How has Clayton Kershaw managed to complete at least six innings in all 22 of his starts this year? He has given Dave Roberts no reason to take him out early.
Category: Dodgers (Page 2 of 65)
Being open to new and risky ideas has brought the Dodgers to the top of the National League and the brink of two World Series titles, with eyes again on the promised land in 2019.
If you’re going to make the argument that they would have already won the World Series this decade if they didn’t experiment so much, understand that they wouldn’t have reached the World Series if they had experimented any less.
You don’t like some of the results? That comes with the territory. If there weren’t risk involved, it wouldn’t be an experiment. It would be adherence to the status quo, which gets you nowhere.
If there’s a World Series Game 7 this year, I’d like it to be at Dodger Stadium.
But I’m much more interested in the Dodgers working on ways to make their team World Series champions without playing a Game 7.
Today is the 80th birthday of Claude Osteen — a pitcher not nearly enough Dodger fans of today know about. To celebrate, here’s his chapter from Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition …
By the 1960s, Dodger pitching development was revving like a Mustang, and it wasn’t thanks only to Drysdale and Koufax. To illustrate: of the 1,610 games Los Angeles played during the decade, 83 percent were started by pitchers originally signed by the Dodgers. Of the eight Los Angeles pitchers to start at least 50 games in the ’60s, seven were homegrown.
Claude Osteen was the standout, in more ways than one.
Ambling in the shadow of three Hall of Fame teammates and not exactly a household name to 21st-century fans, Osteen has to be one of the more underrated pitchers in Dodger history. With 26.3 wins above replacement in nine seasons for Los Angeles, Osteen ranked 15th among the franchise’s great arms and eighth in Los Angeles. Osteen’s 100 complete games tie him for 12th on the all-time Dodger list, and as for shutouts, only his three Hall of Fame contemporaries plus Nap Rucker had more as a Dodger than Osteen’s 34.
“We took a lot of pride in finishing the job,” Osteen says. “I took a lot of pride in throwing shutouts—it’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of.”
Osteen played an enormous role in capturing the Dodgers’ final World Series title of the ’60s, provided a stabilizing bridge to the pennant-winning Dodger teams of the 1970s and extended the Dodger tradition to a later generation as pitching coach from 1999 to 2000. Though it all began for Osteen elsewhere, he nearly had roots as a Dodger as well.
It was weird enough, after the Dodgers won the 1981 title, when they split the World Series Most Valuable Player Award among three players.
It became weirder still when Bob Uecker and MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn included the wrong man, Steve Garvey, in the award presentation. It was Steve Yeager, not Garvey, who had been voted the winner alongside Ron Cey and Pedro Guerrero.
Garvey expressed heartfelt gratitude for the award that he wouldn’t get to keep. Yeager, hovering in the background at the outset, eventually got to the microphone, though he is never named as a tri-MVP winner. Guerrero got a big hug from Al Campanis, but no chance to speak at all.
Enjoy the presentation above, in all its awkward glory.
I’ve long since surrendered the notion that the way I feel about the Dodgers has any widespread resonance.
At my peak, I had a niche. There’s definitely a segment of readers who tend to relate to me. But if my writing about the team had been any more transcendent than that, I genuinely think I would still be writing about the Dodgers full time. Failing to crack the mainstream wasn’t the reason I shifted gears — it was more about my desire to prioritize other things — but being a more popular voice might have affected those priorities, or at least their timetable.
That’s a long-winded preface for me to say that I wanted to write about my reaction to the absence of a blockbuster move at the trade deadline by the Dodgers, but without the expectation that most people would share my view. I’m not writing to convince you of anything. I’m just expressing myself. If you like, read it as you would the work of an alien.
Here’s what I think.
Trenidad Hubbard, CF (1998)
Blake DeWitt, 2B (2010)
Olmedo Saenz, 1B (2006)
Juan Rivera, LF (2012)
Jason Phillips, C (2005)
Juan Encarnacion, RF (2004)
Luis Cruz, 3B (2013)
Justin Sellers, SS (2013)
Vicente Padilla, P (2010)
Sometimes, you read things on Twitter …
- like the current Dodger front office refuses to relief pitching seriously
- and is incapable of building a bullpen worthy of a World Series title.
Then you go into your wayback machine, all the way back to … 2017. To a time of peak Kenley Jansen and Brandon Morrow, to the twin Tonys (Watson and Cingrani), to the strong supporting work by Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Luis Avilan and Ross Stripling, and to Special Agent Kenta Maeda.
I’m going to make a very narrow, precise point here.
The Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series. But it wasn’t because the relief pitchers weren’t in place. They had everyone they needed coming out of the bullpen and more.
During their current run of playoff appearances dating back to 2013, the Dodgers haven’t been in position to focus first and foremost on the bullpen at the trade deadline. There have always been multiple pressing needs.
