AnalysisNL West

A Quick Look at the Dodgers’ Deadline Acquisitions and Their Potential Impact

Well that deadline was certainly entertaining, and many teams decided to go for it and make substantial upgrades, with 10(!) 2021 All-Stars traded this year. Two of those All-Stars went from coast to coast, with the Nationals and Dodgers completing a blockbuster trade that would send three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and star shortstop Trea Turner to Los Angeles in exchange for four prospects, including top-100 prospects Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray on Friday. The day before, Kansas City and the Dodgers agreed to a deal that would send a player to be named later in exchange for longtime-Royal Danny Duffy and cash considerations.

Danny Duffy:

A former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, Duffy is currently on the injured list with a flexor strain and is expected to make his Dodgers’ debut near the end of August. This season, Duffy has a 2.51 ERA in 61 innings pitched, with a 3.39 FIP. On paper, he figures to slot in at the back of the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and Julio Urias as a fifth starter. Another potential option could be to have a six man rotation with Duffy as the sixth man and Tony Gonsolin retaining his spot in the rotation as well, with David Price moving back to the bullpen for long relief. I can also see the Dodgers using Duffy as a long relief pitcher as well, ultimately giving them a versatile pitcher for an organization that values flexibility.

The postseason is a different beast than the regular season, and this is where I am the most excited to see Duffy’s impact. In past years, the Dodgers have used Urias and Kenta Maeda both as starters and long relievers. Maeda started three games for the Dodgers’ 2016 NLCS run, and had a 6.75 ERA in 10.2 innings. However, as a reliever in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 postseason runs, Maeda would post an ERA of 1.64 in 22 innings. After Maeda was traded to the Twins in February of 2020, Julio Urias took over his former swing-man role and shined. In the Dodgers’ run to the 2020 World Series, Urias started two games and appeared in four more, sporting a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, and closed out both the NLCS and the World Series. With Urias emerging as the fourth starter for the Dodgers this year and having thrown a career high in innings (he had never eclipsed 100 in a season before this year), Duffy could potentially replace Urias as the go-to long reliever.

Duffy has appeared in 30 games out of the bullpen, where he has been electric. In those 30 appearances, Duffy has a 2.50 ERA (compared to a 3.99 ERA as a starter) with opponents slashing .211/.274/.286 and has a 30.6% strikeout rate. Duffy has also appeared in 9 postseason games with the Royals, all coming in relief. Despite stellar regular season numbers, Duffy has struggled in the postseason, with 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings.

Duffy’s Arsenal:

This season, Duffy has thrown 5 different types of pitches; a four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, sinker, and slider. The most frequent pitch he has thrown is his fastball (43.4% of the time), and that has been a consistent pitch for him, with a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .285 and strikeout rate of 24.8%, not far off his marks for the season. Duffy also has some excellent secondary pitches this year. His slider (thrown 18.2% of the time) has produced a whiff rate of 39.3%, highest among all of his pitches, along with a 37.5% strikeout rate and .220 wOBA. The changeup (thrown 15.4% of the time) has a 37.3% whiff rate and .245 wOBA, albeit with a 21.6% strikeout rate. Finally, his curveball (only thrown 10.8% of the time) has a 31% whiff rate, .251 wOBA, and an absurd 42.1% strikeout rate. However, one of Duffy’s secondary pitches has been problematic this season.

Duffy’s sinker (thrown 12.2% of the time) has been his worst pitch this season. First off, Duffy has a strikeout rate of 3.8% with the sinker, well below his strikeout rates with his other pitches, has a wOBA of .489, and 13% whiff rate. An underlying issue with the sinker is the movement that Duffy has. Vertically, the pitch has 15.1 inches of drop on average for the year, which is 5.6 inches below average, ranking 258th of 272 qualified pitchers (in order to qualify for a certain pitch type, a pitcher has to throw it 5% of the time, per Statcast), and is 27% below the average sinker (262nd of 272 qualified pitchers). Ideally, with the Dodgers, Duffy will throw the sinker less frequently as a way to maximize production from his secondary pitches.

Max Scherzer:

Among the pitchers that were moved at the trade deadline, Max Scherzer is easily the most accomplished one to be on the move, and joins the Dodgers purely as a rental like Duffy. The trade for Scherzer was a whirlwind, from almost being a Padre to the Dodgers outbidding their NL West rivals and pulling off a deal for a three-time Cy Young winner. Due to his 10-5 rights, Scherzer was able to essentially choose where he wanted to go should the Nationals trade him, and he picked Los Angeles. The Dodgers started the year with enviable pitching depth, with eight players who could be starters. That depth has taken quite a hit, with Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May injured, Jimmy Nelson better suited for a reliever role, and Trevor Bauer on administrative leave for the foreseeable future.

With the Dodgers wanting more pitching depth, the trade for Max Scherzer fits what they were looking for. This season, the eight-time All-Star has an ERA of 2.76 and 147 strikeouts in 111 innings, and started the NL All-Star Game at Coors Field. On the Dodgers, Scherzer slots into the rotation spot that Bauer held to start the season. This creates a 5-man group of Kershaw, Scherzer, Buehler, Urias, and Gonsolin, with Price, Nelson, and Duffy (when he returns) able to fill in if necessary. Bauer and Scherzer have similar stats on the surface, with Bauer posting a 2.59 ERA and 137 strikeouts in 107.2 innings. However, Bauer had a home run problem, leading to an higher FIP (4.02 vs. 3.59), higher expected ERA (3.40 vs. 3.26), and higher expected FIP (3.70 vs. 3.46) than Scherzer.

