Dodger Thoughts

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

Tag: Pedro Martinez

Zack Greinke’s ERA puts him in rare air

Los Angeles Dodgers during game against the Miami Marlins Sunday, June 28, 2015 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. The  Dodgers beat the Marlins 2-0 . Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2015

first half ERABy Jon Weisman

In the history of the Dodgers, only one time has a pitcher had a better ERA in the first half of a season than Zack Greinke’s 1.58 with the Dodgers today.

That pitcher was Don Drysdale, the year of his record streak of 58 consecutive scoreless innings. Drysdale had a 1.37 ERA before the All-Star Break, before finishing the year at 2.15.

If Greinke, who extended his own scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 2-0 victory Sunday over Miami, can maintain his current ERA over what figure to be his two remaining starts before the All-Star Break, it would only be the 15th time in the past 50 years that any MLB starting pitcher has had an ERA below 1.60 at the break (minimum 75 innings).

15 in 50

If you really want to get ahead of yourself, nine starting pitchers — none of them Dodgers — have finished a season with at least 150 innings and a park/era-adjusted ERA better than Greinke’s today. The best was Pedro Martinez (1.74 ERA, 291 ERA+). Greinke’s current ERA is lower than Martinez’s, but the easier pitching enviroment puts Greinke’s ERA+ at 235.

Don’t expect Greinke to keep his 2015 ERA below Robert Hoover’s grade-point average at Faber College, but it’s still fun to think about.

How the Dodgers did against the new Hall of Famers

By Jon Weisman

Mike Piazza nearly became a Hall of Famer today, falling 28 ballots short with 69.9 percent of the vote. Other former Dodgers include Jeff Kent at 14 percent, Fred McGriff at 12.9 percent, Gary Sheffield at 11.7 percent and Nomar Garciaparra at 5.5 percent.

Dodger manager Don Mattingly, in his final year on the ballot, had 9.1 percent of the vote.

Here’s how the four electees performed against the Dodgers in their careers:

  • Craig Biggio: 812 plate appearances, .354 on-base percentage, .438 slugging percentage, 20 homers, 25 steals
  • Randy Johnson: 166 innings, 3.09 ERA, 200 baserunners, 188 strikeouts
  • Pedro Martinez: 62 2/3 innings, 4.02 ERA, 71 baserunners, 64 strikeouts
  • John Smoltz: 249 innings, 2.86 ERA, 313 baserunners, 218 strikeouts

Next year’s Hall of Fame ballot could include such former Dodgers as Garret Anderson, Mark Grudzielanek, Chan Ho Park, Jeff Weaver, Brad Ausmus and Russ Ortiz.

Dodgers in the Hall of Fame vortex

Wheat horiz
By Jon Weisman

You’re familiar with the seven Hall of Fame players who have had their numbers retired by the Dodgers: Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Don Sutton, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson and Don Drysdale.

Who gets left out of the conversation?

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As Clayton Kershaw makes his 200th start, what the Sandy Koufax comparisons mean

Clayton Kershaw, wearing No. 54, makes the first start of his big-league career, May 25, 2008  (Jeff Gross/Getty Images).

Clayton Kershaw, wearing No. 54, makes the first start of his big-league career on May 25, 2008. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw makes the 200th start of his Major League career tonight.

In Major League history, two pitchers have made 199 starts with an park/era-adjusted ERA (ERA+) of at least 150: Pedro Martinez and Kershaw.

Here are the top six pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings: Randy Johnson, Martinez, Nolan Ryan, Tim Lincecum, Kershaw, Sandy Koufax.

The top five in MLB history in Wins Above Average through age 26: Walter Johnson, Bert Blyleven, Christy Mathewson, Hal Newhouser, Kershaw.

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Kershaw Koufax _I5T1877pb

The taboo against comparing Kershaw to Koufax has begun to fall away, as the full scope of Kershaw’s accomplishments resonates more and more among even the most diehard Koufax fans. At a minimum, fewer raise objections to mentioning them in the same sentence.

Whether Kershaw will end is career in the same stratosphere as Koufax is impossible to know. But speaking in the present, there’s no doubt that Kershaw has accomplished more by his age-26 season than Koufax has.

  • Kershaw (2008-2014): 1,301 1/3 innings, 2.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 1.067 WHIP, 1,356 strikeouts, 150 ERA+
  • Koufax (1955-1962): 1,131 2/3 innings, 3.71 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.314 WHIP, 1,168 strikeouts, 110 ERA+

Among the key distinctions made to elevate Koufax above Kershaw is the fact that Kershaw was part of a five-man rotation, while four-man rotations were common in the Koufax era. It’s a meaningful distinction, though perhaps overplayed in terms of how often Koufax started on three days’ rest:

Sandy Koufax startsEspecially at the outset of Koufax’s career, some of his starts that were technically on short rest came after brief appearances. For example, in his 1955 rookie season, Koufax is credited with a 14-strikeout August 27 shutout of the Reds on one day of rest, but in fact that was coming off an 11-pitch relief appearance on August 25 in the ninth inning with a five-run deficit, an outing that essentially was a glorified bullpen session.

I’m absolutely not trying to minimize anything Koufax has accomplished here — Koufax threw 135 pitches in that 1955 shutout, at age 19, and you’ll be shocked to find that in his next appearance, he allowed four runs in an inning of relief. Live by the pitch-count freedom, die by the pitch-count freedom.

Koufax was not protected the way Kershaw was; he was used almost haphazardly. He was anything but sacred for the first several years of his career, and the fact that he became as incredible as he did speaks to his miraculous qualities.

