Dodger Thoughts

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

Category: Pitching (Page 2 of 15)

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s comeback unique in Dodger history

Since 2017, Hyun-Jin Ryu has a 113 ERA+ in 142 1/3 innings. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Sometime in the next six or 12 months, Julio Urías will attempt to return to the big leagues from major shoulder surgery.

In the meantime, with much less fanfare than one would anticipate for Urías, Hyun-Jin Ryu is making one of the most impressive and odds-defying comebacks ever by a Dodger pitcher.

Ryu is …

  • the first Dodger since Darren Dreifort to make 25 starts after missing more than a season with an injury. (Dreifort was actually a reliever in 1994-95 when he made his first extended stay on the disabled list.)
  • the first Dodger starting pitcher since Orel Hershiser to miss more than a year (April 1990-May 1991) and then return to the rotation to make at least 25 starts.
  • the first Dodger starting pitcher since Tommy John to sit out an entire season (1975) and then return to the rotation for at least 25 starts.

John went 21 months between starts, from July 17, 1974 to April 16, 1976. Ryu missed 22 months, from September 2014 to July 2016, made one MLB appearance — then went another nine months without throwing an official pitch.

And now, Ryu has thrown nearly 150 innings since nearly being mothballed. At least dating back to the franchise’s move to Los Angeles, no pitcher in a Dodger uniform (and there have been several remarkable ones, I hear) has done anything like it.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Eight: The Bullpen

Because we already used Clayton Kershaw’s birthday as an excuse to delve into Part 9 of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (order now!), our series of previews ends on Part Eight: The Bullpen.

Niftily, the position of relief pitcher emerged with the Dodgers around the same time as the Dodger pitching tradition itself took root.

For nearly the entire history of the Dodgers before the end of World War II, when their pitching tradition was incubating, almost every pitcher they used in relief was a moonlighting starter. Only three players in Brooklyn history totaled more than 200 innings in relief before 1940, and two of those were swingmen — Watty Clark and Sherry Smith, who started more games than they relieved. The lone exception, Rube Ehrhardt, did mainly pitch out of the pen from 1926 to 1928, with modest effectiveness.

Starting with Hugh Casey in the 1940s, the game changed, and the Dodgers began transforming pitchers who weren’t cut out to be fulltime starters into pitchers who were primarily relievers, and later purely relievers. In the history of Dodger pitching, they play a supporting but key role, occasionally grabbing headlines—some heartbreaking, some thrilling.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Seven: The Hired Hands

Part Seven of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (order now!) — “The Hired Hands” — is the book’s shortest section, but it takes us to another key transition point for the franchise.

Right up until the final decade of the 20th century, the Dodgers signed or scouted, domestically or internationally, every significant starting pitcher they ever had as an amateur — or parlayed that homegrown talent into a trade for one. While the best things in life aren’t always free, the Dodgers rarely risked big dollars on pitchers from rival area codes. You could say it was pride. Or a conservative streak. Or feeling scorched by the relatively fruitless expenditures on the Dave Goltzes of the world.

But as the 20th century neared an end, the Dodger pitching tradition couldn’t survive on its own momentum. The team had to begin to look elsewhere for talent.

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Six: The International Rotation

Our journey through Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!) takes us to what I suppose serves as the beginning of dark days for the modern Dodger fan — the 1990s, when the team didn’t win a single playoff game.

Nevertheless, it was still a key period in the history of Dodger pitching, as I note in the introduction to “Part Six: The International Rotation.”

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Previewing Brothers in Arms
Part Five: El Toro and the Bulldog

Back before I settled on the idea of writing Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition (pre-order now!), I was toying with doing a biography on a single Dodger pitcher. And among my first choices were the two men who end up appearing together in “Part Five: El Toro and the Bulldog” … Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser.

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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.

[mlbvideo id=”1206079383″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

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

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
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


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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