first_imgLet the viejos playFox’s coverage of the World Series will surely highlight the outstanding seasons from Astros DH Yordan Alvarez, 22, and Nationals left fielder Juan Soto, 20. They are doing things few players their age have ever done. They are also having miserable postseasons.Alvarez – “not Josh Fields,” if you prefer to wallow in misery – went 1 for 22 with 12 strikeouts in the ALCS. Soto, since his home run against Clayton Kershaw in the NLDS, is slugging .250. At the risk of cherry-picking a data point to feed a narrative, I feel compelled to mention that the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, 23, followed his 115-RBI regular season with zero RBIs in the NLDS. Let the kids play – but maybe move them down the lineup for a spell.Meanwhile, we’ve seen more than a few veteran hitters rise to the occasion this month: Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon, Jose Altuve, DJ LeMahieu, Russell Martin. The value of veterans was never lost on executives with World Series aspirations, but if we’re going to highlight the hitters who have thrived in this unusual environment, start with los viejos.So much for base-stealing’s big comeback Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Back in August, I extolled the virtues of modern base-stealing theory. The correlation between winning and stolen base percentage offered hope that some team might run its way to a championship in 2019. That was wishful thinking on my part. The playoffs have told a different story. With so few baserunners to begin with, the art form has ceded center stage. Don’t call it a comeback – no, really, don’t.Washington ranked among the best teams in stolen-base efficiency during the regular season. (The Nats also ranked well in FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus’ base-running metrics.) Yet they haven’t attempted a steal in 10 playoff games. The Astros were neither adept at base-stealing or base-running in the regular season. Will the Nationals’ running game allow them to close the gap on the World Series favorites? Probably not.Managers Dave Martinez, 55, and A.J. Hinch, 45, are seasoned, albeit in different ways.Houston is Hinch’s second managerial stop. He managed the moribund Arizona Diamondbacks teams of 2009 and 2010. Now in his fifth season in Houston, Hinch already has a World Series ring, which he won in 2017.Martinez is only in his second season with the Nationals, but he spent the previous 10 seasons as Joe Maddon’s bench coach – first in Tampa Bay, then in Chicago. He was passed over for seven manager’s jobs, including both the Astros (in 2012) and the Nationals (in 2013), before succeeding Dusty Baker in D.C.Both men weathered adversity to arrive in their current positions. That doesn’t necessarily herald a trend – a rookie manager, Alex Cora, guided the Red Sox to a championship in 2018 – but it might reinforce one already in motion. Andy Green, Gabe Kapler and Mickey Callaway were all recently fired from their first manager’s jobs. Ned Yost, Bruce Bochy and Clint Hurdle (average age: 64) have moved on, too. The industry ostensibly believes a manager’s sweet spot lies in the middle: young enough to relate to his players but old enough to possess more than a little prior experience on a big-league bench. Dave Roberts is coming back in 2020, so the Dodgers are sitting this trend out.Homegrown = overblown?The Astros and Nationals are not overly reliant on homegrown talent. In fact, the Astros got 59 Wins Above Replacement this season from players who arrived from other organizations – more than the Dodgers’ 52 WAR altogether. That group notably excludes Houston’s draft-day heists: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer.Similarly, the Nationals acquired key players via any means necessary: the amateur draft (Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg); free agency (Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin); international free agency (Juan Soto, Victor Robles); and trades (Howie Kendrick, Daniel Hudson). Kendrick and Hudson were each acquired in the middle of a season. Is relying on homegrown talent an overrated strategy?I suspect that question confuses the ends and means of roster-building. One indication of a front office’s acumen is its ability to acquire players wisely by a variety of means. A better indication is winning a World Series.Hey, big wise spenders!The Astros and Nationals rank seventh and eighth in payroll, respectively, according to Spotrac. The Dodgers rank fourth, but be prepared to do some math. Take away the retained salaries of Matt Kemp, Homer Bailey and others, and the Dodgers rank sixth – behind the Nats and Astros, among others. The luxury tax payroll calculation invokes yet another formula.Here too, it’s easy to blur the ends and the means. Payouts to inactive players – Kemp, Bailey, Yaisel Sierra, etc. – are baked into the most commonly cited payroll calculations, so it’s easy to forget that both of this year’s World Series participants outspent the Dodgers on active player contracts. Yet he who spends the most doesn’t always reap the most rewards, though the Red Sox did this exact thing last year.In any event, the Dodgers should have the means to increase their active roster payroll in 2020. By my count, the expiring contracts of Kemp, Bailey and Russell Martin are clearing approximately $37 million from the books. That will renew focus on how wisely they allocate their free-agent dollars this winter. Just know that the Astros and Nationals have set that bar fairly high.-J.P.Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.More readingSkip on by – Former Dodgers broadcaster Kevin Kennedy has launched an eponymous website.Dog days of autumn – Prospect Mitchell White had a rough go in the Arizona Fall League yesterday.Some ’splaining to do – Why did Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman go out of his way to defend acquiring Roberto Osuna to a group of female reporters, including one wearing a domestic violence awareness bracelet?Box office smash – Between its overwhelming volume of games and in-person attendance, analog measures portray baseball as the National Pastime.Phrasing – An ambiguously worded contract with the Angels might have cost the city of Anaheim $8 million. Scouts vs. stats – The Astros and Nationals take different approaches behind the scenes. center_img Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday, Oct. 22 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.The World Series begins tonight. The Astros and Nationals took different paths to reach this point. Now that they’re here, I wanted to take another look at how their success might inspire other teams – including the Dodgers – to replicate the latest ideal of a “championship blueprint” in Major League Baseball.I touched on this a bit in my last newsletter. The Astros and Nationals both feature historically great postseason rotations. Thanks to a deadened baseball, it’s getting harder for hitters to have the same impact on a series as pitchers. Houston, for all its offensive firepower, won the ALCS in six games with a meager .179 batting average and a .600 OPS. Starters are leading the way. The idea of a team “bullpenning” its way to a championship has fizzled by the day.But not every team can count on Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers anchoring their rotation in a given year. What else can we learn from the Astros’ and Nationals’ success?last_img

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