The arrival of Mookie Betts helped the Dodgers finally break through. (Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)
Since winning the World Series in 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers have returned to the postseason 14 times, including each of the last eight seasons, finally taking home the game’s most coveted prize again on Tuesday.
Long-gone stars like Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig drove many of those teams in the early stages of this current run, but now the offense is sparked by newcomer Mookie Betts (who brought experience and leadership to this team — see video below) and holdovers like Corey Seager and Chris Taylor. On the pitching side of things, Clayton Kershaw remained the team’s most valuable hurler this year, followed by youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.
But it was ultimately both hitting and pitching depth that allowed this squad to finally achieve the big prize.
The story of Game Six had to be Tampa Bay Manager Kevin Cash‘s seemingly quick hook of starter Blake Snell, who had pretty much dominated the Dodgers for 5 1/3 IP to that point. But as soon as Snell served up a one-hit hit to Austin Barnes, Cash called on the Rays bullpen.
Yes, we get that Snell — who got a late start to the season because of elbow soreness in the spring — was babied all year, and hadn’t pitched more than six innings in any start since July 2019. But this was no regular outing; Tampa Bay’s season was on the line and there was no tomorrow if it lost. So why not let Snell work a bit deeper into the game?
That was the clear turning point as the Dodgers jumped all over Nick Anderson and then finished things off against Pete Fairbacks.
Cash’s knee-jerk move to the bullpen will be questioned all offseason.
In 2016, Cash ranked 19th among the longest tenured managers with their current team. That was fewer than four years ago; today, Cash is the third behind only Bob Melvin (Oakland) and Terry Francona (Cleveland).
Despite guiding the Rays to the best record in the AL, the team’s highest winning percentage ever and their first trip to the World Series since 2008, Cash’s position could be in jeopardy after this blunder.
- Since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2018, Snell’s had a tough go of it. Last year, his control slipped and just as he was starting to right the ship, he had to undergo elbow surgery in late July. He returned in September but was unimpressive (0-1, 4.50 ERA over three starts). Snell was much better this season, allowing fewer base runners, but as alluded to above, it was in a very small sample size as he only managed to accumulate 50 frames over 11 starts. Still, he enjoyed a career low 3.06 xFIP this year, so — assuming he’s fully healthy when the 2021 season begins (and past being pissed about getting pulled early) — he’s a great bet for another big year.
- After Snell’s departure, Anderson poured gasoline on the fire and allowed the Dodgers to tie it up and then take a lead they would not relinquish. He was simply not the same reliever in the postseason as he was in the regular season. Last year, Anderson was enjoying a solid rookie campaign for the Fish, but really took off after landing in Tampa Bay at the trade deadline. His off the charts command landed him consideration for our Wire Troll All-Star Team in 2019, and he was even better this year, proving nearly unhittable in recording a microscopic 0.55 ERA. Considering the load Anderson carried in the playoffs, he must have simply run out of gas, as he claims he was not injured. Heading into 2021, we’re not worried about him; this is a dude that’s FIP has not risen above 1.62 since becoming a Ray.
- Seager, on the other hand, absolutely thrived in the postseason, posting 20 runs and 20 RBI in 18 games while getting on base at a phenomenal .425 clip. After he slipped a bit in his sophomore season, we projected big things from him heading into 2018. Okay, so that didn’t really work out too well as his extra-base pop plummeted early on, and then his campaign ended in late-April thanks to Tommy John surgery. Seager bounced back somewhat last year, although his walk rate left something to be desired. This year, however, he hit much better and his power was never more impressive. That carried over into the playoffs with video game like production. Seager bagged MVP honours for his World Series performance, batting .400 over the six-game set with seven runs, two dingers, five RBI, six walks and a steal. While he’s off enjoying his new Chevy Tahoe, consider that this dude may yet have some upside.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Sir Elton Hercules John has been performing since 1962 without taking any time off. In 1975, he released his 10th album, Rock of the Westies. From this, the second single was “Grow Some Funk of Your Own,” featuring the B-Side “I Feel Like a Bullet (From the Gun of Robert Ford),” a tune which reached No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.