The Los Angeles Dodgers boast one of the deepest rosters in all of baseball, and to no surprise, have enjoyed one of their most successful offensive seasons in franchise history.
With National League MVP candidate Cody Bellinger leading the way, the Dodgers lineup has received a wide range of contributions from veterans such as Justin Turner and David Freese to rookies Alex Verdugo and Will Smith.
What makes the group even more dangerous is the versatility that affords Dodgers manager Dave Roberts a plethora of lineup possibilities on any given night. That equips the club well to handle any opposing pitcher tossed at them, whether it’s a traditional starter or an opener.
As for the latter, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes the depth of his club’s roster gives them an advantage. “I think the theory makes sense against certain ballclubs,” he said.
“But when you have a roster that can handle left and right, it makes it a lot more difficult for that idea to kind of play out.”
“The thing is, what we’ve done very well in the four years that I’ve been here, is we’re not afraid to go to our bench in the fifth inning or earlier. I think what that has done is allowed our guys off the bench to be ready to impact the game. Our guys are used to it. Being able to do that and being familiar with that, doesn’t affect us.
“When you’re talking about pitchers that have drastic splits, that dictates the lineup every day. I think we look at it as it gives other guys an opportunity and gives us the best chance to match up with that particular pitcher or pitchers.”
The Dodgers have faced an opener on a handful of occasions this season, most notably in their matchups against the Tampa Bay Rays. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman gave his take on the strategy and believes it could be especially beneficial for low-revenue teams.
Coincidentally, the Dodgers turned the tables on the Rays during this week’s series at Dodger Stadium by using an opener in both games.
Other clubs such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and San Diego Padres have also deployed an opener against L.A. in 2019.
The Milwaukee Brewers used the tactic throughout the 2018 National League Championship Series, intentionally pulling their openers after a couple of innings in favor of a more traditional starter such as Brandon Woodruff.
This scenario played out in Games 1, 5 and 7. However, the method proved ineffective as the Dodgers went 2-1 in those matchups en route to their second consecutive World Series appearance despite their batters having more drastic splits at the time.