Inside the Dodgers: Suddenly, ‘depth’ isn’t the Dodgers’ buzzword anymore

first_imgThen there’s the bullpen. For all their issues, the Dodgers have asked the same nine pitchers to make 94 percent of their relief appearances. Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly and Yimi Garcia can’t be optioned to the minor leagues, so not every bullpen spot is flexible. Yet in spite of few injury issues, the Dodgers aren’t churning through relievers. The available in-house replacements (J.T. Chargois, Jaime Schultz, Brock Stewart, Dennis Santana, Josh Sborz, Adam McCreery) either haven’t pitched well enough at Triple-A to warrant a call-up, or the organization has preferred to keep them in their Triple-A rotation. Or both.Injuries haven’t been an issue on the position player side, either, because the Dodgers have done more than tread water in the absence of Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock (and, more briefly, Russell Martin and Austin Barnes). They have the National League’s best record by a six-game margin. Andrew Friedman can afford to look ahead to the postseason as he contemplates trade offers in the weeks to come.This newsletter isn’t about which relievers the Dodgers should try to acquire. It’s about how the deadline calculus changes for a roster carried not by its depth, but by its stars. Consider that 17 players finished last season with at least 1 WAR, and none with more than 4.5. You’d be challenged to find a pennant-winning team with more parity.The distribution of talent among the top 17 Dodgers this year looks very different. At the top is Cody Bellinger, who’s on pace for 13.5 WAR. Next is pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, on pace for 8.3. Checking in at number 17 is Russell Martin, who’s on pace for 0.9. That’s a big gap, but even this exercise in quantification doesn’t totally capture the difference between year’s club and last year’s. Baseball Reference’s version of WAR notoriously underestimates the value of catcher framing (FanGraphs, which incorporates framing into its WAR statistic, has Martin on pace for 1.6 WAR) and nobody’s version of WAR is the best way to value a pitcher (especially relievers). The smell test works better: If I told you in conversation that Cody Bellinger was your team’s best player in 2019 and Russell Martin is your team’s 17th-best player, you’d understand. That sounds like a pretty big gap, and it is.What does that mean on a practical level? We know the Dodgers could use more reliable relief pitching. That’s the first trade priority. The second priority isn’t as obvious, but maybe it should be. There’s a steep dropoff from the best player on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster to the worst, and their 40-man roster isn’t terribly impressive from 26 through 40. Bellinger and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been healthy to this point in the season – knock on wood – but if either were lost to injury, that six-game tower over the NL standings might topple. The Dodgers’ in-house depth simply isn’t what it was even a year ago. Friedman has spoken so often about the value of roster depth (here’s one such piece from April), one wonders how much of a priority he’ll place on upgrading those 26-through-40 spots before the deadline. I’m not even sure what that would look like. The Phillies just bought Brad Miller from the Yankees, who had the 29-year-old infielder parked at Triple-A. Miller’s .754 OPS is basically average, but that type of player can be useful for a playoff-bound team. Once their bullpen issue(s) are addressed, the Dodgers – who coincidentally released Miller in spring training – might be looking to stock up on Brad Millers.-J.P.Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Monday June 17 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Dodgers links:Shut down – Dodgers drop another one-run game to Giants.Redemption song – Martin bounced back from an 0-for-3 start to deliver a Sunday win with his bat and his glove.Unsung hero – Dino Ebel’s decision to send Chris Taylor on a hit to shallow left field paid off.Best of the best – The Dodgers possess one of three elite-tier lineups in baseball, writes Jay Jaffe for ESPN.Let’s start a rumor – Jim Bowden of The Athletic suggests the Dodgers could line up with the Royals on a Whit Merrifield trade, but Royals GM Dayton Moore suggests it won’t be that easy.Trouble at home – For Venezuelan baseball players, political turmoil back home makes the 162-game season even more arduous.The old man and ‘the ocean’ – Max Muncy explained why he owes his career to his father, Lee.Daddy day – The videos of Clayton Kershaw’s and Kenley Jansen’s kids on the field at Dodger Stadium on Sunday are predictably adorable.Way to go – What does it look like when the players you trade away immediately get better, and the players you acquire immediately get worse? Ladies and gentlemen, your 2019 St. Louis Cardinals. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Editor’s note: This is the Monday June 17 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.Wednesday marks six weeks until baseball’s trade deadline. It’s a hard deadline this year. There will be no August trades for players who clear waivers. While that makes for more drama, and fewer explanations required by baseball beat writers, it also accelerates the process for a general manager. There’s a reason we went straight from the amateur draft to trade talk – and, in the case of the Mariners and Yankees, an actual blockbuster trade over the weekend. There’s less time to make a deal than ever.With that in mind, I wanted to address a general observation about this year’s Dodgers team. I almost didn’t write about this because it’s so hard to quantify. (I tried anyway.) It’s the idea of “depth” as a buzzword for describing how the Dodgers are succeeding – something that was eminently true last year, and not as much this year.To be clear, the Dodgers have some depth. Will Smith came up from Triple-A and was completely capable in a six-game injury replacement cameo. Matt Beaty has been sub-replacement level by Wins Above Replacement, but there’s something to be said for a guy who has nine RBIs in his first 20 major league games. Ross Stripling and Julio Urías were so trustworthy as starting pitchers, one or both of them might hop into the rotation soon to give the Dodgers’ other starting pitchers a blow.last_img

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