Maybe I was wrong when I wrote in my World Series preview that the Red Sox, who won 108 games during the regular season, were not 16 games better than the Dodgers, who won 92 regular season games. The discrepancy in the “win column” was front and center in the first two games of the World Series.
There are a couple of reasons why the Red Sox have a 2-0 lead in the World Series. One, the Red Sox have a great team and are playing like it and two, the Dodgers, who are an analytically driven team, are being analytically driven “down the wrong road.” Is there nothing that Los Angeles can do to negate the Red Sox from taking their place among the greatest single season teams of all time?
The Dodgers have not played that poorly, it’s just that Boston is playing in a “higher league” right now. Can Los Angeles turn this series around? The next two games and possibly three are set for Dodger Stadium, but this Red Sox team has already shown they can win on the road as evidenced by their 5-0 record away from Fenway during this post season. Their offense plays in any ballpark.
What I found odd about the first two games was the Dodgers’ starting lineup. LA was keeping some of their “big left handed guns” on the bench because the Red Sox were starting southpaws in games one and two in Chris Sale and David Price, while inserting “cold bats” into the lineup.
With the knowledge that you’re facing a team that can seemingly score at will, how does NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger only get three at-bats (0 for 3) in the first two games. Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, two of the Dodgers’ more potent bats, were also 0 for 3. Dodgers Mgr. Dave Roberts started Brian Dozier, who is now 0 for 4 in the Series and has not hit a lick in the post season. Roberts went with Kike Hernandez but he is 0 for 6 in the Series and was 3 for 26 coming in.
Are the Dodgers running out their lineup because the analytical data tells them that this lineup, with Dozier and Hernandez, offers a better chance to win than a lineup with Bellinger and Pederson in it? You could say the Dodgers were a victim of A-D-U-I (Analytically Driven Useless Information)
The left handed bats got into both games but they entered as pinch-hitters. Pinch-hitting is hard enough, but to do it in such cold conditions, such as it was in Fenway Park, makes it doubly tough. Why does that trio get one at-bat each in a game where you held the high powered Red Sox offense to just four runs.
Post season starters, in today’s game, are lucky to go through a lineup two times, much less three times, so in game one, the Red Sox went to their pen in the fifth and here came the Dodgers’ left hand hitters, but they already had one less at-bat in the game than if they started. No one really knows what those hitters would’ve done with that extra at-bat. Maybe nothing, maybe something that turns out to be important. If they got that extra at-bat, maybe they’re a little more warmed up for their at-bats later in the game. The Dodgers have essentially given up at-bats.
The point is, why aren’t the Dodgers putting out their best lineup. I don’t want to hear, “well, that’s how they played it all season.” Now is the time that, when “you stick with what brought you here” is not working, you have to try something else.
With right handers Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi (?) scheduled to start for Boston in games 3 and 4, Roberts will start his left handed hitters but will he stick with right handed hitting David Freese, who is 3 for 5 in the first two games and is hitting .400 for the postseason. Another huge question that needs to be answered is will the pitchers be able to hold off the Red Sox offensive juggernaut? The Dodgers’ staff hasn’t exactly gotten the job done. Closer Kenley Jansen didn’t even pitch in the first two games, the rest of the relief corps has allowed five inherited runners to score while and Boston continues to get two out, RBI hits.
It’s not “breaking news” to say game three is a must win for LA because if they lose, they will not stage a repeat of the 2004 ALCS and come from three games down against the team that actually accomplished that incredible rebound.
The Dodgers still have a chance to get this Series turned around but they’ll need to make an “analytical U-turn” and start driving down the right road with sound decisions based on good ol’ fashioned baseball logic.