Dodger Thoughts

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

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What Seager’s lost season signifies for the 2018 Dodgers

Josh Barber/Los Angeles Dodgers

Let me start by saying this isn’t a “Remain calm, all is well” post.

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Brothers in Arms signing No. 3: Barnes & Noble (Burbank), June 9

The Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition world tour will make its third stop, reaching beautiful downtown Burbank’s Barnes & Noble at 2 p.m. on June 9.

Come on by to get your new or previously purchased copy signed, and as a bonus, I’ll introduce you to the author. Hey — that’s me.

By the way, if you want to make a Dodger-themed afternoon and evening of it, it’s an easy drive down from Barnes & Noble to Dodger Stadium for the 6:10 p.m. game against the Braves, featuring a Manny Mota Bobblehead giveaway. I’m not involved with that giveaway — I just like the idea of the combo.

The Barnes & Nobles signing follows fun events set for May 5 at the Central Library, and June 3 at Common Space Brewery in Hawthorne. Another announcement for mid-June is still to come. Hope to see you soon!

Joc Pederson and the persistence of impatience

Since his rookie season in 2015, Joc Pederson has cut his strikeout rate in half and then some.
(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Joc Pederson is dead center in the unfriend zone for many Dodger fans, and while it’s not at all hard to see how he got there, it still raises some points for conversation.

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The 17-game Dodgers Rorschach Test

Lucas Stevenson/MLB.com

The moment the final out of the Dodgers’ fourth consecutive victory came Wednesday, I posted a tweet comparing their record this year to last year: 8-9 after 17 games, with only the slightest difference in the standings.

I had a bit of wiggle room. The 2017 Dodgers also began the season 8-10, 9-11 and 10-12. So there was a decent shot that the 2018 Dodgers, even after their 4-9 stumble out of the gate, would match up with their ancestral counterparts from 365 days of yore.

Of course, after the 10-12 opening, the 2017 Dodgers not only won 10 of their next 12 games but ultimately went on a historic 71-24 run that no Dodger team may ever match again, finishing with a 108-54 record and a trip to the seventh game of the World Series. So there was no further editorializing for me in the tweet. No analysis of how the 2017 and 2018 teams got to 8-9, no projection of whether this year’s bunch would any way match last year’s. People who read me or follow me on Twitter know I tend to be an optimist about the Dodgers, but I’m aware of where that can go wrong, as this tweet earlier this week about the 2005 Dodgers shows.

In case you’ve forgotten: 12-2 at the start of the ’05 season, 71-91 at the finish.

Anyway, that made the responses to Wednesday’s 8-9 tweet interesting, and kind of a window into the diverse sensibilities of Dodger fans.

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Brothers in Arms signing June 3 at Common Space Brewery

Hey folks – I’m pleased to announce my second signing event for Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition.

Following the May 5 event at the Central Library, I’ll be talking Brothers and selling/signing copies of the book starting at 2 p.m. June 3 at Common Space Brewery — the great new place founded by friend of Dodger Thoughts and True Blue L.A. denizen Brent Knapp —  located at 3411 W. El Segundo in Hawthorne.

The Dodgers are playing at Colorado starting at 12:10 p.m. that day, so with beer and books on tap, we’ll gather to hang out and watch the game, mixing in some Brothers in Arms during and/or after

Common Space is a production brewery in Hawthorne with a large taproom and outdoor beer garden that opened in February.

“We were very fortunate to find an amazing building in Hawthorne and were able to build what we believe is a beautiful brewery and taproom, with an immersive and wide open view of the full production facility,” Knapp says. “We believe that deep down we are all more similar than different and that beer has the power to help us all find a Common Space. Simply put, we’re about bringing people together and having lots of fun. We make a wide variety of fresh, delicious beers with a slight focus towards German lagers and West Coast IPAs. Come join us for a beer, a Dodgers game, and the chance to meet Jon Weisman. Cheers!”

Really looking forward to seeing friends old and new …

Bonus: Check out this week’s True Blue L.A. podcast in which I join Eric Stephen and Jacob Burch for an interview about Brothers in Arms. 

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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Brothers in Arms signing event May 5 at Central Library

With the publication of Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition, a few events have been in the works, and I’m pleased to announce the first, taking place Saturday, May 5 at 2 p.m. at the downtown Central Library of the Los Angeles Public Library.

I’m really looking forward to discussing and reading from the book, taking questions and signing copies, which if you don’t already have will be on sale. Click the link for info on parking and transportation.

This event will take place just before the Dodgers take the field for their 4:10 p.m. game against the Padres in Monterrey, Mexico, so let this be your pregame. Hope to see you there!

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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Brothers in Arms update:
The shipping news

Clyde “The Glide” Weisman sniffs out the best parts of Brothers in Arms.

Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition wasn’t supposed to be released until May 1, but as it turned out, the printer got to it a lot sooner than expected. So this week, copies of the book began arriving in the mailboxes of Amazon customers (and perhaps others) …

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So many Dodger thoughts,
so little time

Dodgers Instagram

When you don’t post daily about the Dodgers, a lot builds up. So here’s a stream of thoughts that have crossed my mind in the final days before Spring Training ends and Opening Day arrives for the Dodgers …

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The real tragedy of the Dodgers’ 1951 collapse

National Baseball Hall of Fame Library

If you’re a Dodger fan under the age of 70, which would seemingly cover a lot of you, how much do you really mind that the Dodgers didn’t win the 1951 pennant?

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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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