Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Pitching (Page 2 of 15)

Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Nine: The Magnificent Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is 30.

Born March 19, 1988 — seven months and one day before the Dodgers’ most recent World Series title — Kershaw has long been the prodigy, the exceptional, otherworldly wonder. But today, he enters baseball middle age.

Because of this big birthday, I juggled the order of my previews for Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!), jumping ahead to the end. The final chapter of the book is on Kershaw, and Kershaw alone — such is his stature in the history of Dodger pitching.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Four: The Modern Classicists

With Part Four of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!), we head directly into the pitchers of my own childhood, the ones I can describe to you first-hand. This section of the book is titled “The Modern Classicists,” underscoring that while we were a long way from the black-and-white era of the Boys of Summer, there will always be something pristine and Old School about the pitchers who carried the Dodgers from the 1970s into the ’80s.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Three: The Post-Koufax Generation

As we move forward in previewing the May 1 release of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!), we leave behind “The Two Emperors” and find out in Part Three how the Dodgers transitioned on the mound from the 1960s to the 1970s without Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

Three men who were teammates of the Hall of Fame duo — along with one extraordinary pitching coach — paved the way.

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Brothers in Arms prologue: Dazzy Vance and the days before the Dodgers pitching tradition began

Hi there! To get you warmed up for the May 1 release of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!), from time to time I want to share some behind-the-scenes tidbits about, for lack of a better phrase, “The Making of Brothers in Arms.” Think of these as if they were the DVD extras. Ideally, you’ll find them of interest even without the book in your hands.

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As Dodgers enter offseason, young starters provide foundation for rotation

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

By Jon Weisman

In 2015, the combined total of big-league starts by Jose De León, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Julio Urías — not to mention Kenta Maeda — was zero.

This year, the four traditional rookies amassed 38, with Maeda good for another 32. Nearly half the starts for the 2016 National League West champions came from brand new Major Leaguers, with the team going 40-30 (.571) in those games, compared with 51-41 (.554) in games started by veterans.

Just to clarify for the paranoid: Over the coming offseason, the Dodgers will scour the trade and free-agent markets (which includes midseason acquisition Rich Hill) for starting pitchers that might bolster the 2017 rotation.

At the same time, this year’s rookie quintet already puts Los Angeles a step closer to alleviating the reliance on quantity in recent seasons (16 starters in 2015, 15 in 2016).

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If Urías balks, why has no ump ever called one?

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Julio Urías has pitched 79 innings in the big leagues this year, including the postseason. He has allowed 119 baserunners, many of whom stood on first base with an opportunity to steal second. He picked off seven of those batters.

During those innings, 16 different umpires have worked behind home plate, with several more of their colleagues working the bases.

Not one of those umpires has called Urías for a balk.

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That’s really the only point I care to make here. I’m not here to argue whether Urías’ pickoff move, which is rapidly gaining notoriety (or depending on your point of view, infamy) is a balk or not. Personally, I think the balk rule, with its 3,981 different qualifiers, is so arcane as to be a joke. The infield-fly rule, by comparison, could hardly be more clear: runners on first and second, fewer than two out, pop fly, fair territory, umpire calls the batter out automatically.

Ever since Urías showed his pickoff move on the big stage in the National League Division Series — even earning nicknames such as “The Drifter” from Fox Sport 1’s announcers — there have been widespread critiques.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whether speaking sincerely from the heart, working the refs or both, laid it out Tuesday afternoon.

“When you get to see it on TV, it’s pretty obvious,” Maddon said. “It’s not even close. It’s a very basic tenet regarding what is and what is not a balk. Give him credit, man, for going through with it. That’s part of the game. I think from umpire’s perspective, there are certain umpires that are in tune to that, some that are not. There are other balks that I always get annoyed with that aren’t called. So I’m certain that the umpiring crew has been made aware of it. … That’s not an interpretation. That’s balking 101 for me. So we’ll see. We’ll see how it all plays out.”

Except Maddon is wrong in one fundamental way. It’s not obvious. It is close.

So far, a couple dozen or more Major League umpires over the past five months have had a look at every move Urías makes. Conservatively speaking, Urías has thrown to first base at least 100 times. And the umps, all of whom seem to have different strike zones, different umpiring styles, different relationships with players and managers, have been unanimous. Urías hasn’t balked.