But when people have said that you can’t compare Kershaw to Koufax, the Koufax they’re really speaking of didn’t even arrive until age 27, the year of his first Cy Young Award. Kershaw doesn’t turn 27 until next year.

Ultimately, comparing Kershaw to Koufax is apples to oranges (the very best apples and oranges you’ve ever tasted). Kershaw will never have the opportunity to prove that he could match or surpass Koufax on three days’ rest. Kershaw will never crack 300 innings in a season. And for that we can be grateful, because thanks to those restrictions, Kershaw has a much better chance to pitch past the age of 30, perhaps another decade beyond Koufax’s playing life.

So when people like myself do compare Kershaw to Koufax, we’re really just trying to look for ways to shorthand the greatness of Kershaw. And it’s no shot at Koufax that in some ways, he does fall short. It simply speaks to how mindblowingly unreal Kershaw has been.

But for our conclusion, we’ll leave Koufax out of the copy:

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his age in Dodger history and probably one of the five best in Major League history. And as impossible as it seems, it’s possible he hasn’t peaked.

In case you missed it: Kershaw and Maddux at the top step


By Jon Weisman

Step right up …

  • Despite their 22-year age difference, the careers of Clayton Kershaw and Greg Maddux intersected in 2008. Bill Shaikin of the Times has a nice story on this. (Jon SooHoo’s photos above were taken during the introductions before Game 1 of the 2008 National League Championship Series.)
  • With this year’s Hall of Fame election behind us, Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk looks ahead to the new candidates for next year’s balloting. The group includes three former Dodgers: Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and Nomar Garciaparra (not to mention 2010 Dodger Spring Training invitee Brian Giles). Next year will also be Don Mattingly’s final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
  • Mike Piazza’s greatness, “both old- and new-school,” is assessed by Eno Sarris at Fangraphs.
  • The deckhead for Bryan Curtis’ story at Grantland: “We know what MLB players were doing during the steroid era. Here’s what baseball writers did.”
  • Lose yourself in a baseball stats whirlpool with Ben Schmidt’s Baseline Cherrypicker tool (via Deadspin).
  • On video at, Adrian Gonzalez talked about the importance of Don Mattingly’s contract extension and looked ahead to the coming season.

Why I’m hearing ‘Pedro-Delino’ in ‘Rubby-Adrian’

Adrian Gonzalez is just what the doctor ordered for the Dodgers, but at what cost?

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Rubby De La Rosa has been optioned to the minors, enabling him to be traded as a player to be named later in the offseason.

James Loney was listed in the Dodger starting lineup tonight, then scratched. Adrian Gonzales has been scratched by Boston.

It’s happening. The blockbuster trade has the momentum of a Boston-to-Los Angeles freight train. From Gordon Edes of

The Dodgers and Red Sox are closing in on a deal that would send Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to Los Angeles, though a few hurdles remain before it’s official, multiple baseball sources said Friday.

Pitcher Rubby De La Rosa will be headed back to Boston as the centerpiece of the deal, sources say. De La Rosa made his first major league appearance of the season Wednesday, having had Tommy John surgery about 13 months ago. Also included are first baseman James Loney and prospects Ivan De Jesus (infielder) and Jerry Sands (outfielder), according to sources, plus another top prospect that is still unknown. …

I understand the impulse to go for it — I want that World Series too — because I know how much Gonzalez might help the Dodgers. But losing De La Rosa is a huge one for me to swallow.

On Twitter, I’ve already gotten some amount of ridicule for daring to mention this trade in the same breath as the infamous Pedro Martinez-Delino DeShields trade from 1993. But I’m guessing most of those people doing so are using the benefit of hindsight.

Today, DeShields is held in contempt  by Dodger fans — he’s the historic equivalent of Juan Uribe or Andruw Jones as far as Dodger trade acquisitions go. But compare the following at the time of the transaction:

DeShields had also improved three consecutive seasons, from 1991-93. Gonzalez has started to decline over the past three consecutive seasons. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that DeShields, at the time of the transaction, was a more valuable player and had a brighter future than Gonzalez today.

As for De La Rosa … I’ll never forget the time I was in the Dodger dugout, interviewing Orel Hershiser before the 2011 season opener, and heard a key member of the Dodger staff compare De La Rosa to Martinez. It was the first time I heard the comparison — though not the last. De La Rosa’s arm is electric.

At the time of the 1993 trade, Martinez had already logged 115 innings of major-league ball (almost entirely in relief) at age 22 with a 2.58 ERA and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which puts him ahead compared to De La Rosa, who has just now recovered from Tommy John surgery. But make no mistake — there were concerns about Martinez’s health too, to the point that Dr. Frank Jobe was concerned he would break down. As high as we were on him, we didn’t know Martinez was going to become a legend any more than we know what De La Rosa’s ultimate journey will be. And I can tell you for a fact that plenty were thrilled about DeShields coming to Los Angeles.

The chances of De La Rosa becoming one of the greatest pitchers of all time might be slim, but De La Rosa doesn’t have to become the second Pedro to represent a major loss for the Dodgers. He could just be really good, while Gonzalez apes DeShields’ decline.

Like I said, I’m hungry for a World Series title, and I’m not saying the risk of trading De La Rosa won’t be worth it. Don’t misunderstand me: The Dodgers need a player like Gonzalez, who boosts them at their weakest position. I even believe that a move back to his Southern California roots and away from the Red Sox maelstrom could revitalize him.

All I’m saying is, short of Clayton Kershaw, the trade of any other pitcher besides De La Rosa would have left me more comfortable.

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