The Dodgers Are at it Again...But Can They Keep it Up?
The NL west is the division to watch right now. The Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks are in an intense battle for the top spot, with the leader changing daily. As of September, 3nd, the Dodgers had the top spot by 0.5 games. The Dodgers are 3rd in RBI’s (604), 2nd in runs (641) and 1st in ERA (3.42), they are obviously deserving of the top spot, but the other two teams are doing equally as good. I wanted to look at some of the top players on their roster, to see where other player can exploit weaknesses. So, lets see how the Diamondbacks or the Rockies can possibly get ahead.
Since they have such a handle on RBI’s and runs, I wanted to look at a couple of their top producing RBI leaders. Cody Bellinger and Matt Kemp are very good when the go ahead run is on base. From the graph below, we can see that Bellinger prefers one side of the plate over another. He is a left-handed batter, so he likes the outside of the plate when runners are on. This could be the pitchers trying to make him chance, or the outside of the plate is where he likes it. For a pitcher on the mound, and the go ahead run is on base, keep it on the inside high side of the plate, to make Bellinger work.
Matt Kemp is also good when the go ahead run is on base and tend to hit the ball in the same location on the field. He is a right-handed batter, so hopefully he is taking outside pitches to the right side of the field. But nothing can deny that he likes to hit to the right side of the field, right behind the first baseman. This is good heads-up batting, since a lot of the time, the runner is on third and to ensure he gets in, the batter should hit toward the right side. Kemp shows that he has good baseball IQ from this graph. With that being said, a defense should look at this and instantly think to put a shift in effect during that specific situation.
I then wanted to look at the pitching side of this successful team. Kenley Jansen is 2nd in NL saves with 34. I think this heatmap of his strikeouts is interesting, because of the large area. There is literally not a location on the plate where he hasn’t struck someone out. This can be attributed to crazy movement, or just good location. As an opposing team, this chart may be intimidating, but watch tape to see what his tendencies are which would include both location and movement. But wow, he knows how to strikeout batters!
With the strike location heatmap looking crazy, I wanted to see which types of pitches he throws when batters do get base bits. We can see that he only has three pitches, which isn’t that surprising for a closer. His cutter looks to be the most hit pitch, in the most situations. His slider is rarely hit, so that must be his go to pitch. As a batter looking at this. I would hope he threw the cutter and not the slider.
Onto the last player I will look at, one of the faces of the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw. He is no doubt a dominant pitcher, and a staple in their organization. But even he gets hit occasionally. From the chart below, we can see that he keeps the homeruns to a minimum and tends to have a lot of middle outfield singles. So, see, even Kershaw gets hit.
Now, after we saw that he gets hit occasionally, I wanted to see a pitch chart of his strikeouts. I love this chart, because it shows the location as well as the pitch that struck the batter out. He likes to keep the ball low and likes the throw his slider. But there is a good rainbow effect here, so he has a good handle on his pitches. Many of his pitches are out of the strike zone, telling me that his ball moves out of the zone but looks so good coming in. As a batter, they need to watch tape to see the movement he has, but also know that a low ball that looks good may not stay that perfect ball so watch the spin. Easier said than done, I know.
From these graphs, we can see that the Dodgers are in fact a well-rounded team. But every team has their weaknesses, and I think I found a few of them. Anything can happen, that why I love baseball. So, I am eagerly waiting October and the race that happens up to then.
MLB Advanced Media, LP. Statcast Search. n.d. https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_search.
ESPN. MLB Statistics - 2018. n.d. http://www.espn.com/mlb/statistics.
ESPN.com. MLB Team Stats - 2018. n.d. http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/batting/sort/runs/order/true