As promised, the following post is a compliation of all the recap work I did for the 2021 Dodgers Year in Review for the month of November, Plus a Walker Buehler post and an epilogue.
General ground rules for those out of the loop - if I didn't see someone, there's nothing to talk about. The order of the players is the order the original series went.
Mookie Betts - Or "The Daily Double" or "A Water Bottle in Pittsburgh" or "Eli and a child get into a boo-off"
It's not secret that Mookie Betts was generally unsatisfied with his performance in 2021. However, on closer examination, that view doesn't make a whole lot of sense. In fact, Mookie had one heck of a year...and he hit a lot of doubles. In fact, Eric wrote Mookie's view about he performed in 2021:
A frustrating and injury-plagued season by Mookie Betts proved to be still quite valuable and productive, even if not up to his own standards, but also reminded us in glimpses of his full, unrestrained talent.
Personally, for a good chunk of the year, it felt like the heroics of 2018 and 2020 were more of a fluke than anything else. Admittedly, Mookie played in the American League, which means, for my purposes, he might as well played on the moon. Then the Dodgers traded for him and then the Dodgers paid a king's ransom to keep him. Then he delivered in 2020.
The question remained whether he could duplicate his heroics. When I did a deep dive of what Mookie Betts did when I was around, I was geniunely surprised at what I found.
Mookie at bat against the Diamondbacks on September 13, 2021.
Mookie Betts appeared in 27 of the 30 regular season #SaveEli games. Oddly enough, the only place that he missed games when I was around was "at home" in San Francisco on three separate occasions. Baseball!
Mookie also played in NLDS Game 2 where he went 1 for 4, with an RBI, BB and SB. He also caught the final out.
Overall, Mookie went 33 for 104 (.317), with 19 R, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 11 2B, 1 3B, 16 BB, 17 K, 3 HBP, 1 GIDP, 1 SF, 5 SB, and 2 CS.
That's an OBP of .419!
That's a SLG of .587!
If these stats were the RC to his Coca-Cola, it begs the question of what his Coca-Cola looks like. That's All-Star material right there. Is Mookie Betts supposed to be in the MVP mix every year - because if so, there's really nowhere else for him to go, which is a nice problem to have.
A lot is said about Mookie's defense and the majority of these Post-Mortems don't focus on defense apart from the eye-test as I generally don't understand the defensive statistics and generally defense tends to stand out when it's really good (Cody Bellinger says hello) or really subpar (Corey Seager waves hello.)
I normally don't poster other people's media in these but the play that immediately jumps to mind is one I was fortunate enough to witness on June 10, 2021.
(SBNation doesn't like it when you embed tweets. Here's the link instead - this call was terrible though.)
In fact, that June 10th game, apart from being memorable for that throw and the rain and Tony Gonsolin generally being an awesome human being, is that game was as close as I got to Mookie Betts' now-wife.
For perspective's sake, here is where I was sitting.
Now she wasn't seated at the end of the row when I took this photo. I have a general rule about players in non-game settings and their family members: do not bother them. Now, if I'm in a confined space, say an alcove at ATT/Oracle Park waiting to get to my seat and we're just standing there, my natural inclination for small talk will kick in and conversation will ensue. Hence, why I interacted with Champ and Papa Pederson and why I left the Vesia family alone.
What the photo doesn't show is how muggy the day ultimately was. It wasn't the muggiest game I went to all year (that would be the finale in Cincinnati), but it was uncomfortably warm. At one point, I don't remember if it was before or after the throw, Mookie and his-now wife made eye contact and I think she remarked that she was thirsty. Mookie got this gleam and his eye and had handed a bottled water to a fan with instructions to pass to his finance. So the water got passed. I don't think I saw Mookie with a larger smile on his face as he had when interacting with his now-wife.
Mookie's most productive offensive day when I was around was on July 17, 2021 in Colorado. He went 4 for 4, with 3 runs scored, 3 doubles (should get his hands on some of that In n Out money - the opportunity is right there), a HR and RBI...and he injured his hip and missed the two games in San Francisco in July.
