Blame Andrew Friedman’s roster building for Dodgers collapse

What the Dodgers are doing with their pitching isn’t working.

No other conclusion can be drawn after what happened Saturday night when their bullpen imploded in a gruesome five-run seventh inning for the San Diego Padres that erased their three-run lead and ended their 111-win season.

This can no longer be considered a small sample size, as the Dodgers completed eight seasons with Andrew Friedman as president of baseball operations.

The Dodgers reached the playoffs in each of those years but won just one World Series, their lone championship in that span won in a pandemic-shortened season like none before or after.

They can’t continue to script pitching matches for entire games.

They can’t pull out a starter when it cranks well just because they decided to do it ahead of time.

They can’t put their manager in a position where he has to make pitcher change after pitcher change.

Essentially, they can’t do what they did in their 5-3 loss to the Padres in Game 4 of their National League Division Series at Petco Park.

Manager Dave Roberts played a major role in the loss, but later in the botched execution of the team’s questionable plans.

Any examination of the Dodgers’ failure begins with the overall organizational philosophy implemented by Friedman that devalues ​​the starting pitch and calls for the use of an assembly line of relievers.

It’s an industry-wide trend, and it’s working — to some extent.

The Dodgers took this concept to the extreme, as their management apparatus demonstrated a tendency to stick to their pre-game script rather than allowing a well-behaved starter to pitch an inning or two. additional.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looks on before Game 4 of the NLDS on Saturday.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

That’s what happened on Saturday when Roberts knocked out Tyler Anderson after five scoreless innings with his pitch count at 86.

That’s also what happened three days earlier in a Game 2 loss when Clayton Kershaw was called out after five innings, even though he had retired the last nine batters he faced.

When asked if he had thought about allowing Anderson back for the sixth inning, Roberts replied, “There was a reflection, but where he was with his pitch count, which was coming in, I just felt that we had enough arms to pass. this.”

In reality, decisions on how long to stay with starters are made before games, with Roberts consulting with the front office on how many batters they should face.

Anderson was on a cruise, but the braintrust probably decided they didn’t want Anderson to cast Juan Soto and Manny Machado for the third time.

By limiting the responsibilities of his starting pitchers, Friedman effectively called on his relievers to cover more innings. But while every pitching change Roberts makes is an opportunity to create favorable matchups, it’s also a chance something can go wrong. Every call to the bullpen could be a landmine.

This is the danger inherent in the regime.

Most relievers are failed beginners. For many, success depends as much on unfamiliarity with opposing hitters as it does on their equipment.

Roberts navigated the first three games of this series without serious fouls. But Julio Urías and Kershaw only pitched five innings each in their starts. Game 3 opener Tony Gonsolin recorded just four outs. Roberts was asked to make pick after pick. He had to do bad things.

That’s what happened, with Game 4 featuring a series of errors from Roberts and the coaching staff.

Chris Martin scared the Dodgers in the sixth, giving up a hit to Jake Cronenworth that advanced Brandon Drury to second base. Martin escaped the jam by knocking out Will Myers.

Disaster struck in the next inning.

With the Dodgers ahead by three runs, Roberts put the game in the hands of Tommy Kahnle, who pitched all 12 2/3 innings during the regular season.

Kahnle walked Jurickson Profar, who reached third on a Trent Grisham single. Catcher Austin Nola led to Profar with a single.

Evan Phillips had been used in those kinds of high-leverage situations, but Roberts suddenly decided he wanted him for the ninth inning after saying his team didn’t need a designated closer.

Roberts instead turned to Yency Almonte, who gave up a brace to Ha-Seong Kim. Soto followed with a single that scored Nola and tied the score 3-3.

Southpaw hitter Cronenworth was down to two batters, but southpaw Alex Vesia didn’t start to warm up until Machado hit. The next batter, Drury, appeared on the first pitch.

With Cronenworth now at the plate, the dugout asked Almonte to throw himself to first base to give Vesia more time to warm up. The sign was not relayed and Almonte threw a pitch instead. It was a ball.

Vesia entered the game with a 1-0 count. Soto stole second base and Cronenworth delivered a two-run single to center field. The Dodgers were now down 5-3. Their season was almost over.

Regardless of the state of their pitch, the Dodgers shouldn’t have lost to the Padres. What cost them the series was that they didn’t get much production from Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman until Game 4.

Still, the loss revealed the Dodgers never had the pitching to win a World Series. Their model was unsustainable.

The Dodgers could have beaten the Padres like that. They could have even beaten the Philadelphia Phillies like that. But the Houston Astros?

The injuries will give Friedman an alibi.

Walker Buehler was at a Fox studio in Los Angeles, sidelined for the season as he recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery. Former Cy Young Award nominee Gonsolin suffered a season-ending injury relegating him to an abbreviated start in a Game 3 loss. propelled into a relief role.

Nevertheless, this winter should be a time of reflection for the front office. Friedman and his lieutenants must look beyond proprietary data. They should also look at the obvious numbers. They must count the number of championships they have lost.

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