The upside of the bullpen being the clear weak link of a team that has otherwise been the best in the National League, if not all of the major leagues, has been clarity of focus. It’s not that the 2019 Dodgers can’t improve on the margins in the other areas, but we know they don’t need to prioritize a Manny Machado or Yu Darvish. It’s bullpen or bust.
That said, here are two things to keep in mind:
- Every team would welcome bullpen help — even, for example, the Yankees. (See the chart at right of bullpen ERAs in high-leverage situations.) Even the MLB-leading 3.45 ERA (notably delivered by the Giants) wouldn’t soothe Dodger fans. There aren’t nearly enough high-quality relievers to go around.
- Even the highest quality relievers still give up runs. You can see this both in the overall stats or anecdotally, such as the night this week when Aroldis Chapman gave up Travis d’Arnaud’s third homer of the game for a blown save.
Obviously, the two weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline will be significant if not critical to the Dodgers’ World Series hopes, especially now that MLB has eliminated the August 31 workaround. Just know that no team — not the Dodgers, and just as importantly, not anyone else — can make itself bulletproof.
You make the best team you can.
Last weekend brought me to the wilds of New York for family reasons, on a trip that had been planned for months but near the last minute unexpectedly left me with a free day. Staying only 90 minutes from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I rose at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, on four hours sleep after having traveled all Saturday from home, and made the drive to a little slice of baseball heaven.
At age 51, this was my second trip to the Hall — my first came when I was 14. People have asked me if the Hall seemed different, but so much time has passed that the biggest compare and contrast I can make is doing the trip with my dad vs. doing it solo.
That said, another major difference was having a cellphone, as opposed to only memories that would fade over time. I took more than 200 photos, and with this year’s annual induction ceremony only days away, there seems to be no better time for me to share some of them with you (with apologies for the quality). I’m going to divide them into multiple posts, starting with this one centered on the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Looking back at some old birthdays on this Memorial Day …
- The oldest Ram I saw play in person: Charlie Cowan (June 19, 1938)
- The oldest MLB player I know I ever saw play in person: Vic Davalillo (July 31, 1936)
- The oldest Laker I saw play on TV: Elgin Baylor (September 16, 1934)
- The oldest MLB player I know I saw play on TV: Hank Aaron (February 5, 1934)
- The oldest athlete I know I saw play on TV: George Blanda (September 17, 1927)
- The oldest athlete I know I saw play in person: Marques Haynes (March 10, 1926)
- The oldest athlete I might have seen play, but I can’t remember if I was at a game when he actually pitched: Hoyt Wilhelm (July 26, 1922)
I was 40 years old when Clayton Kershaw first pitched for the Dodgers. He was 20. Brand, spanking new. Back then, he was a perfect toy for my midlife Dodger fan crisis.
Now, there are newer, flashier cars, and he doesn’t run quite like he used to, but he’ll always be my favorite. Classic.
We’re a generation apart, but I feel like we’re growing old together. And I think there’s going to come a day when I look back and think of him as the greatest pitcher of my youth.
Cody Bellinger’s absolutely incredible 2019 start has been covered from many different angles, and I don’t intend to repeat any of it here. I just want to add one thread to the tapestry.
It’s been years since I’ve cared about batting average, except when someone is batting .400. That number will always have magic for me. I’m more impressed, just as one example, by Bellinger’s .500 on-base percentage, which takes us beyond magic into Narnia territory.
Nevertheless, it’s Bellinger’s .420 batting average through the Dodgers’ first 30 games that I’m addressing today.
Normally, when someone is batting .400 or better, you assume he’s been lucky. That’s something you would suspect intuitively even before the analytical revolution began earlier this century. When Rod Carew, George Brett or Tony Gwynn chased .400 in my younger days, it reflected their greatness, of course, but also the understanding that they were catching a certain amount of breaks at the right time.
Right now, Cody Bellinger is earning every bit of his .420 batting average. According to Statcast, his expected batting average (xBA), which measures the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit, is .428. His .420 is arguably underselling his performance this season.
You might be aware that Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is closing in on the record for most consecutive hitless at-bats in the majors. If you’re a Dodger fan, you might be even more aware of who holds that record: Eugenio Vélez, whose 0-for-37 2011 season with Los Angeles enabled him to set an MLB record with 46 straight hitless at-bats.
But what you might not realize is that Vélez’s streak never ended. It is still active. In fact, so is Vélez. This past winter, he came to the plate 19 times for Aguilas de Mexicali, capping his seventh straight year in professional baseball since he last took a major-league at-bat.
On top of everything else, Vélez is still only 36 years old, turning 37 on May 16. He is a mere three years older than Davis. There’s still life in him yet.
So Davis may break this record. But as far as I’m concerned, this duel ain’t over.