Miguel Montero is not shy to call out other players in the media. He accused the Brewers of stealing signs in the 2011 playoffs. He railed against former teammate Trevor Bauer after Bauer was traded to Cleveland. He called Zack Greinke “chickensh**” following the brawl between the Dbacks and the Dodgers. Now he has Yasiel Puig in his sights:
“If he’s my teammate, I probably try to teach him how to behave in the big leagues,” Montero said. “He’s creating a bad reputation around the league … It’s immaturity,” he said. “It’s part of his confidence right now that everything is going his way. Everything is right for him, he feels pretty good about himself. This game pays back though, he’s going to have his bad moments out there and then he’s going to realize he needs to change.”
The beef: the other day Puig barreled Montero over at the plate. Puig was out by a mile, but as he walked back to the dugout he stared Montero down. Montero doesn’t mind the barreling, he says, but the stare was bush league, bro. And Montero says that Puig’s youth, inexperience and the fact that he’s new to baseball in the United States is no excuse, as Montero himself was a 17 year-old kid from Venezuela when he first played here.
For what it’s worth his manager Kirk Gibson — speaking while unaware of Montero’s comments — did say Puig’s youth and inexperience explained a lot and that he doesn’t consider it to be a big deal. Don Mattingly, aware of the comments, chalked it up to the ugliness between the Dodgers and Dbacks this year. Ugliness in which Puig was deeply involved.
I think this is one of those deals where if Puig isn’t off to a sizzling start no one cares, but players are probably being asked about him all the time and baseball is such that veterans are always eager to make sure rookies know their place. Oh, and of course, Montero has a motor mouth, so there’s that too.
For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.
Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).
Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.
In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.
According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.