Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Don Sutton

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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Who’s in the mood for a good laugher?

garvey

By Jon Weisman

The playoffs are so relentlessly tense, I was wondering when the last time Dodger fans could sit back and revel in a postseason romp.

Turns out, there’ve been a ton of pressure-packed innings in a row. Not since October 6, 2013 — 18 Dodger playoff games ago — has Los Angeles won a postseason game by more than three runs — in modern shorthand, a game that didn’t require a save.

But even though the Dodgers tied a franchise record for runs in a playoff contest with a 13-6 victory over Atlanta in Game 3 of the 2013 National League Division Series, that game was a roller coaster, considering the Dodgers trailed 2-0 early and didn’t break it open until scoring three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

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Dishing on Dodger road openers

Clayton Kershaw opens the 2014 MLB season in Sydney, Australia.

Clayton Kershaw opens the 2014 MLB season in Sydney, Australia.

Dodger road openers since 1988
(with starting pitchers)

4/3/89 (Belcher): Reds 4, Dodgers 2
4/10/91 (Belcher): Dodgers 5, Braves 4
4/5/93 (Hershiser): Marlins 6, Dodgers 3
4/25/95 (Martinez): Dodgers 8, Marlins 7
4/1/96 (Martinez): Dodgers 4, Astros 3
3/31/98 (Martinez): Cardinals 6, Dodgers 0
4/3/00 (Brown): Dodgers 10, Expos 4
3/31/03 (Nomo): Dodgers 8, Diamondbacks 0
4/5/05 (Lowe): Giants 4, Dodgers 2
4/2/07 (Lowe): Brewers 7, Dodgers 1
4/6/09 (Kuroda): Dodgers 4, Padres 1
4/5/10 (Padilla): Pirates 11, Dodgers 5
4/5/12 (Kershaw): Dodgers 5, Padres 3
3/22/14 (Kershaw): Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1

By Jon Weisman

Since 1988, the Dodgers are 8-6 when they’ve opened the season on the road, including their farthest trip, which delivered a 3-1 victory over the designated host Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney on March 22, 2014.

In San Diego, where the Dodgers begin the 2016 season Monday, the Dodgers won season-opening games at San Diego in 2009 (behind Hiroki Kuroda) and 2012, with Josh Lindblom getting the win after illness forced Clayton Kershaw from the game after three innings.

Before that, believe it or not, the only time the Dodgers opened a regular season in San Diego was 1973, when a three-run eighth lifted the Padres over Don Sutton, 4-2.

Sutton got revenge the following year, winning 8-0 at Dodger Stadium over the Padres on Opening Day 1974.

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Kershaw to start Dodgers’ Catcus and National League openers

Los Angeles Dodgers workout

By Jon Weisman

It will be 2016 Yearbook cover boy Clayton Kershaw vs. Tyson Ross when the Dodgers open the 2016 National League season April 4 at San Diego.

Kershaw will be making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start, the most in a row since Don Sutton made seven (1972-78). Sutton and Don Drysdale hold the franchise record for Opening Day starts.

As a prelude, Kershaw will be on the mound when the Dodgers open their Cactus League season Thursday at Camelback Ranch agains the White Sox.

Los Angeles has won all five previous Opening Day starts by Kershaw, though he has a no-decision in two of those. For you trivia buffs, the winning pitchers on Opening Day in 2012 and 2015 were Josh Lindblom and Joel Peralta.

Bridges to history: Last links to retired numbers

Reese Fairly

By Jon Weisman

With the Dodgers celebrating their 10 retired numbers in a pin series this year, I was curious who was the last active player to take the field with each of these legends. Here’s what I found:

1 Pee Wee Reese
Ron Fairly, who was 19 when making his debut with the 40-year-old Reese as a teammate on the 1958 “Welcome to Los Angeles” Dodgers, was 40 himself when he played his last big-league game in 1978. Years between Reese’s first game and Fairly’s last: 38

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One more look at the 1965 Dodgers

1966 yearbook cover

Having spent this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1965 World Series champion Dodgers — review all the posts here — I thought I’d take one last look at the season through some selected pages of the 1966 Dodger yearbook.

