Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Julio Urias (Page 1 of 8)

Uneasy lies the head that wears a Dodger cap

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Hi ho, it’s February. Dodger pitchers and catchers and other eager beavers are scheduled to report to Camelback Ranch in eight days. The first full squad workout comes two weeks from Tuesday.

Vibe: unsettled.

Forecast: angsty.

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Who makes the do-or-die starts for the Dodgers?

On Sunday, Walker Buehler might making the highest-stakes regular-season start by a rookie in Dodger history. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

I’m writing about an event that likely won’t come to pass, an event that most Dodger fans hope doesn’t come to pass.

But as their three-game series at San Francisco begins tonight, the Dodgers could soon be facing as many as four consecutive do-or-die games to reach the National League Division Series.

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The Dodger pitching pecking order for the stretch run

Ross Stripling remains an X factor on the Dodger pitching staff. (Ryan Meyer/MLB.com)

Considering what a mess the Dodger bullpen was a month ago, seemingly undermining every strong effort the starting pitchers made, you might be surprised to see the Los Angeles pitching staff has coalesced more than a little bit. The relief corps still won’t frighten any opponents (yet), but there is some order in the court.

Honestly, this staff can do the job in a vacuum — the question will be, can it do the job in a tornado?

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A post-deadline review of the Dodger pitching staff

Clayton Kershaw has a 2.28 ERA since returning from the disabled list, but the Dodgers know he needs bullpen support. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Call it Summer Training for the Dodger pitching staff, with a cautious eye toward the Fall Classic.

As the month of August dawns, there are 29 pitchers currently in the Dodger organization who have been part of the team’s 40-man roster this year. Yep, 29. But with their July mound acquisitions limited to Dylan Floro, Zach Neal and John Axford, is 29 enough?

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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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Taking a heavy club away from the Cubs

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By Cary Osborne

Three of the most important numbers in the National League Championship Series have been three, four and five. Those numbers represent the three spots in the Chicago order that Dodger pitchers have dominated.

Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters are 2 for 32 in this series.

In Game 1, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell went 1 for 12 at the plate with a walk.

That same trio went 0 for 9 with a walk in Game 2.

The Cubs changed things up in Game 3 and went Zobrist, Rizzo and the hot Javier Baez and still managed to only go 1 for 11 with a walk.

The lone hits were a Zobrist double in the five-run Cubs eighth inning in Game 1 and a broken-bat infield single from Rizzo in the ninth inning in Game 3.

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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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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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For NLCS Game 2, Kershaw is the healthy choice

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

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
Clayton Kershaw, P
Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Addison Russell, SS
Javy Baez, 2B
Willson Contreras, LF
Jason Heyward, RF
Kyle Hendricks, P

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw has thrown 218 pitches since the playoffs began October 7, 117 of them in the five days preceding his start today in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

That’s a hearty if not quite outrageous amount, buoyed by the fact that Kershaw hasn’t had any physical complications since his return from a herniated disk in September.

“Fortunately for us, the back hasn’t been an issue since he’s come back,” Dave Roberts said, adding that the Dodgers are mainly monitoring his overall usage.

Kershaw has never let on that his arm has been fatigued in any previous postseason, but Roberts suggested that the lefty’s midsummer absence might have given him a little something extra this October.

“I think that the velocity’s played up,” Roberts said, “and he’s holding velocity. His pitch mix is right on point. … There’s a lot of bullets left in that arm this season.”

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Absolutely yes! Epic effort sends Dodgers to NLCS

turner-erupt

By Jon Weisman

You are dry. You are bled dry, you are bone dry, you are a body crawling across the desert toward paradise, and not until the last reach of the arm, not until the last extension of the fingertip, not until the last grain of sand was behind you, did you know if you had reached a mirage or the Promised Land.

You open your eyes, and it’s paradise.

In the most epic Dodger playoff game in a generation, in the longest nine-inning playoff game in postseason history, the Dodgers found the buried treasure of a four-run seventh-inning rally, then watched Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw drag that golden chest to glory, defeating the Washington Nationals, 4-3, to advance to the National League Championship Series.

Jansen, whom Dave Roberts boldly put into the game with the tying run on base in the seventh inning, threw a career-high 51 pitches — four fewer than Dodger starter Rich Hill — to get the Dodgers within reach of victory.

Kershaw, the 19th Dodger to play in the game, got the final two outs, two nights after he threw 110 pitches in the Dodgers’ Game 4 victory — instantly recalling Orel Hershiser’s extra-inning save in the last playoff series the Dodgers came from behind to win, the 1988 NLCS.

[mlbvideo id=”1206140483″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]

The winning pitcher was none other than Julio Urías, who became the youngest pitcher in MLB playoff history to get the W.

It was the victory of a generation. It was a victory that seemed to take a generation.

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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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Bullpen usage key in decision to start Kershaw

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
Pedro Severino, C
Joe Ross, 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
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Two critical factors in favor of Julio Urías starting today’s Game 4 of the National League Division Series fell away Monday.