Mad Max Glory Road:

As it has been for the last few years, whether or not the Dodgers have what they consider to be a successful season is judged by if they win the World Series or not. This means that despite what Max Scherzer has done all the way up to this point, he still needs to win in Los Angeles for the trade to be successful. With that being said, Scherzer has an ERA of 3.38 in 112 postseason innings and a 29.6% strikeout rate. The extended excellence in postseason games has earned Scherzer a reputation as a big game pitcher. For a pitching staff that has both pitchers that have been outstanding in the postseason (Buehler) and lackluster (Kershaw), adding someone with that sort of reputation is key.

There are three postseasons that stand out for Max Scherzer above the rest, with the Tigers in 2012 and 2013, and then with the Nationals in 2019 en route to a World Series title. In 2012, Scherzer started Game 4 in the ALDS, ALCS, and World Series for the Tigers, with a 2.08 ERA and 38.2% strikeout rate. He followed the 2012 postseason with another great performance in the Tigers’ run to the ALCS in 2013. That year, Scherzer had a 2.82 ERA and 38.2% strikeout rate as the eventual 2013 AL Cy Young winner. He churned out one of his finest career performances in Game 2 of the ALCS, striking out 13 batters in 7 innings of work, allowing only one run in the process.

The most recent playoff run for Scherzer was perhaps his most impressive, despite his numbers being slightly lower than his career postseason highs. He struggled in his first start against the Brewers, giving up two solo home runs to Eric Thames and Yasmani Grandal. However, the rest of the way, Scherzer only gave up 5 runs in 25 innings pitched with 31 strikeouts. His start in Game 2 of the NLCS was dominant, striking out 11 in 7 innings of work with no runs allowed. In the World Series, he would start Game 7 after missing his start in Game 5 due to neck spasms, and would limit the Astros to 2 runs in five innings as the Nationals would win the game and the World Series.

Trea Turner:

The most shocking addition that the Dodgers made at the deadline (at least in my opinion), was being able to trade for Trea Turner. While the Nationals wanted to extend Turner, they were unable to reach an agreement and sold high on their star shortstop instead. As a result, Turner joins a star-studded infield featuring 2021 All-Stars Justin Turner and Max Muncy, 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager, and former top prospect Gavin Lux. What made the move so shocking was that while Seager had missed over two months with a broken hand, he returned to the lineup after the deadline. This trade gives the Dodgers not one, but two star shortstops. With Seager reaching free agency after this season, the Turner trade could also give the Dodgers a replacement at short, since Turner has another full season of control.

With Corey Seager entrenched as the primary shortstop, Turner (who has not made his debut due to a bout with COVID-19) will likely move to second base, displacing Gavin Lux as the incumbent starter. This acquisition gives the Dodgers a potential lineup featuring Will Smith at catcher, Muncy at first base, Trea Turner at second, Seager at shortstop, Justin Turner at third, A.J. Pollock in left field, Chris Taylor in center, and Mookie Betts in right. There is so much depth within the Dodgers position players that the 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger could realistically be coming off the bench.

I Am Speed:

What excites me the most about the Dodgers trading for Trea Turner is his speed, as it adds another facet to the Dodgers’ vaunted offense. When the Dodgers acquired Turner, they were 26th in the majors in stolen bases with 32 in 40 attempts. Meanwhile, Turner this season has 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts, fourth in the majors. The Dodger with the most stolen bases before the trade was Chris Taylor with 9 (in 10 attempts), followed by Mookie Betts with 7 (in 10 attempts) and A.J. Pollock with 4 (in 4 attempts). Comparatively, Turner has swiped 21 bags in 24 tries, while those three aforementioned Dodgers combined have 20 stolen bases in 24 attempts.

Turner’s ability to steal bases is directly related to his Sprint Speed. Since making his major league debut in 2015, Turner has finished every season in the top 10 in StatCast’s Sprint Speed, never ranking below the 99th percentile in the metric. The fastest Dodger via Sprint Speed this season before Turner joined the team was Gavin Lux. This season, Lux has three stolen bases in four attempts, and league-wide, Lux is 32nd in Sprint Speed (95th percentile). The three stolen base leaders for the Dodgers in Taylor, Betts, and Pollock are in the 89th, 57th, and 67th percentile respectively. While those three are above average in Sprint Speed this season, there is a lack of aggression when it comes to stealing bases for the Dodgers. Turner’s combination of speed and baserunning ability will be a boon for the Dodgers offense.

Fun Fact: The fastest runner and the slowest runner via Sprint Speed will be on the Dodgers this year when Turner and Albert Pujols play together.

Final Thoughts:

This was a great deadline for the Dodgers, adding pitching depth and star power to a loaded roster. Danny Duffy, when he returns, should be an excellent option for the Dodgers either as a reliever or as a starter. Max Scherzer effectively replaces Trevor Bauer as the second man in the rotation, and gives Los Angeles a proven big game pitcher for the postseason. Turner will add an extra layer to the Dodgers offense with his speed and baserunning prowess, and gives the Dodgers more depth among their position players. Overall, they were the most improved team at the deadline, and with the final two months of the season coming up, these additions make a good team even better.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and Baseball Savant, player numbers are acurate as of 7/29/2021 to accommodate for the trade deadline

Featured Image of Trea Turner courtesy of the Washington Nationals Twitter

James Darschewski

James Darschewski is an undergraduate student at Purdue University who is the self-appointed "Power Rankings Czar". You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @jwdblue42.

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