Speaking of that game, Eric wrote about it too saying:
Things came to a head almost immediately after the break, forced out after hitting his fourth extra-base hit in a game in Denver
To be fair, I thought he pulled a hammy at the time. It was all fun and games until that happened...well that and the boo-off with a child. I originally went to that game with friends who moved out of the Bay Area who are Rockies fans and the daughter was moved by her mother’s reactions to the game – namely the Rockies sucking, which they amply did that day. So their daughter booed me (because of the Dodgers jersey). Not to be outdone, I booed back. She took offense to that (the child, not the mom – the mom knows what I’m about) and the cycle of booing began.
We all ended up on Jumbotron twice, because the daughter is cute as a button and she had a small army of stuffed animals. She also tried to steal Adric, which was funny and traumatizing in itself.
Julio Urias - Or "Mr. Five" or "Walks? Walks?!? We don't need no stinkin' walks."
I remember Julio Urias and in many ways it seemed like he had two different seasons in 2021. He was generally fun to watch and unlike his now-former compatriot Max Scherzer, Julio Urias could actually hit.
Snapshot of the Urias NLDS single. (Here's video of the call.)
I saw Julio Urias five times during the regular season in 2021. Julio Urias was also the starter of NLDS Game 2, where the Dodgers slapped around the Giants. Urias even started the scoring. I had fun, everyone else likely did not, but this series isn't "everyone's else's recollections of the 2021 season," it's mine. If you, dear reader, wish to go to 30 regular-season games in 13 different cities next year - more power to you.
Julio Urias went 3-1, over 26 2/3 innings, allowing 14 R (all earned) for an ERA of 4.79. Urias also gave up 29 H, 4 BB, 28 K, 3 HR, 2 HBP. In NLDS Game 2, Urias went 5 in., giving up 1 run, which was earned, 1 BB, and 5 K.
Urias on the mound in NLDS Game 2 on October 9, 2021 in San Francisco.
Why is Urias Mr. Five, you ask.
I suppose he could pull this little bit of cosplay if he was so inclined. He could skip the flicking boggers part. (One Piece - don't worry about it if you don't know the reference.)
The most direct answer is that I saw Urias five times, which is exactly half as many times as Mr. Saturday Night, Walker Buehler. Well the number five pops up a lot when discussing Urias's adventures around me. He went five innings in three starts (technically four, if you want to include the 5 2/3 innings he went in San Francisco with my family in tow) and in the NLDS. Urias struck out exactly five batters two starts and in the NLDS.
Urias' ERA when I was around is near five, which is inflated due to a nightmarish start in Anaheim on the original SaveEli trip, where I totally threw Sheldon Neuse under the bus to get the drunken Angel yokels to leave me alone. And per Baseball-Reference, Urias' bWAR is almost five at 4.7.
One minor statistical quirk that arises in Urias' statline is the sheer lack of free passes, especially when compared to Walker Buehler. Urias' walks all occurred in Los Angeles - two in April vs. the Reds and two in September vs. the Diamondbacks. Baseball! Even in Urias' nightmare start in Anaheim, he didn't walk anybody.
Urias warming up in the bullpen on May 9, 2021 in Anaheim. (Video of Urias in the bullpen.)
I think the thing that stands out most about Urias in 2021 is the fact that the fanbase has glommed onto him in ways that remind of Fernando Valenzuela but which are entirely distinct from Valenzuela.
In some ways, it was extremely appropriate that Julio Urias took the bump on Fernando-bobblehead night.
As of this Post-Mortem, it's almost impossible to find an Urias 2021 bobblehead for less than $60. Not for nothing, but that's just a sign how much the fanbase is rooting and cherishes Urias this year and hopefully in the years to come.
When your friend-date picks to sit by Julio Urias during the virtual dugout portion of the outing - you just roll with it.
Jimmy Nelson - Or "Sir (Literally) Not Appearing in this Picture...until Eli found him getting on a bus."
Around this point, I resolved to start posting Post-Mortems in a shadow Year in Review series in a pelaton behind Eric and the paid staff writers. The main reason was that I wasn't ready to say goodbye to 2021, but the secondary reason was that I needed an excuse to actually attempt to sort all the photographs and videos I took into something apart from date format.
Jimmy Nelson did a pretty good job overall in 2021. But when I looked through the hundreds of videos and photos I took this year, I realized that Jimmy Nelson isn’t in any of them...with one exception, listed below.
To be fair, getting photos of all of the Dodgers relievers in 2021 was a bit like chasing Pokemon badly – you couldn’t catch them all unless you worked for the team.