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In case you missed it: Cancer scare for Tiffany Billingsley

Tiffany Billingsley (left) has been quietly going through chemotherapy to beat a rare but aggressive form of cancer called gestational choriocarcinoma. (MLB.com)

Tiffany Billingsley (left) has been quietly going through chemotherapy to beat a rare but aggressive form of cancer called gestational choriocarcinoma. (MLB.com)

Dodgers at Phillies, 10:05 a.m.
Jimmy Rollins, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andre Ethier, RF
Carl Crawford, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Joc Pederson, CF
Zack Greinke, P

By Jon Weisman

Before the first of three midweek day games this month, followed by August 19 at Oakland and August 27 at Cincinnati, here is some quick news, led by a life-and-death story …

  • Tiffany Billingsley, the wife of former Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley, revealed this week that she had a major cancer scare this year but is now cancer-free, as Todd Zolecki reports in a harrowing piece for MLB.com.
  • Jimmy Rollins has a .400 on-base percentage and .650 slugging percentage in his past 11 games, while Howie Kendrick is at .406/.600 in his past seven games.
  • Zack Greinke has pitched at least seven innings in six consecutive games. Other than Clayton Kershaw, the last Dodger to do that was Hiroki Kuroda in 2010. (Kershaw pitched at least seven innings in 17 straight games last year.)
  • If Greinke goes at least seven innings today without allowing more than two runs, that would be the longest streak of its kind by a Dodger since Tom Candiotti in 1995. The franchise record is 10 games by Don Sutton in 1976.

The greatest Los Angeles Dodger pitching performances in losses

Sutton '74
By Jon Weisman

A few days ago at Fangraphs, Miles Wray wrote about the five greatest pitching performances of 2014 that came in a loss. I thought I’d put a Dodger twist on this, and throw in some historical perspective as well.

Here are the five greatest pitching performances during a loss in Los Angeles Dodger history, dating back to 1958  and using, as Wray did, Win Probability Added as the measurement. Continue past the five for a couple of bonus epics, including one that will make your jaw drop …

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Clayton Kershaw repeats as NL Pitcher of the Month

LAD_14-KERSHAW-POM-JULY-1024x512[4]

Last week, we laid out the case for Clayton Kershaw becoming National League Pitcher of the Month for the second time in a row, and so it has come. Kershaw is the only Dodger besides Don Sutton and Burt Hooton (in April-May and August-September 1975) to win back-to-back Pitcher of the Month honors.

— Jon Weisman

Will Kershaw repeat as NL Pitcher of the Month?

ATLANTA BRAVES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSFor more highlights from Thursday’s game, visit LA Photog Blog.

Cubs at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Dee Gordon, 2B
Yasiel Puig, CF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Matt Kemp, RF
Justin Turner, 3B
A.J. Ellis, C
Dan Haren, P

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw was as unsurprising a winner as they come of National League’s Pitcher of the Month honors in June. And in July, he hardly declined.

Thanks to a 1.07 ERA last month, Kershaw is the first pitcher to have an ERA under 2.00 through the end of July in back to back seasons since Greg Maddux in 1994-95, notes Lee Sinins at Gammons Daily.

The lefty’s current 2014 ERA is better than Sandy Koufax’s best (1.73) and coming within range of the 98-year-old franchise record, 1.58 by Rube Marquard in 1916.

To be clear, Kershaw already set the Dodger record for adjusted ERA in a season last year, a record he is on pace to smash this year.

Kershaw’s July ERA was somehow only fourth in Major League Baseball but first in the NL.  Interestingly, Kershaw also has a close match in the American League with the same initials, as Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs notes.

CK

So, what about July in the NL?

