Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Pitching (Page 1 of 15)

Dodger bullpen working without a net in NLCS

Kenley Jansen ended a stirring comeback victory by the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on a high note, reaching vintage velocity as he struck out the side to finish the Dodgers’ 7-3 win Friday. 

As the Dodgers head into this afternoon’s Game 6, still needing to win today and Sunday to advance to the World Series, the bullpen is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with no reliever throwing more than 20 pitches. But even if Walker Buehler overcomes his blister issues to give the Dodgers length today, the Dodger pitching staff is walking a tightrope. 

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The Dodgers, Kenley Jansen and the simple practice of warming up relievers sooner

Photo: Jon SooHoo

Let’s start by looking ahead at the Dodger pitching, before we look back.

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Depth sets up Dodgers
for NLDS without off days

Photo: Jon SooHoo

What does depth bring the Dodgers? They can cover the 45 innings* of the NLDS with these 14 pitchers on relatively easy inning loads:

6 Clayton Kershaw
5 Tony Gonsolin
4 Walker Buehler
4 Dustin May
4 Julio Urías
3 Victor González
3 Brusdar Graterol
3 Kenley Jansen
3 Blake Treinen
2 Pedro Báez
2 Dylan Floro
2 Joe Kelly
2 Adam Kolarek
2 Jake McGee

*That’s 45 innings, give or take — but it accounts for the series going five games with two extra innings, if the Padres win their designated home games (Games 3 and 4) without batting in the bottom of the ninth.

Perhaps Kershaw only goes five innings. Perhaps Gonsolin, May or Urías gives you a solid six. Perhaps Buehler’s blister takes him out after two innings tonight, but that leaves him available to give you another two innings three days later. Perhaps one game goes into the 13th, 14th, 15th … you tell me. There’s no predicting the specifics. 

The point is, every one of those 14 pitchers is capable of giving you effective innings. There isn’t a weak spot. You don’t need to lean extra heavy on Kershaw or Jansen. No one would have to throw 20-plus pitches on back-to-back days until an all-hands-on-deck Game 5. 

Jansen might be the Dodgers’ biggest question mark — I discussed him in this Twitter thread last week — but Dave Roberts showed in the opening round that he isn’t opposed to warming up another reliever behind him, and that he is willing to sideline him in the ninth inning if he thinks it’s necessary. The key is to treat Jansen like you would treat any other reliever. Use him according to his effectiveness, his ability to execute pitches in the moment, not his reputation. The same, frankly, goes for Kershaw, who dazzled in Game 2 last week but still was left to his own devices in the eighth inning. The Dodgers have the arms — they don’t need to be shy about exploring all of them. 

Return of the Clayton Kershaw Playoff Chart

Click the chart below to enlarge. 

Green: Ace-level starts
Orange: Two earned runs or fewer in first six innings
Yellow: Mixed bags
Red: Disasters
Light gold: Relief appearances

I created the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Chart two years ago to communicate how Kershaw has been both great and terrible and everywhere in between during the postseason.

The Dodgers’ brief window in the 2019 playoffs didn’t change the narrative. In his first start, he pitched well enough to win but didn’t. Then he had a disastrous relief outing, his first such nightmare out of the bullpen in a decade.

Kershaw has made 25 career playoff starts. Here’s how they break down:

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Gonsolin? May? Urías?
How about all of the above?

Photo: Jon SooHoo

If Walker Blister Buehler makes it through his Thursday start without a hitch, you can safely assume that he and Clayton Kershaw will start the Dodgers’ first two postseason games next week. Kershaw has earned the Game 1 start based on his 2020 performance, but by pitching Friday, he would actually be a slot behind Buelher in the rotation. The Dodgers have the following options: 

Option 1

  • Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Buehler on five days’ rest
  • Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Kershaw on five days’ rest

Option 2

  • Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Kershaw on four days’ rest
  • Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Buehler on six days’ rest

Given that the Dodgers could have gone with Kershaw on Thursday and Buehler on Friday this week, it would appear that they might actually be leaning toward Option 1. Again, this depends on Buehler’s Thursday start. 

But that’s not actually the subject of this post. Rather, it’s to tackle the question of how the Dodgers would approach their third postseason game, whether it’s an elimination game of the best-of-three opening round (gulp*) on Friday, October 2 or the opening game of the best-of-five National League Division Series — a potential matchup with the Padres — on Tuesday, October 6. 

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Interview: The true no-spin zone with knuckleballer Charlie Hough

Hey, guess what — the third installment of the Word to the Weisman podcast is already up! Following in the footsteps of Carl Erskine and Burt Hooton is my interview of Charlie Hough, the knuckleballing great who pitched professionally from 1966 to 1994.

Because there was only a couple of pages worth of space for Hough in Brothers in Arms, there are memories galore in this conversation that didn’t make it into the book, including his journey from position player to knuckleballer, comparing and contrasting Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, and his thoughts on several Dodger pitchers from across the decades. Hough’s career in baseball as a player, coach and instructor covers roughly 50 years, so trust me, it’s great to hear from him.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. You can also listen on SpotifyI also recommend you subscribe to the podcast, so you know the moment a new episode is available — especially helpful now, since I don’t have a set schedule.

