’re about to start


Editor’s note: This is the Friday, October 15 edition of Inside the Dodgers newsletter by JP Hornstra. To receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox, sign up here.


An amazing playoff series just ended.

The other will try to match his enthusiasm.

Today is the perfect time to reflect on what just happened in San Francisco, and what the Dodgers should do from here in Atlanta. Let’s jump right in.

1. Analytics!

The scoreless innings scored by Corey Nebel and Brusadar Greatroll to start the Dodgers’ Game 5 victory was less memorable than the ninth inning that ended the series. They were not classic works of art. But they were ultimately effective in achieving their primary goal: getting the Giants to shorten their bench earlier in the game, if Julio Urius had started instead. The Athletic chronicled the development of the Dodgers’ “opener” strategy.

It’s funny how people talk about the use of “analytics” in baseball. It’s almost exclusively insulting. “Games like this reinforce why I love analytics” and “Shucks, my team was really struggling to fulfill its potential until our front office embraced analytics!” There are no sentences that real people say. Supporters of analytics are more likely to dissect their team’s processes beyond a simple “quantitative/analytical versus qualitative/subjective” paradigm. But let’s face it, if the Dodgers lost it, we’d be talking about how they “overthinked” the decision to bring Urea out of the bullpen. Now that they have won, it is only fair to assign credits equally.

I don’t think the “opener” strategy was a purely quantitative/analytical move. The Giants did not release their starting lineup until about 80 minutes before the first pitch. Beyond the numerical case to start Nebel and Gretroll, using an opener tested the Giants’ mettle. This placed manager Gabe Kapler in a position to be reactive, not proactive – an unusual position for him in the season-long series with the Dodgers. How much did it help the Dodgers win? I can think of many more important factors, but the Nebel/Greterol gambit is on the list.

2. No Analysis!

At one point in the sixth inning, the Dodgers were swinging and Logan missed just five times on Webb pitches. He finished with 10 strokes in seven innings.

His swings on Thursday weren’t often attributed to an “analytical approach” to the craft—an approach that emphasizes hard contact over any given contact, acknowledging that there will be more strikes. If the Dodgers’ approach to pitching nine innings was clearly new, then their approach at the plate was just as old school. Seven of his eight hits were singles; The other was a line-drive double that received an unprotected left-field line. He even tried to split in the event of a critical late game! (Oops.)

It’s another reason why I consider most discourse about analytics in baseball to be so trivial as to be useless, if not outright dishonest. The Dodgers on Thursday deployed an analytically forward-thinking pitching strategy and a backward-looking hitting strategy. These two forms of thought can coexist within a team, within a game, and even lead that team to victory.

3. Brent Brown, The Unsung Hero

The Giants get credit – well, I guess – for using a huge coaching staff to help them maximize the talent of their players. Dodgers coaches don’t get the same amount of ink nationally, but they do carry three hitting coaches on staff. One of the three, Brant Brown, stepped out on Thursday with an important word of advice.

After Game 5 Gavin Lux said, “Brownie, one of our hitting coaches, was like, ‘Let’s put ’em to death in the ninth here (innings),” and Logan Webb was obviously really good, he was tough. So the whole game we had that sort of thing and then we finally pushed it to ninth place. And obviously, Mookie hit four singles, so we had to take that kind of approach and just grind it to death and try to get some runs. ”

I asked Lux ​​if Brown is generally so good at his job. He laughed. “He is,” said Lux. “she’s the Man.”

Waiting Breakout

Tree Turner was really good at kicking the ball to the ground against the Giants. Justin Turner, who is usually the money in the playoffs, went 1 for 20. Max Munsi didn’t play at all. The Dodgers were counting on him to be the difference-maker in October, but he made no difference against San Francisco.

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The Dodgers got enough offense to win Game 5, but not much. He recorded a drop of .241/.292/.347 in the series. Against a San Francisco employee who posted a nearly identical FIP to the Dodgers in the regular season, it really isn’t terrible. The Giants weren’t about to lose a series of blowouts, which is why the line drive/solo approach worked.

One could argue that some Dodgers are better suited than others to adapt to that approach. Lux and Cody Bellinger struggled throughout the season, so they had everything to gain by turning their swing into something less power-focused. Mookie Bates (9 for 20, four RBI) has historically been a smart and adaptable hitter when he is healthy; His success was no surprise. Will Smith hit two of the Dodgers’ three homers in the series, their power unaffected by whatever devil spell, keeping nearly every fly ball in the park.

I’m not sure which approach would work best against the Braves, but it may already be in line with the Turners, and Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock, neither of whom was a factor in the NLDS. If not, they’ll have to change something hastily – or else hopefully their partner will make the move again.

5. Giants Are Scary

Score’s Travis Sochik recently focused on the Giants’ full-board hitting advantage made in 2021. With all due respect to Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey, their 107-win season cannot be reduced to a few people taking big steps forward on the plate. It was a sea change.

Whatever the Giants are doing behind closed doors now, it’s hard to see them return to a sub-.500 team anytime soon. Maybe it’s the synergy of their coaches, or their front office ability to identify abused or underutilized players from other teams, or Kapler’s ability to combine quantitative thinking with practical coaching tools. Most likely it is some or all of the above. The Giants’ secret sauce may have launched them into the upper echelon of baseball for good. A true-talent .500 club does not win 107 games under any circumstances. He can’t have the 2021 season He A fluke, to the extent that it was a fluke.

It says here that it’s a good thing for the game of baseball. Turn NL West into AL East, er, West, with the Giants and Dodgers reprising the Red Sox-Yankees’ recent roles. Trust me, it will be fun.

6. Burnout pitching?

I’m not sure where Max Shazer starts game 1. He didn’t bowl the bullpen after his start in Game 3, so he could call Thursday his “bulpen day”, then return to full rest tomorrow. Here are the Dodgers’ alternatives:

Game 1 (Saturday): Scherzer or Tony Gonsolin or Bullpen Game

Game 2 (Sunday): Scherzer, Gonsolin (who doesn’t pitch any G1) or Walker Buehler

Game 3 (Tuesday): Julio Ureas, Buehler (if he doesn’t pitch in G2), Scherzer or Gonsolin (if he doesn’t pitch)

Game 4 (Wednesday): Who hasn’t pitched yet

These are not terrible choices. They are not ideal either. Dave Roberts’ choices have generally been correct this post season, so it’s reasonable to expect that to continue.

7. Don’t underestimate the brave

In 2017, Bahadur finished third in the NL East with a record of 72-90. They have won their division every year since then.

I’m still a little haunted by how much Atlanta was underestimated in last year’s NLCS. This year, they went 35-18 (.660) from August 3, behind only the Dodgers, Giants and St. Louis Cardinals – who at one point won 17 in a row – for the NL’s best record during that period.

This is an important period. Marcel Ozuna’s domestic violence suspension and Ronald Acuna Jr.’s season-ending injury left Atlanta without two-thirds of its outfield. In August and September GM Alex Anthopoulos reloaded by trading for Adam Duvall, Jock Pedersen and George Soler (who missed the end of the NLDS due to COVID). He has pitching. He has some down-ballot MVP candidates in Austin Riley and Freddie Freeman. They have lineup depth.

If you’re the Dodgers, be glad it’s a seven-match series. that needed Let your best all-around talent win. I think they will take care of the business in six.


Editor’s Note: Thanks for reading Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter delivered to your inbox, sign up here.


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