  • Kershaw led the league in ERA (1.07), just ahead of San Diego’s Tyson Ross (1.10) and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (1.39).
  • He was tops in WAR (1.4), followed closely by deGrom, Ross and Zack Greinke.
  • He was first in innings (42), edging Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (41 2/3) and Ross (41).
  • Things shift a bit when you look at FIP (fielding-independent pitching). Kershaw (2.06) is fourth, fairly far behind deGrom (1.43), Greinke and Ross.
  • And how about this? July’s NL leader in xFIP is none other than Hyun-Jin Ryu (2.19), with Greinke second and Kershaw sixth (2.52). Ross, deGrom and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg occupy the spots in between.
  • Strikeouts per nine innings? Kershaw (9.21) was seventh, with Greinke (10.60) just ahead of deGrom (10.58) and Ross (10.54), followed by Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto, Ryu and Strasburg.

ATLANTA BRAVES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERSAs you can see, it’s a tight race. There’s a statistical case for deGrom, except for the fact that he threw 32 1/3 innings, 23 percent fewer than Kershaw. (Note that this same argument was used in reverse against Kershaw when it came time to pick the NL’s All-Star Game starting pitcher.) Ryu only pitched 28 1/3 innings in July.

The top challenger to Kershaw for July NL Player of the Month honors is Ross. I would pick Kershaw, by a nose, but in my mind, it’s enough of a tossup that it really comes down to whether the powers that be want to spread the wealth around.

No matter what happens this month, Kershaw has bigger fish to fry, individually (Cy Young race, anyone?) as well as his drive to lead the Dodgers to a title.

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Other news and notes …

  • Scott Elbert remained in the Dodger organization after clearing waivers and accepting an assignment to Albuquerque. In addition, Erisbel Arruebarrena was returned from Rancho Cucamonga to Albuquerque, and is serving a five-game suspension for his role in the recent brawl there. Brian Cavazos-Galvez, a 12th-round draft pick in 2009, was released, according to the MLB.com report.
  • At Gammons Daily, Alec Dopp takes an analytics look at Matt Kemp’s two-month surge.

    “Perhaps the main reason behind Kemp’s lofty in-play average since the beginning of June has been his ability to generate ideal trajectories at a higher frequency, increasing his 25.6% line-drive rate from April-May to 29.6% from June to July (third-highest in baseball in that span). …

    For Kemp, whose line-drive rate has improved some despite actually hitting pitches ‘hard’ less frequently since the beginning of June, this fact bodes well for his current production moving forward if he continues to produce line drive trajectories, coupled with his ability to decipher between balls and strikes on the inner-half of the plate.”

  • Don Sutton told a Vin Scully story to Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A.
  • USA Today ranked Dodger Stadium No. 2 in Major League Baseball for food options.

Don Sutton’s better-than-Fernando 1972 season

Sutton pitch '71

By Jon Weisman

Nine years before Fernando Valenzuela dazzled as a starting pitcher, a 27-year-old Don Sutton had a season to remember. But because Sutton was a seven-year veteran by then, I’m not sure anyone does.

Until Johnny Cueto bested him this year, Sutton was the only pitcher since the 1960s to finish his first nine starts of the season with an ERA below 1.50 and opponents’ batting average below .150, according to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats & Information.

Coming about two years before the Dodgers began to take hold of my consciousness, I wasn’t aware of Sutton’s phenomenal start to 1972. In fact, it goes even beyond the above and ventures into the Fernandomaniaesque.

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Some Dodger Hall of Fame trivia

80 cey sutton

By Jon Weisman

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of the National Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, some Dodger-related trivia from the past three decades …

In the past 10 years, only one man has been elected to the the Hall of Fame who played in a Dodger uniform: Rickey Henderson in 2009. Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo and Eric Gagne are eligible to end that drought. (Joe Torre, whom the Expansion Era Committee elected to the Hall in December, will be the first Dodger manager entering the Hall since Tommy Lasorda.)

There were more ex-Dodger players entering the Hall of Fame in 2003 then the past 10 years combined: Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.

The last player to have a Dodger cap on his Hall of Fame plaque was Don Sutton, elected in 1998. You then have to go back to Don Drysdale in 1984 to find another longtime Dodger joining the Hall via election by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the same year that the Veterans Committee tapped Pee Wee Reese.

One late cup-of-coffee Dodger who made the Hall was Jim Bunning, chosen by the Veterans Committee in 1996. Bunning had a 3.36 ERA in nine games for the Dodgers in 1969 at age 37.

