The Dodgers demonstrated their strengths and weaknesses of the season during the second game of their series against the Pirates.
The offense relied on home runs for their source of runs batted in, as their lineup produced 4 home runs against the Pirates. The Dodgers starting rotation continued its inconsistencies by depending on a rookie to succeed in every one of their starts, but Sheehan didn’t finish the 4th inning.
Meanwhile, the bullpen is reaping all the mishaps of the rotation and discombobulating their system. The short start by Sheehan caused the bullpen to give up the lead after being overworked. Before the game started, Roberts informed the media they’d stay away from Phillips, but because of Sheehan’s short start, Phillips pitched the ninth and earned the loss.
These strengths and weaknesses have propelled the Dodgers into second place in the National League West, poised to make the playoffs again. The Dodgers are currently nine games above .500 and are 2.5 games behind the first-place Diamondbacks. They are currently one of the wild card teams, but their current style of play will not be sustainable as there are still plenty of baseball to be played.
Here are three ways to fix the problem.
1) Trade For A Starter
The Dodgers desperately need a starting pitcher. Kershaw, their most consistent pitcher of the season, recently went on the IL. Since the beginning of the season, the entire Dodgers starting rotation has gone on the injured list. Due to the injuries haunting Urias, Syndergaard, and May, the Dodgers have relied on prospects to complete the rotation.
The starting rotation rarely pitches past the 5th inning, causing Roberts to overwork the bullpen. As a result of the workload, the bullpen holds the 6th highest ERA in the league. By trading for a pitcher that can eat up innings, the bullpen will be allowed to return to their regularly scheduled job.
Another pitcher will help make up for Urias’s slow start and Kershaw’s injury-prone body and allow some of the pressure to be alleviated from the rookies.
2) Trade For A 2B
The Dodgers’ current depth chart at second base consists of Miguel Vargas, Chris Taylor, Yonny Hernandez, and Mookie Betts.
Here are their statistics thus far:
- Miguel Vargas – .195 BA, 32 RBI, -.1 WAR
- Chris Taylor – .206 BA, 26 RBI, .8 WAR
- Yonny Hernandez – .222 BA, 4 RBI, 0 WAR
- Mookie Betts – .272 BA, 57 RBI, 3.9 WAR
The Dodgers’ best second baseman infielder has been their best shortstop and their best right fielder. Mookie has become the most expensive utility player in the league as he is being shuffled around positions.
With a more consistent 2nd basemen, the Dodgers could continue to rely on the productivity of Heyward to fill in for Betts when he plays shortstop. The Miguel Vargas experiment has not worked well for the team. He should be sent back down to the minors to figure out what is wrong with his swing.
3) Keep Phillips as the Closer
Phillips is 12/14 in save opportunities with a 2.57 ERA, 41 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. Arguably the best pitcher in the bullpen. His service in the bullpen should continue to be the closer of the team and nothing else.
A bullpen functions best when a closer is assigned. The bullpens of years past have excelled because everyone knew their job. Fergerson knew his services would be needed after the 7th. Phillips was prepared to be the setup man for Kimbrel or Jensen.
The current role position isn’t set in stone, but if Phillips is made into the permanent closer, auditions for his replacements can begin.