Unpopular Opinion: The Trade Deadline Was A Success

I’ll be the first one to admit that I wanted the Dodgers to make a splash. Hell, I wrote articles about mid-to-high profile relievers that I liked, aces on fringe non-contenders (Luis Castillo and Noah Syndergaard) and the hefty price tags they would come with, and even went out on a limb to say that I would welcome a trade of the greatest Home Run Derby loser ever, Joc Pederson (who thankfully will see no more time at first base).

The Dodgers did not do any of those things I wrote pieces about. In fact, they didn’t even do anything close to those things. Meanwhile, their fiercest competitor, the Houston Astros (who I believe the Dodgers will face in the World Series), made the biggest deadline splash, bringing in All-Star and former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. They also beefed up their pitching staff with underrated long-man, Joe Biagini and reclamation project, Aaron Sanchez (who hurled six innings in Saturday night’s combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners).

The splashy deadline from Houston sent numerous Dodgers fans into disarray, conceding the season to the Houston Astros and declaring them World Series champions.

Yes, yes, I know this is just a joke. I find it quite funny actually, but several Dodgers fans were dead serious in this belief that the season was a wash.

There is actually a name for that and it is called recency bias. This cognitive bias is a psychological phenomenon in which people’s memories are fixated on the short-term, the “here and now” as opposed to their fixation being on the entire situation at hand. Here is the thought process: “The Houston Astros won a World Series within the last two years so they’re obviously good. They went out and acquired the biggest name (not necessarily the best player), the biggest name. The media is hyping them up and because the Dodgers failed to bring in any big-name players this month, they are obviously not as good as the team that they lead in the overall standings by a game and a half.”

The same thing happened this offseason when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper along with others. People seemed to have forgotten the fact that at the end of the day, Philadelphia had a losing record in 2018 and despite media attention, Bryce Harper was unable to lead his Washington Nationals into the postseason in his swan song. He was also unable to lead that team to a postseason series victory.

I recall the analysts over at MLB Network talking about the Astros’ rotation hours prior to the acquisition of Zack Greinke. While I cannot recall what they said verbatim, the underlying message was this “Houston has a great one-two punch in Cole and Verlander, but that rotation as a whole is not special.” The acquisition of Greinke was a necessity for Houston. After failing to replace the departed trio of Morton, Keuchel, and McCullers (yes, I know he is just injured) in the offseason, this was a move that Houston had to make just to keep pace with the Dodgers. The Astros own a 3.66 starters’ ERA on the season, respectable. The Dodgers starting rotation ERA? 3.05. Off -the-charts, other-worldly, unsustainably good.

While Zack Greinke is still one of the game’s top arms, he alone does not make the Astros unstoppable. And based on what the Dodgers did to Greinke on opening day, I’m not even sure he will benefit Houston if they play the Dodgers in the fall classic. Remember the last time a team in a Dodgers-Astros World Series brought in a starter at the deadline that pitched against their opponent for years due to the fact they were in the same division? Just food for thought.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk Dodgers. Aside from the whole Houston fiasco, the biggest complaint I heard out of Dodgers Twitter was the failure to address the bullpen. Ah yes, the dreaded bullpen, the mediocre bullpen, the shotty bullpen, the bullpen that just cannot and must not be trusted. The bullpen has the third-best ERA in the game since June first to go along with MLB’s lowest opponents’ batting average dating all the way back to April

“Wait, did I read that right? Third-best ERA in the game since the beginning of June and lowest opponents’ batting average dating back to April?”

I’m assuming most of you probably did a double-take at those statistics, not really believing what you had just read. “But, but, they have no bridge to Kenley Jansen. All the analysts tell me how awful the relief corps is. All the Twitter GMs said we needed Shane Greene and Felipe Vazquez.” How is this all possible?

Since the first day of May, 11 Dodgers relievers (excluding Russell Martin) have held opponents to a batting average below .235. Based on the fact the Dodgers carry eight relief pitchers in October, the team’s problem will not be struggling to find quality arms. With the emergence of young guns, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, there is even more competition in the pen.

With all that being said, I am not just a Dodgers loyalist who is going to blindly praise any move the front office makes. I still would’ve loved to have seen Sam Dyson put on Dodgers blue, but I do not believe one reliever is going to be the difference of whether or not this team wins the World Series.

It was clear that the Dodgers’ biggest need (again, the team is about as close to flawless as it gets) was a left-handed relief pitcher. With Tony Cingrani being shipped to St. Louis, Scott Alexander on the 60-Day IL and Caleb Ferguson proving he flat out does not belong on a Major League roster, Julio Urias was set to become the lone southpaw for the Dodgers late-inning cavalry.

Pedro Baez has always had an odd knack for dominating lefties. Lefties have hit a chilly .182 with an OPS of .538 against Baez over the course of his career. As far as I am concerned, Pedro Baez is a lefty specialist, due to his inexplicable success against a demographic he should not thrive against so much.

Either way, that leaves the Dodgers with one true southpaw and an honorary southpaw. That isn’t going to get the job done for October. Enter Adam Kolarek, the Dodgers lone bullpen addition on deadline day. While Kolarek’s peripherals and overall statistics are nothing to write home about, Kolarek offers this Dodgers team something they have desperately been looking to add all season long.

Similar to Baez, Kolarek has found a niche in stifling those who stand in the left-handed batters’ box. Lefties have hit an abysmal .207 with a pathetic .550 OPS against the fellow southpaw. To go along with that, Kolarek has induced groundballs nearly 65 percent of the time, which is remarkable. As long as the Dodgers don’t pedal out an infield of Muncy at third, Tuner at short, White at second and Pederson at first, a groundball clip like Kolarek’s will serve to be an asset for Los Angeles.

If I can leave you with a parting message, let it be this.

“CHILL THE HECK OUT”

The Dodgers are not baseball’s best team on accident, they got to where they have at this point in the season because of how well their roster is structured. The reason Los Angeles did not go big at the deadline like they did last year was that there was no need to. Manny Machado, Brian Dozier, and David Freese were all necessary pieces to a team that barely scraped past the Colorado Rockies in a 163rd game of the season. This 2019 edition of the Los Angeles Dodgers is light-years ahead of the ones in years past.

Ian Nielson is  for @DodgersLowDown since 2018. Follow him on twitter @ianenielson

Featured Image Creidt: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images