Since hiring Andrew Friedman of president of baseball operations, who then assembled a robust front office, the Los Angeles Dodgers have developed a reputation of being too heavily dependent on analytics.
It’s a narrative that’s been passed onto manager Dave Roberts, and one he’s regularly addressed and explained the wealth of information provided to him by the front office is used to help make decisions — not be the lone guiding factor.
Nevertheless, as Roberts and the Dodgers remain in pursuit of ending the franchise’s 31-year World Series drought, public perception is regularly brought up as the reason behind the shortcomings.
That was particularly evident in the wake of the Washington Nationals celebrating their Game 5 win in the National League Division Series, via Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic:
“If you’re keeping score tonight, that’s one win against a team of computers,” one of the Nationals personnel said. “Tonight was good for baseball.”
While the Dodgers, much like the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, are considered to be at the forefront of incorporating analytics, Roberts’ decisions in the Game 5 loss go directly against what a proverbial computer would have dictated.
Analytics would not have permitted Clayton Kershaw to face Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth inning. Not when the likes of Kenta Maeda, Pedro Baez and Adam Kolarek were among those available out of the bullpen.
Nor would analytics have suggested Joe Kelly continue to struggle through the 10th inning and intentionally walk Soto, with, again, Kolarek still an option. And even after setting up a force out at every base, sabermetics would have called on Roberts to replace Kelly with Baez or Kenley Jansen.
Instead, the fourth-year manager stuck with his gut through the late innings, and it ultimately cost the Dodgers. In a twist of irony, analytics may have preserved their 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and led to fourth consecutive appearance in the NLCS.
“I felt good about Clayton right there,” Roberts explained after the loss. “The success that Clayton’s had against Soto with the two-run lead, I’ll take Clayton any day in that situation. I just think it’s one of those where it was easy for me to get Clayton, with the low pitches to get Rendon and to go out there and get Soto.
“And to have Kenta behind him. That was my thought, and not have Kenta go through Soto. So there’s always going to be second-guessing when things don’t work out, but I’ll take my chances any day on Clayton, and it just didn’t work out right there.”