I’ve been lazy, so there are some older links in here, but they’re still all worth the read.
The Dodgers are doing this Legendary Moments feature on their YouTube channel for stuff that happened at Dodger Stadium, and No. 55 stood out to me, as Jose Lima‘s NLDS playoff start is something I’ll never forget. I think for a lot of us millennial Dodger fans this was literally the first time we’d ever seen them win a playoff game.
No. 46 is another one that I’ll always remember, but just cause it was so weird.
At No. 41 is the Juan Uribe game that gave us the Craig Kimbrel bullpen meme.
FanGraphs: If it seems like the Dodgers suck at hitting middle-middle fastballs, it’s because they do. That makes the fact that they are an elite offense anyway even more interesting.
Even if we adjust run value to a per-100 pitch basis, there’s no escaping it: The Dodgers are almost unbelievably awful against middle-middle fastballs. But hey, they’re quite good against breaking and offspeed pitches. Those numbers might seem low, but remember, most of the league fares even worse. It seems like the Dodgers are collectively making a trade-off: They’re sitting on slower pitches and ambushing them, at the cost of letting fastballs go by.
Baseball Prospectus: Tyler Anderson‘s career year has been powered by an altered changeup.
For Anderson, a new grip is to thank for the more optimal shape on the changeup. With this adjustment, he has been able to better utilize seam-shifted wake effects, and combined with the lover velocity, give the baseball a better downward pull, which has created the aforementioned better separation between it and his fastball, which gets 9.9 inches of ride (89th percentile).
The Athletic: Yency Almonte is another Dodgers pitcher who has taken a leap forward thanks to adjustments the coaches have made.
What the Dodgers changed in Almonte was direct. First, they ditched his four-seam fastball. “My spin rate sucks,” Almonte said with a chuckle. (It logged in the 20th percentile in 2021.) Second, instead of the fastball, they revamped his sinker, which he originally learned under his pitching coach in A ball in the White Sox system, José Bautista. The Dodgers altered it from a one-seam to a two-seam grip and instructed Almonte to throw it hard. Rather than drop his arm slot or baby it to make it move, he let it rip.
While the Rockies encouraged him to go “all away,” Almonte said, his catchers in Los Angeles, Will Smith and Austin Barnes, have set a universal target with their mitts regardless of pitch type or count. They just set up right down the middle. It led Almonte to a change in usage, as he’s thrown his sinker more often to right-handed hitters than lefties this season. And it’s a change in attack locations and targets. “I just want to split the plate,” Almonte said. “Keep it simple, split the plate. Have sinkers in, sliders away.”
The Athletic: A great profile of Gavin Lux, who was refreshingly open about his struggles and provided a lot of insight into the mental side of things.
During his audition as the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman and later at shortstop last summer, he would retreat to his Los Angeles apartment unable to take the sting out of seeing his numbers on Dodger Stadium’s dual center-field scoreboards. He battled anxiety, the numbers and weight of his own expectations, and it left him sleepless.
“I’d wake up in the middle of the night and how you were playing would be the first thing I thought about,” Lux said recently. “I was just bottled up in my apartment, thinking about how bad I was playing the entire day. That would roll into the next day. I’d wake up in the morning and it just, I wasn’t feeling good. It was a big snowball effect.”
Lux pondered what would’ve been different had he been on a different team, in a different market. He likely would’ve been an everyday player sooner. The pressure of immediate performance to stick in the big leagues had been a strain. He’d remark to his father that players he’d toppled and outperformed in the minors were getting to play through failure, an opportunity he wasn’t afforded. It just made things worse, as did his return to the place he’d dominated just a couple of years earlier.
“Fuck,” he told himself, “I don’t want to be here. I shouldn’t be here. I hit .400 here three years ago, I have no business being here.”
Glad Lux appears to have turned it around, at least internally.
More than anything, Lux is comfortable and confident. Be it playing more, be it changing his mindset to deal with the anxiety that had tanked him in the past or finding a version of himself that works, it’s made him a cog that the Dodgers had been hoping he could be. It’s become his fuel.
His stardom can still arrive. But more than ever in the big leagues, he’s comfortable being Gavin Lux.
Whether he ever hits to his power potential or not, Gavin is low-key working himself into at least a role player future thanks to the combination of quality at-bats, speed on the bases, and defense.
The Athletic: Fast-rising Dodgers prospect Nick Nastrini talked about working through the yips and basically his whole journey to this point.
“I felt very alone for quite a long time,” Nastrini says. But after each debacle, there always would be his dad, pleading and counseling him from the other end of the phone. “Don’t quit for one more day,” he’d tell his son, and his son would steel his resolve and soldier on. “I just didn’t quit,” Nastrini says, “for one more day, one more day, one more day.”
The profile also provided insight into how the Dodgers evaluate players, which was interesting.
Nastrini performed just as admirably in a workout for the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium — “We were definitely wowed by the workout,” Gasparino says — but he executed even better in the interview. Dodgers evaluators wanted to know what went wrong at UCLA and why, and they were pleasantly surprised to find all of Nastrini’s answers satisfyingly thorough. “The way Nick articulated his struggles, the way he articulated his fixes, some of the mental skills work he did, it was all very believable,” Gasparino says.
When it comes to sifting through draft prospects, the X-factor is the interview. The stats are the stats and the exit velocities and pitch movement metrics don’t lie. But TrackMan’s cameras can’t see inside a player’s head. Having run the Dodgers’ drafts for nearly a decade, Billy Gasparino knows this as well as anyone. Year after year, L.A.’s vice president of amateur scouting sits in on scores of pre-draft interviews with players who think they know more about the game than they do. They speak confidently about their approach at the plate or their philosophy on the mound, and they firmly assert the importance of this mechanical change or that swing tweak to their success. Many of them go on to become good players, but to a veteran scout, all that assuredness more often than not rings hollow. “You have a lot of kids who say the right things,” Gasparino says, “but you’re like, ‘I don’t really think he knows or believes it.’”
New York Times: A profile of Dodgers announcer Joe Davis, who recently called the All-Star Game for FOX and is now effectively the voice of baseball.
“I don’t think there will ever be another scenario where you replace someone like Vin Scully, and then you replace someone like Joe Buck,” said the Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, Fox’s lead baseball analyst. “So that’s not going to bother or scare him.”