Hoyt Wilhelm, elected to the Hall in 1985, finished his career as a Dodger in 1972, 16 days shy of his 50th birthday. He was preceded by short-time Dodgers Juan Marichal in 1983 and Frank Robinson in 1982.

Swinging back to managers, the Veterans’ Committee put Walter Alston in the Hall in 1983, Leo Durocher in 1994, Ned Hanlon in 1996 and Lasorda in 1997. The Hall doors opened for former Dodger owner Walter O’Malley in 2008.

The results of this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame balloting will be announced on MLB Network and MLB.com on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Family Friday

© Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Without further or farther ado …

  • From the Dodger press notes: “The Spring Training Baseball Show with Kevin Kennedy and David Vassegh on Dodger radio partner AM 570 Fox Sports L.A. rolls on tonight after the duo debuted yesterday. The show will air tonight from 9:00-10:00 p.m. PT, but the hour-long show will normally air six days a week (excluding Sunday) at 7:00 p.m. PT. “
  • A fun video of the Dodgers during 1967 Spring Training includes great shots of coach Jim Gilliam, manager Walter Alston and an earful of 21-year-old Don Sutton. Thanks to Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • The Dodgers signed two players from their tryout camp, Blake Johnson and Brandon Mims, and both have interesting backstories that Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness chronicles.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: My favorites are the smiling Clayton Kershaw with Sandy Koufax (and Rick Honeycutt), A.J. Ellis with Chad Billingsley and broadcaster Jaime Jarrin with his grandson, Dodger minor-leaguer Stefan Jarrin.
  • Ellis, devaluing his own on-base skills (and his minor-league track record), told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that batting eighth helped him draw walks and seemed not to want to feast on the fastballs that would come batting in front of Matt Kemp.

    … “I love hitting eighth. I take it as a challenge and embrace it. There’s a strong mental aspect to it and I feel privileged in that spot. Jamey Carroll hit eighth a lot for us and he taught me a lot.

    “Before my first game at Triple-A, Tim Wallach was manager and he called me in and told me I would hit eighth no matter what, because that’s where I would hit in the big leagues and it’s the most important position. After that, I took pride in it.”

  • Related: Chris St. John of The Platoon Advantage studied how minor-league walk and strikeout rates for batters correlated with major-league performance.
  • Why not? Mark Timmons of LADodgerTalk.com predicts 30 wins for Clayton Kershaw. A safer bet than 50-50 for Matt Kemp?
  • Former top MLB draft pick Brien Taylor, whose story I linked to recently on Dodger Thoughts, has been arrested for cocaine trafficking.
  • Jim McLennan of AZSnakepit looks back at Spring Training 2011 and writes about what the regular season would have been like if it had continued in the same fashion. Among other things, Arizona would have lost 109 games.
  • Kerris Dorsey, who played Billy Beane’s daughter so well in “Moneyball,” was cast in a Showtime pilot, “Ray Donovan,” starring voice of HBO Sports Liev Schreiber.
  • The title says it all: Eastbound and Downton.

Latest Hall of Fame chance emerges for Gil Hodges, Buzzie Bavasi

From ESPN.com:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Ron Santo and Luis Tiant are among 10 candidates for the baseball Hall of Fame who will be on the Veterans Committee ballot next month.

Former players Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds as well as former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and former Athletics owner Charlie Finley also will be on the Golden Era ballot, which will be voted on by the 16-member committee on Dec. 5 at the winter meetings in Dallas.

This year’s committee will consider candidates from the so-called “Golden Era,” from 1947-72.

An eight-time All-Star, Hodges helped the Dodgers win seven pennants and two World Series, then managed the New York Mets to their first World Series title in 1969. His 63.4 percent vote on his final BBWAA ballot in 1983 is the highest percentage for a player who didn’t enter the Hall in a later year.

Those voting on their Hall of Fame chances include Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tom Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton and Billy Williams, executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen (retired) and veteran reporters Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.

Candidates must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballot to be elected. Those elected will be inducted on July 22 along with any players voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 9.

