Dodgers season ends with whimpers

Nancy Bea

So the veteran Dodgers with the most expensive payroll in the history of baseball could not beat the Mets and their young starters. Tonight's score in Game 5 was 3-2. The Dodgers led 2-1 in the 4th inning but let the Mets back in by poorly executing a defensive shift, the most trendy of plays this season. The coaches moved third baseman Justin Turner to the right side of the infield, which is logical when the batter is the Mets' Lucas Duda, but it only works if you also have a plan for the other dozen or so things that change when you shift fielders way out of position. In this case, nobody covered third base when Duda walked and forced the Mets runner on first, Daniel Murphy, to second. Seeing no Dodger covering third, he just kept going. First rule of baseball: the ball is live unless an umpire says it's dead.

The heads-up play put Murphy at third and able to score easily when the next Mets batter hit a routine outfield fly. The next time Murphy was up, he homered off Zack Greinke for the go-ahead run and it stood up. Murphy also went deep twice against Clayton Kershaw in the series.

For the second straight year, the Dodgers exit the playoffs in the first round after winning their division. (They also won the West in 2013 but got through one round.) They last won the National League pennant, and the World Series, in 1988.

A new Dodgers front office revamped the roster before this season — and continually through the season — but the end result is the Dodgers in 2015 won two fewer games. This season's Dodgers scored 51 fewer runs. The Jimmy Rollins experiment at shortstop didn't pay off. At 36, he had his career-worst batting average and OPS and was replaced at the end of the year by rookie Corey Seager, who looks good. New second baseman Howie Kendrick had a typical season for him, but the younger and cheaper second baseman they gave up, Dee Gordon, led the National League in batting average, singles and stolen bases and made the All-Star team. Gordon also was better defensively than Kendrick by some stats, and he emerged as a much better lead-off hitter than anyone the Dodgers tried.

The Dodgers also got Enrique Hernandez in the Gordon transaction and he was a bright spot, along with newcomer Yasmani Grandal, veterans Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner, and for the first half of the season, rookie center fielder Joc Pederson. He tailed off to become an overmatched number-eight hitter after going to the All-Star Game and it's hard to know what he's got going forward. Yasiel Puig had career lows in all important stats, including games played, as the 24-year-old struggled with hamstring pulls. He has to be an unknown quantity going forward: star or just average player? Or worse?

The best Dodgers all year were starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and Greinke has the right to opt out of his contract and become the top free agent pitcher on the market. Even if the Dodgers re-sign Greinke, they look to need a couple more starting pitchers to become pennant contenders, and several relievers. The two starters they traded for late in the season, Mat Latos and Alex Wood, were busts. The Dodgers used 31 different pitchers and never did find a championship-caliber staff.

The one departure for sure is Dodger Stadium organist Nancy Bea, who announced she is retiring after 28 seasons. The big immediate question for the front office is whether to keep manager Don Mattingly and his coaches. This Dodger group doesn't show many signs of being a championship team under Mattingly, and he is said to have a job waiting in Miami if he wants it. This front office didn't hire him so it will be interesting to see if they have bonded with him. In tonight's game, there was open shouting and gesturing in the dugout between Mattingly and outfielder Andre Ethier, who proved his worth during the year.

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