Dodgers Quarterly Breakdown: Third Quarter

We’ve gone through close to 4 and a half months of baseball and the Dodgers overall record has been near or atop the league for most of the duration. They’re cruising their way towards a 7th consecutive NL West championship but not without a few dramatics and why not, gotta have something to keep fans wanting. You can argue that the drama is a result of some lapses to certain aspects of the team. You can also argue the opposite. And that’s what I’ll cover here. At least from games 82 to 121.

 

Offense

The offense averaged 6 runs a game which is the most than any other quarter of the season, so their production level was at its peak. And most of the standard statistics have remained about the same, in the top ranks. There actually has been some improvement in some of the peripheral metrics. For example, their walk percentage has increased. Their isolated power is better than the previous 2 quarters. In case you’re unsure what ISO is, it measures a player’s power through extra base hits. Here’s the math: 2B + 2(3B) + 3(HR) / AB. You can argue the surge of runs they’ve scored per game is due solely on that stat.

Moving forward, plate discipline hasn’t been an issue. It’s been near the leagues best this whole season and hasn’t really deviated much. If anything, the pitches they’ve seen per plate appearance have increased since the 2nd quarter and is now back to over 4. Looking at situational stats, they did well with runners on base and even better with runners in scoring position. With 2 outs, they were just above average but again, good with runners on and ranked 2nd in MLB in OPS with runners in scoring position.

There was 1 glaring issue. It was how poor they were against left-handed pitching. This could be the result of right-handed hitting batters like Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez, and David Freese being injured for a big chunk of the 3rd quarter. Even with Pollock back and Smith called up, both of whom have done well against southpaws, it just wasn’t enough. We all remember the Dodgers woes versus lefties and how teams in the postseason had game plans set up to expose this weakness. Good news is this quarter is by far the worst they’ve batted vs LHP’s and it’s likely due to the reason previously mentioned. More good news, said absent players will be back soon (actually, Freese’s timeline for return is still in question) with an addition that was acquired at the trade deadline. Jedd Gyorko has been rehabbing in OKC for the last couple of weeks. From 2017-2018, Jedd had a .947 OPS versus lefties in 225 plate appearances. So, the Dodgers will have about a month to debunk any notions of this weakness.

 

Rotation

The starting staff still sits in the top ranks of most stats. Thing is, even though they were ranked 3rd in ERA, it went from 1.97 in the 2nd quarter to a 3.27 in the 3rd. They put up 30 quality starts from games 41 to 81 but that dropped to 20 in the next 40 games.  They went from a .240 weighted on base average against to a .281 in that same span. I can go on about how they’ve regressed but the torrid pace they were at in the 2nd quarter was just not sustainable. Nonetheless, they’ve maintained amongst the elite and will continue doing so.

There’s not much to knock about the rotation. But if we were to pick on an issue it would be their wOBA against with runners in scoring position. The first quarter it was at .290, in the second it dropped to .179. Obviously, it wouldn’t continue to be that low so you figured it would bounce back to somewhere around the mid-high .200’s. No, in the third quarter it reached .326. That’s pretty high. The norm for SP’s with RISP for the season in the NL is .321. So, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. Even taking that backslide into account, it still left them as one of the best starting staffs in this quarter and overall. And looking ahead, there’s some excitement with the possibility of Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin auditioning for the final rotation spot in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we won’t know the results of that until the end of the season.

 

Bullpen

The relievers stayed within the top 10 of most categories. Aside from what most fans want to believe, the bullpen is one of the best in the league. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly on Twitter, bullpens across baseball have been really bad this season and the Dodgers relievers haven’t been immune to the flaws. There are some relievers that have continued to improve from a rocky start. Then there are others who haven’t and are now on the outside looking in when it comes to making the bullpen in the postseason. That’s basically what it boils down to now, especially with the Dodgers a shoe in to win the division.

The bigger question used to be who’ll lock down the middle relief role. Up to this last quarter, the 8th and 9th innings is where the bullpen shined, for the most part. They were best or 2nd in the league in wOBA against. In the 3rd quarter, their rank dropped to 18th with a .324 wOBA against. Compare that to when they were previously sitting at .260 or lower and now the coaching staff and brass have to consider making drastic changes. But 40 games is a small sample. It can easily turn around. It can also, not. In the latter case, roles in the late innings might change to something we would’ve never imagined seeing.

There’s an advanced metric called skill interactive earned run average (SIERA). Its purpose is to more accurately tab the skill level of a pitcher than your standard ERA stat. It’s like FIP, which takes only strikeouts, home runs, unintentional walks, and hits by pitch into account. SIERA takes all those into account but includes batted balls in play. It’s also a park adjusted stat. The bullpen’s SIERA this quarter has been the lowest it has been all season. They’re actually tied for 5th with a 3.95. That’s in large part due to Chargois, Kelly, Baez and yes, even Jansen. The latter three are a lock in the BP for the October run. Chargois led all relievers with the lowest SIERA, mostly due to a high strikeout to walk percentage but he gave up the long ball too often and couldn’t minimize damage when runners got on base which has put his role as a postseason option in jeopardy. But having the other 3 in late inning situations or even high leverage ones has to have most feeling confident they can do their job.

The Dodgers still remained a bullpen that’s very talented with swing and miss stuff as well as posting their lowest ERA-. Most impressive was how well they’ve improved when runners get on base or even in scoring position. These are all good signs heading down the last stretch and into the postseason.

 

Defense

The defense has remained elite for the most part but there was a stretch where the Dodgers averaged an error a game. There’s even a small stretch after the all-star break where they averaged at least 2 errors a game. It all happened to begin around the time Joc Pederson started playing 1st base. Funny thing is, it wasn’t all on him. His 6 errors at first base were only a 6th of the errors committed by the team during his time at that position. Few speculated that the Joc experiment at first base exacerbated all the misplays. And the observation might be a valid one as the Dodgers have committed only 4 errors in the 13 games since the Dodgers stop playing Joc at the 3.

Overall, the defense is still above and beyond the rest in defensive runs saved but a lot is credited to a few players. So, here’s each positions DRS and their MLB rank for the season up until game 121.

Catcher: 7/6th

First Base: 0/t-15th

Second Base: 9/2nd

Short Stop: 6/t-10th

Third Base: 0/18th

Right Field: 26/1st

Center Field: -5/t-20th

Left Field: 15/1st

Pitcher: 11/t-2nd

In total, they lead all teams with a DRS total of 111. The next closest team is at 87. But as the breakdown shows, some positions have their flaws. But with 6 of the 9 positions in the top 10, the defense is not a concerning issue worth stressing about.