The pre-integration era (1871-46) will be considered at the 2012 winter meetings and the expansion era (1973-present) in 2013, when retired managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are likely to be on the ballot.

There are bacon ads, and then there are bacon ads

I’m now listening to the Friday, October 3, 1980 Dodgers-Astros game, thanks (again) to Stan from Tacoma. After the first inning came this epic from Vin Scully:

So what’s new? Not bacon. Bacon is almost as ancient as time itself. It was mentioned by Aesop in the sixth century B.C. It was a staple in medieval Europe. And in Norman England, bacon was so universally accepted, it was sometimes used as money. And monastery monks awarded bacon to husbands for not quarreling with their wives. Indeed, bacon is no Johnny-come-lately. Through the years, it has survived the competition of thousands of new products, and the bacon bin continues to be a popular spot in our modern supermarkets. One reason is the quick energy it survives, and another its matchless flavor. Which brings up the most flavorsome bacon of all: Farmer John. For this is a bacon with a sweet, savory goodness from hush-hush secrets in the curing, plus a much heartier Western flavor from Farmer John’s old-time Western way of doing the smoking. No other bacon like it — if you haven’t tried it, why delay any longer? The next time you shop, take home the bacon from Farmer John.

* * *

I continue to be impressed with Jerry Doggett’s work in this climactic series of 1980. With Scully on TV most of the time, much of the radio duties fell to Doggett, and he is rather superb. He is mixing in great background details but never letting them get in the way of keeping you abreast of the action, and his enthusiasm hits just the right note. Here’s a sample:

Here’s a breaking ball, ball two, two and nothing. Two and oh the count, and Cabell backs out of the batter’s box. Cabell lives in Anaheim Hills in the offseason. Some of the Dodgers live in Anaheim Hills: Jerry Reuss, Rick Monday. Reuss lives in the hills, and Monday is in Yorba Linda. The 2-0 pitch to Cabell: high for a ball, ball three. Enos needed a ride to the ballpark, and so he called up Reuss, says, “How ’bout a lift?” So Reuss, Monday and Cabell came to the ballpark together. But out there now, they don’t see eye to eye. (laughing) I wonder if they’re going to ride him home. If the Astros win, I don’t think the Dodgers are gonna want to wait that long for him. If they lose, Enos is welcome to the lift. There’s a foul, back out of play — he’s swinging on three-and-oh.

Doggett is kind of a forgotten figure in Dodger broadcasting these days, and I don’t recall him being in such good form in his final games, but he really was strong here and deserves to be remembered fondly.

In the game itself, the Dodgers got off to a rough start. Davey Lopes threw away a grounder from Astros leadoff hitter Joe Morgan in the first inning, leading to Don Sutton (the National League’s ERA leader) having to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam. Then after the Dodgers went down in order in the bottom of the first, Houston pitcher Ken Forsch delivered an RBI single to put the Astros up, 1-0. Doggett immediately recalled that Forsch and Nolan Ryan had hurt the Dodgers with the bat earlier in the year: Forsch had been 3 for 9 with three RBI against Los Angeles going into the at-bat, and Ryan hit a three-run homer on April 12, his first game at the plate in eight years.

* * *

Some pitchers get multiple looks, and some don’t. From May 15-July 24, 2009, Brent Leach had a 3.38 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings. Then his next five batters reached base and four scored, and he hasn’t seen the majors since. After a dalliance with starting pitching in the minors last season, Leach has been officially designated for assignment by the Dodgers, with news reports saying that he will play in Japan next season.

Leach’s departure clears a spot on the 40-man roster for Matt Guerrier. That leaves Hong-Chih Kuo and Scott Elbert as the only lefty relievers with major-league experience currently on the 40-man. Of course, we’ll start to see more non-roster invitees on minor-league contracts in the coming weeks.

* * *

Is it true that the Minnesota Vikings’ legendary Jim Marshall survived being trapped during a blizzard by burning his money? According to Brian Cronin at the Fabulous Forum, yes.

* * *

Happy holidays from Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers!

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