Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Joe Black

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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In case you missed it: The smokejumper quest continues

By Jon Weisman

Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth looks at whether MLB might slowly be stop being slaves to the closer mentality, embracing what I’ve long called the smokejumper concept.

“A weapon is a weapon, no matter what inning it is,” Indians closer Cody Allen said. “You just have to use that weapon to the best advantage of your ballclub.”

The more teams and relievers who subscribe to that theory, the better.

Another approach I offered, almost exactly 10 years ago (the names in the examples stick out), was as the Reliever Reciprocity Rule …

It’s very simple:

If you would use a reliever in a given moment in a game with a lead of X, you should use him with a deficit of X.


  • If you would use Yhency Brazoban in a given inning with a two-run lead, you should use him in the same inning with a two-run deficit.
  • If you would use Eric Gagne in a given inning with a one-run lead, you should use him in the same inning with a one-run deficit.

Close games are winnable, whether you are in the lead or trailing. If the reliever is available to work with a lead, he is available to work without a lead. If he needs to rest that game, he needs to rest no matter what.

This goes with the Just Get the Out Rule: Use your best reliever in a tight situation whenever it comes up. If you need an out – give yourself the best chance of getting the out. Worry about the rest later. Rest pitchers when they need to rest – not because you’ve rendered them irrelevant by using lesser pitchers.

The RRR. The Just Get the Out. Learn it. Know it. Live it.

A decade later, my feelings haven’t changed. We’ll see …

Here’s what else is happening in the Dodger world:

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