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Dodgers to starters: Leave no pitch behind

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Javy Baez, 2B
Jorge Soler, RF
Addison Russell, SS
Miguel Montero, C
Jake Arrieta, P
Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Rich Hill, P

By Jon Weisman

“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and we’ll figure out the rest.”

That’s the mantra Dave Roberts has sent to his starting pitchers. Sure, seven, eight innings would be nice, but that’s no longer the barometer. For that matter, the homespun charm of a quality start started sounding all too quaint around the fourth of July.

“There’s not been really one formula for us to win the baseball games that we’ve won,” Roberts said today, before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. “So this postseason, it’s more for me just kind of sending the message to the starters to go out there and leave it all out there.”

Rich Hill, who in the regular season with the Dodgers never went fewer than five innings and had seven perfect frames September 10 at Miami, epitomizes this approach. In this postseason, he has struck out 13 batters in seven innings over two starts, including six in 2 2/3 innings on three day’s rest in the final game of the National League Division Series against Washington.

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Julio Urías to start NLCS Game 4 — youngest postseason starting pitcher ever

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

By Jon Weisman

Julio Urías is officially scheduled to take the mound at Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday and become the youngest starting pitcher in MLB playoff history.

At 20 years and 68 days for Game 4, Urías will break the record held by Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen (1984 ALCS Game 2) by 107 days.

Saberhagen received a no-decision after allowing two earned runs in eight innings. Five times has a 20-year-old starting pitcher won a playoff game: Bullet Joe Bush (1913 World Series Game 3), Jim Palmer (1966 World Series Game 2) and Fernando Valenzuela (1981 NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 5 and World Series Game 3).

Urías will be starting on the 35th anniversary of the day his iconic predecessor, Valenzuela, pitched 8 2/3 innings the day the Dodgers clinched the ’81 NL pennant. Urías said the waiting between appearances — he has only pitched in one game this month — has not made him too antsy.

“It’s the playoffs, so I have to be ready,” Urías said this afternoon, shortly before the announcement was made official by his manager, Dave Roberts. “If before, I knew I had to give my best, I know that now I have to give even more, because whatever I do, if I make a mistake it could cost us a big game.

“You just have to be prepared when you’re called upon. Yeah, you feel anxious and sometimes you feel the pressure, but that’s something you have to learn how to deal with.”

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Dodgers will attack NLDS Game 5 inning by inning

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Rich Hill (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

What’s the ideal scenario for the Dodgers at Washington tonight in the deciding game of the National League Division Series?

Pretty simply: An early lead, six or seven combined innings from Rich Hill (officially announced as today’s starting pitcher) and Julio Urías, and matchups from the set-up men before Kenley Jansen sends Los Angeles to Wrigley Field.

It’s hardly implausible, given that the Dodgers scored four runs in the first three innings against Nationals starter Max Scherzer in Game 1. Then there’s the potential of Hill and Urías.

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McCarthy, like Anderson, getting a look out of bullpen

COLORADO ROCKIES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Dodgers at Giants, 7:15 p.m.
Howie Kendrick, LF
Justin Turner, 3B
Corey Seager, SS
Yasiel Puig, RF
Carlos Ruiz, C
Rob Segedin, 1B
Kiké Hernández, CF
Charlie Culberson, 2B
Rich Hill, P

By Jon Weisman

Like Brett Anderson did on Thursday, Brandon McCarthy is expected to pitch out of the bullpen for the Dodgers when they open their season-ending series at San Francisco tonight.

The relief appearances by Anderson (2 1/3 innings, five hits, two strikeouts) and McCarthy keep alive the chances that either could be added to the Dodger playoff pitching staff.

“We wanted to get a different look from Brett, for him to come out of the pen — it’s something he’s really not accustomed to,” Dave Roberts said after Thursday’s game, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Times. “His velocity was up. He was victim to some soft-contact hits, but his breaking ball was good. For Brett to come in … it was a positive outing for him.”

The Dodger playoff bullpen was already overflowing with candidates before Anderson and McCarthy slid from starter campaigns into the relief race, essentially trading with Julio Urías, who struck out five Thursday in three shutout innings of what appears to have been a tuneup to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

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Despite division delay, Dodgers delight in Kershaw

#ITFDB

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

By Jon Weisman

San Francisco hung on for a 9-6 victory over San Diego, and the Dodgers put the bubbly away for at least another day.

