October 11, 2019

"Could Dave Roberts Be The Next Grady Little?" (Is That A Crazy Question?)

"Could Dave Roberts Be The Next Grady Little?"

Because I believe Gump committed the worst managerial error in baseball history - I'm willing to listen to other contenders, but I doubt I'll be swayed - this mlb.com headline seemed like an overheated "hot take".

As I read more about the Dodgers' brutal extra-inning loss to the Nationals in NLDS Game 5, however, it didn't seem quite so crazy. (The answer to the question is still a resounding No, however. And not only because Roberts has superhero status among Red Sox fans.)

Will Leitch writes:
Roberts, as helpfully pointed out in an amusing thread by HardballTalk writer Craig Calcaterra, has made an extremely questionable decision that has cost his team in every one of the past three postseasons.

2017: Roberts brought in a clearly spent Brandon Morrow in the World Series, a pitcher who had pitched four consecutive games, because Morrow "felt good" and thus Roberts said "you can't turn him down." (Morrow then gave up four runs on six pitches.)

2018: After Ryan Madson had been shelled in the first two games of the World Series, Roberts put him back in in Game 4 with the Dodgers up 4-0. He immediately gave up a three-run homer to Mitch Moreland in a game the Red Sox ultimately won. Boston won the World Series the next night.

2019: Joe Kelly has struggled all year when asked to pitch multiple innings; across his eight multi-inning appearances this year, he gave up nine runs.

But Roberts kept him out there after a 1-2-3 ninth inning despite having a full, mostly rested bullpen … and Kelly loaded the bases and then gave up a crushing grand slam to Howie Kendrick.

"My eyes tell me that he should go back out there because he's throwing the ball really well," he said postgame. One imagines Dodgers brass, who spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours working out every possible statistical and analytical scenario, not exactly doing backflips that all their effort and investment has been thrown out the window for Roberts' "eyes." And we haven't even talked about bringing in Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two home runs on three pitches ...

Is each of these moves a fireable offense? Can any single move be a fireable offense? The Red Sox famously dismissed Grady Little for keeping Pedro Martinez in so long during the 2003 ALCS, and while that move clearly paid off (Terry Francona and the Sox won the World Series the next season), it has always seemed a little rash to fire a manager because he made one decision that didn't work out in a high-profile game.
Leitch has absolutely no idea what he's talking about when it comes to Huckleberry Happytalk. Red Sox fans spent the 2003 season shaking their heads as Gump made one moronic decision after another - in every facet of the game. However, that year's Red Sox team was so good, it kept bailing the manager out - until Gump fucked up worse than any manager ever.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry wanted to dump Gump after the 2002 season because he saw clearly that Gump's think-tank was devoid of fuel, but he was talked out of it. And as Gump was going against his bosses' explicit pre-game instructions, Henry turned to his partners and asked: "Can we fire him now?"

Hiring Terry Francona for 2004 was a great decision and life as a Red Sox fan has been better than any fan could have possibly imagined way back in the winter of 2003-04. Still, Gump had better avoid crossing the street in front of my car - forever.

Andy McCullough, The Athletic:
The Baffling Decisions Of Dave Roberts That Cost The Dodgers

The final moments for the 2019 Dodgers were horrifying in their familiarity. Some Dodgers fans might never forgive Roberts for sticking with Yu Darvish too long in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. They may never forget how he removed Rich Hill too early in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series. But they may never understand his actions in Game 5 of the National League Division Series ...

They may never understand why he permitted Clayton Kershaw to face the heart of Washington's batting order in the eighth inning, when a two-run lead was vaporized in two swings by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. They may never understand why Roberts trusted Kershaw, at the end of his least-effective season in a decade, over Kenta Maeda, his most reliable reliever.

They may never understand why lefty Adam Kolarek didn't pitch. They may never understand why Kenley Jansen waited in bullpen exile as the game approached its climax without him.

And they may never understand much of anything about the 10th inning, the frame that ended this season. Why did Joe Kelly return for a second inning, when fresh arms were available? Why did Roberts issue an intentional walk to load the bases as Kelly teetered? Why did Roberts let Kelly face former Dodger Howie Kendrick?


The confusion morphed into shock when Kendrick detonated a belt-high fastball from Kelly over the center-field wall. ...

At times, Roberts has demonstrated a deft hand at bullpen management. ... He has shown the capacity to recognize the moments of highest leverage and utilize his best players in those situations.

Which makes the events of Wednesday all the more confounding. Roberts appeared to act through feel rather than logic, through emotion rather than analytics. He trusted Kershaw in a moment when he should not have. He allowed a sterling ninth inning from Kelly to cloud his judgment for the 10th. He let the fear of having Maeda face Washington slugger Soto place a wrench inside his planning. He seemed to have lost all faith in Jansen, the erstwhile closer, who did not pitch until the outcome had been decided. ...

