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Sports Medley: The Dumbest Decision in World Series History 6 Nov 17

by Tony Medley

In the most important game of the lives of manager Dave Roberts and all of his players, Roberts chose to start Yu Darvish against Houston. People thought, “Well, he probably didn’t start Clayton Kershaw (the best pitcher in baseball) because Kershaw pitched three days ago and Roberts didn’t think he was ready.” The absurdity of that assumption can’t be comprehended by people like Roberts who think that pitching can only be judged by someone with a PhD in math from Harvard.

So Darvish started and allowed four runs almost before the fans had settled in. Roberts pulled him. Who trudged in from the bullpen to take his place? Kershaw!!! This leads to the obvious question; to wit, if Kershaw was ready to pitch in the third inning with the Dodgers 4 runs behind, why didn’t he start the game?

I propose that if Fred Haney or Leo Durocher or Walter Alston or Casey Stengel or Joe McCarthy or John McGraw had been managing the Dodgers for this seventh game Kershaw would have started without any thought of anyone else, and the Dodgers would have won the game. I can’t think of anybody with at least half a brain who would not have started Kershaw.

There’s a lot more, though.

There was Cody Bellinger’s bonehead play of ranging far to his right on a ball hit directly at the second baseman by Alex Bergman, the second batter in the game, and then throwing the ball away, which resulted in the first two batters in the game scoring. He did the exact same thing about a month ago. Doesn’t he have the capability to learn from his mistakes?

Just so I don’t come across as second guessing, in my column of October 4, I pointed out some of the Dodgers’ glaring weaknesses, such as:

  1. “Three starters, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, and Corey Seager, have been battling horrible slumps for more than a month. Turner’s batting average plunged from .390 (actually .377) at the All Star break to .322 at the end of the season.
  2. “That leaves two starters, rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger and right fielder Yasiel Puig, both of whom are no better than .260 hitters.
  3. “Mr. Home-Run-or-no-count Bellinger leads the major leagues in swings and misses and Taylor is right behind him in strikeouts, 146-142.”

In accordance with that article, Turner, Seager, Bellinger, and Puig batted a combined .168 with only 18 hits in 107 times at bat. Turner and Bellinger were particularly pathetic. Bellinger had what is arguably the worst batting performance in World Series history, striking out 17 times for a strikeout ratio of over 58%! A batting coach didn’t have to be too astute to tell him to stop swinging at pitches that were coming in below the belt because most of them are breaking balls that will end up in the dirt out of the strike zone. But apparently the Dodgers don’t have that batting coach because Cody kept swinging at them and missing.

Turner was hitting .377 at the All Star break. My understanding is that he saw all the home runs that Bellinger was hitting and changed his swing from level to uppercut, which is the new (deplorable, in my judgment) trend in hitting. The result was that from the All Star break on he converted himself from the best hitter in baseball to less than mediocre with a batting average of only .264 for the last half of the season and it continued into the World Series. He only got 4 hits for a .160 batting average, a horrible rally killer in the #3 spot in the batting order.

Bellinger was Roberts’ cleanup hitter, while batting .143. The Dodgers’ batting average as a team for the entire Series was only .205, barely beating the 1906 Chicago White Sox, known forever as the “hitless wonders,” because they hit only .198 in beating the Cubs in 6 games.

Most of the pitches at which the Dodgers swung and missed were out of the strike zone.

One thing the Dodgers should note is that Houston consciously and intentionally went from being the team that set the record for the most strikeouts in history of baseball in 2013, 1,530, to the team with the fewest strikeouts this year, 1,087 (17.3%) v. the Dodgers 1,380 (22.3%). If you don’t put the ball in play, you can’t get a hit. Houston had 300 more hit opportunities than the Dodgers in 2017. Old School rocks!

Another (of many that I still have) criticism is that Roberts kept his hottest hitter, Charlie Culbertson, on the bench. Roberts even played Chase Utley at second base instead of Culbertson. Charlie had 3 hits, including one home run, in 5 at bats in the Series. Seager and Utley combined produced 6 hits in 33 at bats between them (that’s only 3 hits more than Culbertson produced in 28 fewer at bats). I said before the Series started that Culbertson should be the starting shortstop throughout the Series. He’s a much better fielder than Seager, was the Dodgers’ hottest hitter, and Seager was coming off an injury and probably (obviously) wasn’t in condition to play.

I could go on. If you asked me, I could write a book.