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

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Interview: A happy chat with Burt Hooton

Slowly and unsurely, I am sharing some of the conversations I had while writing and researching Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, on what I have christened the Word to the Weisman podcastHaving already posted my chat with Carl Erskine, we now move exorably but enthusiastically to Burt Hooton, whom I consider to be one of the two or three most underrated pitchers in Dodger history.

Whether or not you have already read about Hooton in Brothers in Arms, I think you’ll enjoy hearing him talk about his life in baseball in his own drawl. I recommend this both for older fans like myself who saw him pitch and younger fans who might not be aware of his talent, given that the way he was overshadowed in the public eye by the likes of Don Sutton and Fernando Valenzuela.

Listen below, or click here to listen on iTunes. 

If you enjoyed this or would like to hear other interviews from me, please let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me @jonweisman on Twitter. Thanks!

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Who pitched the Dodgers’ top games each year in the 2000s? Some names will surprise you

Clayton Kershaw is by far the most dominant pitcher for the Dodgers — if not all of Major League Baseball — in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, he has pitched the game of the year for the Dodgers more times than anyone else.

But using the tried and true Game Score formula as a barometer, Kershaw has topped the charts in only four of his 11 big-league seasons. During the Kershaw era, some unexpected names have stolen the spotlight from Kershaw, if only for a moment.

In fact, in the 13 seasons from 2001 through 2013, 13 different pitchers had the top Game Score for the Dodgers.

Here’s a year-by-year rundown of the Dodgers’ best Game Score performances each year, dating back to 2000.

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Postseason Opening Day starters for the Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Below is a list of the pitchers who kicked off every postseason for the Dodgers since the start of the 20th century. If the Dodgers won the game, that’s in bold.

Click on any name for the boxscore. I’ve asterisked the Dodgers’ six World Series title years. Note that in five of those years, they lost their first playoff game.

Overall, the Dodgers are 11-20 in their 31 playoff openers heading into tonight: 9-13 since the franchise moved to Los Angeles, 2-7 when the team was in Brooklyn.

Clayton Kershaw has the most postseason Opening Day starts with five, followed by Derek Lowe, Ramón Martínez, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Drysdale, Don Newcombe and Rube Marquard with two each. Hall of Famer pitchers Don Sutton and Sandy Koufax each had only one. 

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Who makes the do-or-die starts for the Dodgers?

On Sunday, Walker Buehler might making the highest-stakes regular-season start by a rookie in Dodger history. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I’m writing about an event that likely won’t come to pass, an event that most Dodger fans hope doesn’t come to pass.

But as their three-game series at San Francisco begins tonight, the Dodgers could soon be facing as many as four consecutive do-or-die games to reach the National League Division Series.

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The Dodger pitching pecking order for the stretch run

Ross Stripling remains an X factor on the Dodger pitching staff. (Ryan Meyer/MLB.com)

Considering what a mess the Dodger bullpen was a month ago, seemingly undermining every strong effort the starting pitchers made, you might be surprised to see the Los Angeles pitching staff has coalesced more than a little bit. The relief corps still won’t frighten any opponents (yet), but there is some order in the court.

Honestly, this staff can do the job in a vacuum — the question will be, can it do the job in a tornado?

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59 since ’59 — Remembering Sandy Koufax’s record-setting breakout game in Los Angeles

Sandy Koufax wasn’t unknown when he arrived in Los Angeles from Brooklyn, but it was on this date in 1959 that the fans out West caught their best glimpse of the future Hall of Famer.

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Which starting pitchers should move into the bullpen for the Dodgers?

Kenley Jansen’s absence puts more pressure on the rest of the Dodger pitching staff to step up.
(Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

All summer long, the big question for the Dodger pitching staff has been which relievers would serve as the bridge to Kenley Jansen.

But with the distressing news that Jansen will be sidelined at least into September with an irregular heartbeat, we now have to ponder not only the bridge, but the destination.

You can read all the options the Dodgers have available in my recent review of the Dodger pitching staff, and Dustin Nosler of Dodgers Digest has a post up today looking specifically at who might close in Jansen’s absence.

My focus today is on the fact that it’s obvious that the Dodgers, who will soon have seven starting pitchers available with the impending returns of Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu from the disabled list, will need to move at least one starting pitcher to the bullpen — two if they don’t go with a six-man rotation.

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A post-deadline review of the Dodger pitching staff

Clayton Kershaw has a 2.28 ERA since returning from the disabled list, but the Dodgers know he needs bullpen support. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Call it Summer Training for the Dodger pitching staff, with a cautious eye toward the Fall Classic.

As the month of August dawns, there are 29 pitchers currently in the Dodger organization who have been part of the team’s 40-man roster this year. Yep, 29. But with their July mound acquisitions limited to Dylan Floro, Zach Neal and John Axford, is 29 enough?

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Walker Buehler’s time arrives for the Dodgers

Walker Buehler has a 2.00 ERA with 11 strikeouts in his first 10 innings for the Dodgers this year. (Michael Urakami/MLB.com)

Seems like Walker Buehler can take Rancho Cucamonga hotels out of his favorites on Waze.

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