106 victories, more than any other by a Dodgers team in franchise history, rendered moot by the missteps of their manager.

Houston Mitchell, Los Angeles Times:
Dodgers Dugout: There's A Whole List Of People To Blame

[Y]ou know what? We all saw this coming. The bullpen problems. Kershaw and Bellinger fading. The lack of plate discipline in crucial situations. I wrote about it all season, you wrote to me about it all season. Meanwhile the Dodgers marched merrily on. ...

I love Roberts as a person. The players seem to love him. ... But he is one of the worst game managers I have ever seen.

Roberts set Kershaw up for failure. He got the strikeout to end the seventh inning. That was the time to take him out. ... Maeda, who looked unhittable this postseason, was ready in the bullpen. They send him back out to start the eighth. Rendon homers. OK. Time to remove Kershaw, whose pitches were obviously flat. Juan Soto is up. Where is Adam Kolarek? Kolarek owned Soto in the playoffs. He was acquired for just these situations. Kershaw gives up lots of homers. Kolarek doesn't. It's a one-run game. Where is Adam Kolarek? The decision to leave Kershaw in is justifiable if this was five years ago, and Kershaw was still the best pitcher in baseball. But he's no longer that Kershaw. Roberts sees Kershaw with his heart and not with his eyes.

Soto homers off of Kershaw ... Now Roberts pulls Kershaw for Maeda. What does Maeda do? He strikes out the side. ...

The 10th starts and [Joe] Kelly is back out there again, despite not being a great two-inning pitcher. His ERA in appearances that last more than an inning this season: 8.39.

Kelly walks the first hitter. That's a trouble sign. Kolarek and Kenley Jansen are in the bullpen and appear to be ready. Kelly stays in the game. He gives up a booming double to Rendon. Kelly stays in the game. He walks Soto intentionally, making you wonder why Kolarek even bothered showing up at the game Wednesday. Surely, he will pull Kelly now. Kelly stays in the game. He gives up a grand slam to former ... Dodger Howie Kendrick. Now Roberts comes to get Kelly. ...

I don't mind the Dodgers losing when they get beat by a better team. But to give the other team opportunity after opportunity because of mismanagement is inexcusable. Roberts is a great 162-game season manager, when you can afford to give away a game or two here or there. But he's a terrible playoff manager, where every mistake is magnified and every win is precious.
Some comments from The Athletic's article:
Andrew E.
Roberts is a phenomenal coach during the regular season, but something happens in the playoffs that just has the lights turned off in his attic so to speak.

Justin L.
Roberts specifically and often talks about going with his gut here over analytics. ... The data and analytics all say to pitch your best relievers in the highest leverage spots. Roberts got burned by ignoring the winning formula they've used all year and in the past.

Alan G.
I think Roberts was trying to rewrite Kershaw's postseason narrative instead of making every move logically and without emotion.

Dan H.
Roberts used Kershaw in the 8th when he didn't need to. Kershaw did his job in the 7th. He isn't 2012 Clayton Kershaw. Everyone knows that. Roberts is guilty of falling in love with his old ace. The usage of Kelly can be debated, but he did have a lights-out ninth. My problem with that is keeping Kelly in so long.

Paul R.
Except he didn't fall in love with his old ace; he fell in love with Don Mattingly's old ace. I think that proves your point even more strongly—he was imagining some cinematic revision of a great player's one blemish.

Jonathan L.
Roberts' inexplicable decisions put players in position to fail. ... [Kershaw] never should have been out there on short rest in the first place. Unlike the Nationals, the Dodgers had several well-rested and effective relievers. No need to work starters into the bullpen on short rest, especially with only 6-7 outs left to get. ... You couldn't orchestrate a more spectacular meltdown if you tried.

Joseph L.
I feel like his blatantly ignoring the analytics is getting him fired. He played too fast and loose with everything in a game where the numbers were in their favor if he deployed the pen properly.

Nick A.
That game was the most egregious example I have ever seen in 30 years of watching baseball of a manager putting his players in position to fail. And not just once but over and over again.

Kevin V.
If this were the first time Roberts face planted with his bullpen management in the postseason, you might have a point. But it isn't. At this point continuing with Roberts is like the well-known quip: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
The Dodgers will stay with Roberts as manager in 2020, according to the LA Times.

1 comment:

goldbuster101 said...

The Dodgers will never win the world series against anyone with Dave Roberts - but maybe could have with Cokie Roberts!...The best that Dodger fans could hope for is for them to match the Braves division streak or break it (15 consecutive wins) but no WS win. Roberts inexplicable decision making during post season especially, makes me believe he is managing to lose not win!