In fact, I had to compare Baseball-References to my chart of games I went to. Out of 31 total games, there was a grand total of three opportunities to get a Jimmy Nelson photo/video this year, albeit in three cities during a week span.
During the original #SaveEli trip, which didn’t even have a name at that point, I was present at three games in which Jimmy Nelson pitched (which happened to be during the 5-15 stretch), and unlike the rest of the Dodgers bullpen - he was damn effective.
1) Game 3 – April 27 – Reds 6, Dodgers 5 – Nelson closed out the game. I remember this game as the one where Buehler couldn’t hold a lead to save his life.
2) Game 5 – May 1 – Brewers 6, Dodgers 5, F/11 – the day Dustin May blew out his arm – the Brewers announcer joked that Jimmy Nelson was pitching for the Brewers before correcting himself; I chuckled.
3) Game 6 – May 4 (Game 1) – Cubs 7, Dodgers 1 – the worst start of Kershaw’s career. I had to remind myself that Nelson pitched. It was very cold. I remember Dennis Santana pitching that day more than Nelson, which probably says something.
Overall, that's three innings of work, 2 H, 7 K, 0.00 ERA. Not bad for a week's work.
And that was it. We kept missing each other after that, mostly notably, Nelson pitched in DC on July 4 and Miami on July 6 with my coming and going to Miami on July 5th. Anyway, Jimmy Nelson – gone but not forgotten. (I even checked the photos I took in the bullpen – no luck there. Oh well.)
Or so I thought...then I reviewed the videos from May 3, 2021 - the only rainout of the year. And lo and behold...like a bearded angel...he boards the team bus.
Chris Taylor - "Or Per Eric, Apparently I am the Bane to Chris Taylor's Batman" or "Keep Measuring - the numbers will add up eventually!"
Apparently, I am Chris Taylor's reckoning! He plays like a younger man, nothing held back. But hopefully victory will not defeat him going forward. I mean, Blake said it best - dude won the off-season. Getting engaged in Hawaii before Omicron got ugly? - check. Get paid? - check and check.
Did I actually record myself sounding like Bane from the Dark Knight Rises on the bridges of Pittsburgh? Yup. Did people stare? Yup. BECAUSE I AM GOTHAM'S RECKONING! Ahem.
Am I going to post that here? Absolutely not.
Taylor played in 27 (!) of the 30 regular season #SaveEli games and he played in NLDS Game 2, where he went 2 for 4 (.500). I know, SSS. (Taylor didn’t play in three last games in Los Angeles that I went to because of his sore neck)
And in those other 27 games… Well…after three different checks - final answer.
17 for 94 (.181) with 3 HRs, 13 R scored, 8 RBI, 3 2B, 7 BB, 28 K, 1 SB, 1 HBP, 1 SH, 2 GIDP.
That's an OBP of .245 and a SLG of .309. Which...oof. It's not Cody Bellinger-bad, but it's not great. And for the record, I'm genuinely thrilled that Taylor is coming home. And by the way...
#TaylorIsNotAPaperChaser #LetTaylorGetAJD #ThenWeWillTalk
Heck, prior to the NLDS, the last time I saw Taylor get a hit (of any kind) in person for the entirety of the regular season was July 28th in San Francisco (which was the 20th game of the year where I saw over the Dodgers bullpen with my law school buddy).
Anyway, here's my call of a Taylor-made double - that's something.
Anyway, I remember Chris Taylor. I wish I saw some of the cool heroics. Going down the list, it's easier to point out what I didn't see. Let’s see, I wasn’t at the Wild Card Game…or NLCS Game 5 where, if the Dodgers offense actually did something that series, he'd have done his best Keekay Hernandez imitation by going Super Saiyan…or at the 14-pitch at-bat game. So that got me thinking, what did I see Taylor do this year? I looked through the travelogue and I realized I didn’t have many photos of Taylor doing anything.
Here’s Taylor on deck while De Souza grounds out (spoiler alert: that’s De Souza’s highlight) at Buehler’s almost no-hitter on June 19, 2021.
Here’s Taylor during the National Anthem prior to the Wainwright-White game in St. Louis on September 8, 2021.
That’s not to say that Taylor did nothing when I was around…or so I thought. So I actually went into the game logs and checked.
(work in progress - was going to post when I was finished but you lot are talking about not-Wheel of Fortune, the app - I get it, we're starved for content right now. I'll work faster.)