No. 1 was that the Dodgers lost, making today’s game an elimination game. No. 2 was that the Dodger bullpen, already on its heels after Saturday’s postponement and Sunday’s 3 2/3 innings, was forced to throw 131 pitches Monday after Kenta Maeda’s fourth-inning exit.

Whatever you might speculate about Clayton Kershaw’s durability at this point, his typical outing is longer than a typical outing for the 20-year-old Urías. With that in mind, the Dodgers decided to put their best pitcher out there today.

One whom, it must be added, has actually thrived on three days’ rest, with a 1.89 ERA in 19 such innings over three starts.

“With Clayton, we had complete certainty from the training staff (and) doctors that health wasn’t a factor,” Dave Roberts said. “Obviously, it’s a game we need to win. One, Clayton gives us the best chance to win, and two, he gives us the best chance to go deeper into a game.”

Basically, the Dodgers need to play 18 innings of winning baseball over the next three days. The Dodgers will start attacking those innings with Kershaw, and then use the remaining 10 pitchers on their staff (except, one supposes, for Kenta Maeda) to cover the rest.

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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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Dodgers revise rotation to include Julio Urías

Sandy Koufax speaks with Rich Hill, Julio Urias and interpreter Jesus Quinoes before the Vin Scully Appreciation Day ceremony September 23. Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Sandy Koufax speaks with Rich Hill, Julio Urías and interpreter Jesus Quinonez before the Vin Scully Appreciation Day ceremony September 23. Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers at Padres, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Andrew Toles, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have announced their starting pitchers for the regular season’s remaining six games, and while it is (as always) subject to change, there are some interesting tea leaves to read.

Fresh off a recent conversation with Sandy Koufax (above), Julio Urías has been pegged to start Thursday for the Dodgers, following — in a switch — Kenta Maeda tonight and Jose De León on Wednesday.

With Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw and Maeda slated for the final series against the Giants, that means veterans Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy would appear to be all but out of consideration for the National League Division Series.

In their only appearances of the month, Anderson threw five innings September 22, Kazmir a single inning September 23 and McCarthy — most encouragingly — six innings of two-run ball September 25.

There’s never been any shortage of surprises with these Dodgers, but you’d be asking any of those pitchers to start on 2 1/2 weeks of rest, simulated innings aside. Game 4 of the NLDS would be played October 11.

Aside from the implications for finalizing the NLDS roster, the main question now is whether Urías, who has a 3.53 ERA this season but has thrown only two innings since September 13, is in a competition with De León to be positioned as No. 4 starter in the playoffs, or whether this is all a backup plan.

Based on Dodger playoff history from 2013-15, Clayton Kershaw would come back on three days’ rest to pitch in Game 4. His recovery from a disk herniation has mostly tabled that concept, but if Kershaw is feeling 100 percent, would you count him out?

Essentially, the Dodgers can start Kershaw in Game 4, turn to one of the rookies, or treat it as a glorified bullpen game, with Urías or De León combining with Ross Stripling to take the starter innings.

We’ll find out soon enough, won’t we?

Meanwhile, Hill pitching before Kershaw this weekend in San Francisco shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a change in the pecking order. It’s far more likely to give Hill an extra day of rest before he takes the mound in the playoffs. By pitching Saturday, Kershaw would open the NLDS on five days’ rest, with Hill on seven days’ rest.

However, if you want to mull something off the wall, consider this: There are three days’ rest between NLDS Game 1 (October 7) and Game 4, but four days’ rest between NLDS Games 2 (October 8) and Game 5 (October 13). So if you wanted Kershaw to pitch on normal rest for two games, a Game 2 start would be the way to go. In that case, though, you’re guaranteeing the need for a fourth starter in the series.

Update: Dave Roberts confirmed tonight that it would be Kershaw, Hill and Maeda to begin the playoffs, in that order.

Julio Urías leaves early (but remains impressive), Dodgers lose late

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Yankees 3, Dodgers 0
Home runs on consecutive pitches by Jacoby Ellsbury and Didi Gregorius in the bottom of the seventh broke a scoreless duel. Ross Stripling, in his third inning of relief, took the loss. Gary Sanchez added a third Yankee homer in the eighth off Jesse Chavez.

By Jon Weisman

If tonight’s was in fact Julio Urías’ final start of 2016, as Dave Roberts told reporters today, what a journey it has been. And whether it’s the bullpen for the remainder of the season or the starting rotation in years to come, what a journey we have to look forward to.

Urías bookended his run of starts this year where he began it — in New York. And as he did against the Mets on May 27, Urías walked more Yankees than he struck out tonight. Those are the only two nights Urías pitched this year in which that happened.

As symmetrical as those moments might be on the surface, Urías seemed to improve with every outing in between. Since June 7, his ERA was 2.80. Since the All-Star Break, it was 2.02.

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