Are the Dodgers Trying to Be Just a Little Too Versatile?

Kenta-Maeda
(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Many fans talk about team chemistry and continuity often. We normally hear about it when a team is amid a rough losing skid, or, conversely, when a club is winning games on a daily basis, sometimes setting historical franchise records in the process.

As far as the Dodgers go, their current 4-8 record is the team’s worst start in 25 years. Through those 12 games, skipper Dave Roberts has used a different batting order in every single contest. You heard that right—12 different lineups in 12 games.

When it appears as if the starting rotation is locked in, the bats seem to be hibernating. When the offense finally shifts into gear, the pitching just can’t find a way to get the job done.

During the first few weeks of the campaign, we’ve seen Matt Kemp start a game in right field, something that many fans would have perceived as ludicrous just a few months ago. We’ve seen Enrique Hernandez start a game at first base, while Logan Forsythe has become the club’s regular third baseman in the absence of Justin Turner. Smack dab in the middle of MLB’s strangest scheduling tactics in years, we’ve seen righty Kenta Maeda bumped into the bullpen after a rainout made it seem logical.

Starting pitchers throw bullpens all the time in between starts—it’s normally part of their regimens. However, there’s a huge mental contrast between tossing 60 pitches to the team’s bullpen catcher and handling the actual game stress of dealing with the team who’s in first place in the division.

If the squad is winning, employing these versatile tactics makes the management team look brilliant. However, as soon as the club falls victim to any type of losing skid, the concept of the platoon and the sabermetric philosophy in general are trashed by the majority of the fans—without hesitation.

After all, do players really need days off to rest just 12 games into the year?

“I think we spelled it out from the very beginning. We’re going to play the whole roster, keep guys fresh. That’s what I believe is going to help us win a championship,” Roberts made clear since the beginning of 2016. “Every guy should want to play every day and feel that they’re capable, more than capable. But with the makeup of our roster, that’s just not going to happen. I haven’t had anyone come to my office and complain about playing time. Not yet.”

Although the team has gotten close, they’ve yet to win a championship. And whether this platoon tactic will be a critical ingredient in wining one remains to be seen.

It’s understandable to have a desire to keep the bench players involved, but to have 12 different lineups in 12 games may be a tad extreme. Just when a player is finding a groove with the lumber, they find themselves on the bench the next evening because the calendar on the spreadsheet says it’s his turn to have a day off. What about the lineups that were utilized during the four games the club did win? Why not try a little consistency for a change, especially at a point in the schedule when handing out off-days isn’t really necessary?

Yes, it’s incredibly early in the year. But the Dodgers are already 5-1/2 games behind the division lead. Worst case scenario—and let’s hope it doesn’t happen—the team could be 7-1/2 games out by the beginning of next week. While there’s more than enough time to make up such a disparity, it could be extremely challenging if the same gap exists during the middle of the summer.

Why can’t there be a little more consistency—just to see if it works?

 

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