The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have many weaknesses, but their inability to control the run game does stand out as something that has needed work throughout the season.
The Dodgers allowed an average of 0.66 stolen bases per game this year. Only the Chicago White Sox allowed more per game at 0.75, while the league average is around 0.45. The Atlanta Braves stole two bases that set up runs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
“Yeah, it’s definitely been a point of emphasis,” Will Smith said. “We got exposed early in the year in that part of the game and we’ve done a lot better job.
“But, yeah, [Saturday] night they got two on us that ended up scoring and we got to clean that up going forward.”
The Dodgers have three active players in the top 20 of stolen bases allowed among NL pitchers, with Blake Treinen leading the way with 17. He is joined on the list by Walker Buehler (12) and Kenley Jansen (10).
“Ideally every pitcher would be 1.3 to the plate or less and not compromise stuff or execution,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“With Blake in particular, some other guys, we just feel that executing a pitch is more important and when our guys have tried to quicken up, execution and stuff has been compromised. So we’ve got to make a decision, I think. So that’s kind of the tough part.
“As far as Will, he’s as good of a thrower as there is in the game, and so he can only do what he can do. So it’s a conversation we have, but I think that at the end of the day, we have to make a decision on what’s most important.”
Smith had an average pop time of 1.99 seconds in 2019, the last season Baseball Savant kept track, which ranked 31st of 78 qualified catchers and was considered above average.
However, while catchers receive credit for controlling the run game, bases are generally stolen off the pitcher, so fixing the problem starts on the mound.
Although the Dodgers prefer their pitchers focus on execution to the plate, some have taken measures to address the issue.
“Each individual pitcher has shortened their leg kick, worked in some slide steps,” Smith said. “Their pick-off move’s have gotten a lot better, throwing some inside moves to second, some pick-offs at second and do what we can.
“But at the end of the day they got to execute it and we got to do a little better at it.”
Dodgers excelling on the basepaths
Although the Dodgers are struggling to prevent the stolen base, they are also excelling with their own stolen bases.
During the regular season, they ranked just 17th with 65, however, against Atlanta, the Dodgers have been a perfect 6-for-6 through two games.
“I know these players better than anyone does and I know our team better than anyone does,” Roberts said of asking players who otherwise did not do much running throughout the year to attempt a stolen base in the postseason.
“So if I don’t feel the risk is worth it, then I’m not going to make that decision. So, yeah, I understand both sides, but I can’t live in a world of if it works it’s a great decision. So I make decisions based on what I know of my players.
“If the situation calls for it, it wouldn’t be crazy to see Corey Seager steal a base, absolutely.”
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