Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Revisiting some postseason questions

Back on September 30, I took a look at five reasons the Dodgers could win the World Series, along with five reasons why they wouldn't (read my original report here). 

Well... we obviously know they didn't, so let's take a look at each key point and break it down.

Reasons They Will

1. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke as the 1-2 punch.  Everything was working out quite nicely for this... and then Game 6 of the NLCS hit.  And that's when Kershaw had his worst start of the season with seven runs in four innings.  Even with that clunker, he had a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in four October starts, striking out 28 in 23 innings.

Greinke was also solid, recording a 2.57 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts.  The only downside is that he twice surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Cardinals, and on the losing end against the Braves, though that was hardly his fault.  He was signed to be the ace right behind Kershaw, and that's what he did.

All in all, these guys definitely provided the punch, but their offense did not give them the love they needed.  They both went in the first couple of games in St. Louis, and both were loses because of virtually no run support.  In other words, there wasn't a whole lot more they could do.

2. Hanley Ramirez is the best hitter around.  Absolutely yes for the NLDS.  No way for the NLCS.

The reason?  It's simple - Joe Kelly beaning him in the ribs in Game 1 of the NLCS.  Ramirez was already banged up enough from the season, but this is the injury that caused his average to tumble from .500 after the NLDS to .323 five games later (he sat out Game 2).  What a shame, too, because the offense was never able to overcome his lack of production.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  Of the regular starters, Puig's .333 led the team for the postseason.  He was much better in the NLDS, as he had a hit in all four games, including multi-hits in three of them, all wins.

With that said, he was pushed back to the #5 spot right before the start of the postseason, and he only had two RBIs the entire way.  Not exactly the type of production you'd want from a guy in that spot.

4. Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen closing out games.  Both men brought the goods, and both more than delivered.  Wilson did not allow any runs in six appearances, and showed the world that he's ready to close again in 2014.  Of course, staying on to be the top setup man would be nice as well!

Jansen only had one slip-up in Game 5 of the NLCS by allowing a couple of runs, but the Dodgers still won, so it didn't matter.  He had a whopping 10 strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings, good for an incredible 20.77 K/9.  He collected a couple of saves as well.

5. Road Warriors.  The Dodgers played four games away from home, and only won one of them.  They split in Atlanta before wrapping it up at home, and lost all three games in St. Louis.  The injury to Ramirez was definitely a big reason why, but for a team that finished tied for tops in the Majors with 45 wins away from home, their play on the road in the postseason was a disappointment.

Reasons They Won't

1. No Matt Kemp.  Absolutely this turned out to be a big issue.  There were countless amounts of times the Dodgers had runners on, failed to drive them in, and I'd think about Kemp getting the job done.  Not the beat up Kemp, the version that is feeling good and the ball is jumping off his bat.  As we saw in the NLCS, a run here or there could've meant a World Series trip for the Dodgers.  We'll never know.

2. Injury prone.  Oh boy, did I call this or what?  Everything was going quite smoothly until Kelly plunked Ramirez, and the Dodgers were never the same. 

The numbers don't lie: in the NLDS they averaged 6.5 runs a game, and in the NLCS they averaged 2.2, including two shutouts.  Of course, it's not like everybody was hurt, as guys like Andre Ethier and Juan Uribe did a big pile of nothing against the Cardinals.  It sure seemed like a trickle down effect once Ramirez was clearly not the same.

3. Yasiel Puig on the big stage.  I already pointed out his solid .333 postseason average.  But, there were bumps along the way.  He started off 0-for-10 with six strikeouts through two games of the NLCS.  When he did start to hit, he infuriated the Cardinals with his antics on the bases in celebration.  Then there was his bad overthrows in the Game 6 blowout. 

Bottom line is that you have to take the good with the bad with him, and hope there's more good.  There was a lot of good against the Braves, but not so much with a World Series berth on the line.

4. Streaky offense.  Just look at my numbers from above about the runs averaged per round.  When you get to the NLCS and fall over four runs shy per game than the previous round, all the pitching in the world probably won't get you the wins needed to advance.  That's exactly what happened.

5. Ricky Nolasco fading.  In 10 games, Nolasco only made one start, which was Game 4 of the NLCS.  With the Dodgers trailing in the series 2-1, he lasted only four innings and gave up three runs, taking the loss.  He wasn't awful, but certainly wasn't good either.

He was lined up to start Game 4 of the NLDS, but Mattingly went with Kershaw on three days' rest instead.  That move ended up working, but who knows if Kershaw felt some long-term effects from that.  Maybe he had a dead arm in the last start?  Nobody knows for sure, and he's definitely not telling anyone if he was less than 100%.  It's just a shame that after such a fantastic start, Nolasco faded so badly that the rotation in the playoffs was thrown a bit out of whack.

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