The Dodgers and Dave Roberts have to decide how to approach this week in terms of playing time for the regulars. If last night is any indication, some players could get rest this week as they head into the playoffs.
After the loss last night, the Dodgers fell two games behind the Nationals for home-field advantage in the National League Division Series. I wrote about the Nationals’ injury situation yesterday, and home field in the MLB playoffs isn’t as important as it is in other sports.
Everything the Dodgers do this week is looking toward the postseason and giving the team the best chance to succeed in the playoffs. Kenta Maeda, despite giving up a 3-run home run in the first inning, looked decent. He was pulled after four innings and will start the regular-season finale in San Francisco on Sunday. Adrian Gonzalez was lifted in favor of Howie Kendrick in fifth inning. Joc Pederson also got just two plate appearances. The only starters to play all nine innings were Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Chase Utley.
This is the right play. While it’d be nice to catch the Nats in the NL — and it could still very well happen — it isn’t the priority. Getting the regulars some much-deserved rest late in the season could bode well for their overall performance in the postseason.
Grandal has set a career-high in terms of games started and start percentage behind the plate. With Carlos Ruiz and Austin Barnes on the roster, Grandal could easily get a couple additional days off this week in hopes of remaining fresh for the postseason. Seeing as he’s likely to start every postseason game for the Dodgers, getting him extra rest now could benefit him later.
Utley has a 73.2 percent start percentage this season. While that isn’t considered a high usage rate, wen you factor in that he’s 37 years old, that number may as well be 90-95 percent. And Gonzalez isn’t a spring chicken either, yet has started 91.1 percent of the games at first base. The Dodgers face three lefties in their final five games, and I wouldn’t be upset if neither Utley nor Gonzalez played in those games.
Turner, like Grandal, has set career-highs in starts, start percentage and even total games played. He’s obviously healthy enough to do so, but getting him a day or two of extra rest could make a lot of sense.
Seager is in his first full professional season. While he isn’t exactly struggling — 118 wRC+ this month — it’s his second-lowest mark of the season (90 in April). He has the highest start percentage of any Dodger this season, so if he played in just two or three of the final five, I’d be OK with that.
Kendrick’s numbers are his total number of starts, not just in left field. He’s in the same boat as Utley and Gonzalez. He also has a season-low 76 wRC+ this month, so a couple off days might help. With Pederson, he’s already in a platoon and probably doesn’t need the days off. In fact, I’d rather he start every remaining game this season.
September is the time to rest these players. The Dodgers have 40 players on their active roster, and they should be taking full advantage of that. The likes of Barnes, Charlie Culberson, Micah Johnson, Rob Segedin, Chris Taylor and even Andrew Toles should see some playing time this week since most of them won’t make the postseason roster. Also, if Andre Ethier is being talked about at all for the postseason roster, he should get some looks this week. This would allow the Dodgers to rest their veterans and young superstar MVP candidate a little extra in preparation for the postseason.
Roberts and front office likely has the postseason roster already filled out — and if not, there are probably only one or two question marks remaining. There isn’t much these position players can do to improve or hurt their postseason standing. The pitchers can probably still do that, as I’m guessing that’s where most of the debate about the postseason roster lies.
And speaking of the pitchers: Get Alex Wood some more appearances to make sure he’s postseason ready. He has just two innings pitched since being activated. He looks really good so far and could be a big weapon out of the ‘pen for the Dodgers in the playoffs.
Getting the regulars — especially the older vets — some extra rest seems to make a lot of sense. Here’s hoping they do.