It was impossible to see the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers season ending the way it did – unless you are a Dodger fan. The LA faithful has seen their team make it to the World Series two of the last three seasons, but still endures a title drought stretching back to 1988.
This season the club looked to be different. It seemed like they solved the art of offense. The Dodgers hired cutting edge hitting instructor Robert Van Scoyoc last offseason. They went on to set a National League record for home runs in a single season and score more runs than any team in the Senior Circuit.
Their starting rotation was almost as good. Aging hurler Clayton Kershaw continued his evolution as a finesse pitcher en route to 16 wins. Walker Buehler proved again to be the heir to Kershaw’s thrown as Dodgers Ace leading the team with 215 strikeouts. Hyun-Jin Ryu led all of baseball in ERA (2.32) and was the NL starter in the All-Star game.
One flaw stuck in the mind of even the most optimistic Dodger fan all year: a weak bullpen. Closer Kenley Jansen finished with a career high 3.71 ERA with eight blown saves in 62 appearances. Offseason acquisition Joe Kelly helped the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series but had a 7.59 ERA in June for LA. Although he followed with a sub-3 earned run average, Kelly entered the postseason with a mysterious “overall body” ailment.
The LA front office did not provide much midseason support. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman had been known for marquee pickups in recent years. The last three seasons, he swapped prospects for proven contributors Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Yu Darvish and Manny Machado at the deadline. This time the price was too high for elite talent on the backend.
Still, the Dodgers believed their dominance on the mound to begin games and in the batter’s box could overcome their bullpen issues. They could also rely on an old baseball adage: “get in the playoffs and anything can happen.”