But after his seven shutout innings in their 14-1 victory tonight, they could break it out just to celebrate this little fact: Heading into the playoffs, Clayton Kershaw is on a roll.

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With 20 pitchers (and counting) on September roster, Dodger staff is both ridiculous and sublime

wood

Alex Wood, the 21st pitcher the Dodgers have used this month, pitched a perfect inning Wednesday in his return from the disabled list.

Rockies at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Andrew Toles, LF
Corey Seager, SS
Adrian González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Howie Kendrick, 3B
Brett Anderson, P

By Jon Weisman

When Brett Anderson is activated from the disabled list today, he will become the 20th pitcher on the Dodgers’ active roster. On Friday, Scott Kazmir will give them blackjack. (I know, it’s not really blackjack if you need more than two cards, but Clayton Kershaw’s still an ace — so there.)

Counting Casey Fien and Bud Norris, who are no longer on the 40-man squad, the Dodgers this month will have used 23 pitchers by September 23.

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Depth propels Dodger pitching to the best in MLB in September

San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

All summer long, it seemed likely that once rosters expanded in September, the Dodgers would be poised to take advantage thanks to their pitching depth.

That’s exactly what has happened.

Los Angeles has played 10 games in September so far, and already the Dodgers have used seven starting pitchers. With Julio Urías pitching tonight, seven of the first 11 starts this month will have gone to pitchers (Urías, Jose De León and Brock Stewart) who began the season in the minors or to a pitcher (Rich Hill) who was acquired in exchange for minor-leaguers.

As for the 13-man bullpen, no reliever has thrown more than Joe Blanton’s 4 2/3 innings (spread over 13 days), and only one is averaging above 1.0 innings per appearance: Pedro Baez, who has 3 2/3 innings in three games. Blanton and Jesse Chavez lead Dodger relievers with 19 batters faced in the 10 games.

Even with Dave Roberts numerous visits to the mound, on only four occasions has a Dodger reliever worked back-to-back days this month: September 2-3 (Blanton and Kenley Jansen) and September 6-7 (Baez and Jansen).

The results? Dodger pitchers have a 2.15 ERA in September, with a 0.91 WHIP, 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a 4.4 strikeout-walk ratio (equivalent to Miami’s Jose Fernandez). Opponents are hitting .183/.250/.266 this month.

Every single one of those stats leads the Major Leagues, except for on-base percentage, which is second to Boston. No Dodger opponent has scored more than four runs in a September game so far.

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Dodgers find their thrill in Richard Joseph Hill

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By Jon Weisman

Sweetly, sometimes softly, Rich Hill mixed his pitches, his curveball surveying the scenic route, his fastball sufficiently startling.

And a team starved for starting pitching suddenly has had two superb outings this week from left-handers.

With six shutout innings, Hill duplicated the Sunday feat of Julio Urías — not to mention Hill’s only previous appearance at Dodger Stadium, in 2007 — and the Dodgers edged the San Francisco Giants, 1-0.

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Scott Kazmir to see doctor in latest pitching twist

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By Jon Weisman

After retiring only seven batters in the Dodgers’ 18-9 victory today at Cincinnati, Scott Kazmir is scheduled to see a doctor on Tuesday, though the initial report of an MRI, as Cody Pace of MLB.com described, has been revised.

“Scott is fighting some physical things with his body,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s doing what he can, but when your body doesn’t feel right, mechanically, it affects mechanics. He knows he wants to go out there and go deeper in a game. When you’ve got a 6-1 lead, he wants the decision, for himself, for the team. When you’re physically limited and you can’t execute, he’s frustrated.”

Kazmir is dealing with some stiffness in his neck and his back, something he said that he’s been dealing with “for years.” The problem with his neck in particular has messed with Kazmir’s mechanics, not allowing him to get his head toward the catcher properly and resulting in him flying open. …

… “No matter what happens, we’ve gotten this far,” Kazmir said. “I know how my body works. If we have some type of imaging, whatever happens, I’ll strengthen it up and I’ll continue to do what I do.”

Kazmir’s next start would theoretically be Saturday against the Cubs. Between now and then, about the only sure thing for the Dodgers is that Kenta Maeda will take the mound Tuesday against the Giants. Rich Hill remains on track to start Wednesday, and then the bigger question marks arise.

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