Dodgers and Dave Roberts faring poorly with replay challenges

Dave Roberts initially misunderstood the question.

When asked Friday about his team’s struggles with “challenges” this season, the Dodgers manager said it was in relation to his club’s overall performance, which had slipped in recent weeks.

When it was clarified that the request was for replay challenges instead, Roberts corrected himself with a sigh.

“Oh god,” he said. “That Challenge?”

Roberts had every reason to sound annoyed.

In the first three months of the season, few baseball executives were as bad at rejecting calls as he was.

As of Friday, Roberts had succeeded on just seven of 20 calls, a 35% rate that ranked 28th out of 32 major league managers (including interims with the Philadelphia Phillies and Angels).

There hadn’t been a lack of attempts either, as Roberts’ 20 challenges ranked fifth in the majors.

“I hope it starts to level out,” Roberts said. “We were a lot on the short end.”

Over the past few years, Roberts’ handling of challenges had been wise. Five times in his first six years he had a challenge success rate of more than 50%. The only time he didn’t, in 2018, was still 46.2% of calls being rejected.

This year was a different story.

Not only do the Dodgers struggle to win challenges — Roberts has the last word every time, but he also relies on input from his dugout staff and the judgment of a backroom team of two who view real-time video feeds and shout into the dugout for decisions discuss – but they have also used them in questionable situations.

On May 11, the Dodgers used their challenge — Major League Baseball allows clubs one per game, though teams keep them if they pick up the call — in the first inning of a game against Pittsburgh and claimed a Pirates runner didn’t have second base retouched when returning to first base on a flyout.

The Dodgers got it wrong and went unchallenged for the rest of the game.

On Monday, they again burned their challenge early, losing it in the second inning to a failed review of a pickoff call.

At times, players’ appeals have misled Roberts.

On May 21, Mookie Betts begged him to use her challenge after he believed he had dodged two tags in a rundown.

The call stood after video playback appeared to show Betts was indeed tagged – both times.

On June 15, Justin Turner thought a ball had grazed his hand, but review appeared to show clearly that he missed.

That wasn’t the only recent example of a missed hit-by-pitch review, either.

On June 19, the Dodgers had umpires verify that Cleveland Guardians batter Austin Hedges had actually been hit with loaded bases. The contact seemed clear in the replay.

Then on Thursday night, in what seemed the most egregious of examples, Roberts lost another challenge when a pitch hit the pommel of Chris Taylor’s bat.

Roberts said Taylor thought he was hit. However, Taylor said he did not ask the team to contest it because he knew it was unlikely to be overturned.

Roberts also admitted that he knew the success rate was low. Yet — even though it was only the fifth inning — he said he’ll “believe the player and take a shot.”

“It didn’t cost us anything,” added Roberts, noting there weren’t any other plays he needed to challenge the rest of the game.

“But,” he added, “we didn’t win it.”

This was all too often the result of Dodger’s challenges that year, which Roberts attributed to multiple factors.

He cited MLB’s new 20-second window to initiate a challenge, up from 30 seconds in previous seasons, and claimed it gave the Dodgers’ two-man backroom video team less time to get final looks.

He pointed to the added difficulty of challenging calls in non-national TV games when there are fewer camera angles available to both the team and the league’s Replay Review Office in New York.

He also said he sometimes used the challenge either at the request of his players or in the hope that it would give one of them an extra hit.

“I would like a manager to do that for me,” he said.

Not all of the Dodgers’ challenges were bad.

They got a run set by the Arizona Diamondbacks that was negated during a game in April after they successfully challenged a play at first base.

In their shutout by the New York Mets last month, a jump attempt by Taylor in left field was changed from a hit to an out after a check.

And a few days later, they were awarded a catcher’s interference call in the 10th inning of a game, putting the potential winning run on base (although they still lost the game).

But for most of this year, Roberts, his shelter staff and the backroom video team have made the wrong judgment too many times, challenging calls that, in hindsight, seemed to have little chance of ever being changed.

“We’re working on it,” Roberts said. “But ultimately I make the decision to challenge or not to challenge. I wasn’t very good.”

Short jumps

Roberts said Betts could return from a rib injury “in the next few days” but still didn’t give a date. … Pitcher Ian Gibaut was activated Friday, a day after the Dodgers recalled him from the waivers. Justin Brühl was optioned in a corresponding step. Dodgers and Dave Roberts faring poorly with replay challenges

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