October 2016

Increased innings for Dodger bullpen: Oddity or trend?

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-12-50-32-pm

By Cary Osborne

The Dodgers took relief to an extreme in 2016, with their bullpen pitching the sixth-most innings in baseball history. They were also the rare team that was successful while so reliant on their relievers.

During the Dodgers’ season-ending press conference October 24, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the bullpen usage was a result of a number of factors, including innings limits on some pitchers and an exorbitant amount of injuries. Basically the Dodgers’ 606 pitching changes were made out of necessity.

“I think our bullpen was a strength,” Friedman said. “It was really deep, and we had some things going on in the rotation — it was all about Doc (Dave Roberts) and Honey (Rick Honeycutt) just trying to win games. … We weren’t trying to start a trend, but we’ve seen (bullpen usage) evolve a little bit over the last 20 years, obviously that ties in some to starting pitching.

“Is it possible 10-15-20 years from now it will look dramatically different than now? Sure, but we’re not trying to set that trend right now. We’re just trying to win.”

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Kenley Jansen wins NL Reliever of the Year award

2016 NLCS Game 3---Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

Kenley Jansen has won MLB’s 2016 Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award.

A panel of eight all-time great relievers — Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner — voted on the winners, ranking the top three in each league (based solely on regular-season performance), using a 5-3-1 weighted point system. The American League award is named in Rivera’s honor.

Jansen had a career-best and MLB-leading 0.67 WHIP along with a 1.83 ERA, his lowest since 2010, and he led all MLB relievers in wins above replacement (3.2). A first-time NL All-Star in 2016, he struck out more than 13 batters per nine innings for the seventh time in as many Major League seasons, and he is fourth in big-league history with a 13.9 K/9. His 9.5 K/BB ratio in 2016 led the NL.

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Dodger Stadium settles in for winter

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cassandra Lane

The baseball park can hold close to 60,000 bodies, but it is eerily empty in the days after the Dodgers lose out on a chance to advance to the World Series race for the first time in 28 years. Another race is going on in the country — one of the bitterest presidential bids in U.S. history — yet none of that seems to matter in these parts. Chavez Ravine is a sleeping giant — no, not quite asleep; it is in a deep and sullen state, painfully aware that its soul is gone — the crowds, the roar, the hope — while its body is one great hull of a thing that must stay put until another season. It hibernates in the open, all blue and golden in its loneliness, picked on by laughing ravens and overlooked by helicopters flying over the open mouth of the stadium … to somewhere else.

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Stewart wins award as top starting pitcher in minors

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Brock Stewart, recently named the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, has won the award from Minor League Baseball — the MiLBY — as its top starting pitcher. Stewart, whom we’ve chronicled throughout the year, was the subject of a new feature by Tyler Maun of MiLB.com.

— Jon Weisman

Justin Turner a finalist for Gold Glove Award

Juan Ocampo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2016

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

Justin Turner could become the first Dodger third baseman to ever win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Turner was named a finalist today, and he makes a strong argument for the award.

Among National League third baseman, Turner ranked first in Fangraphs’ total defense stat at 16.2, well ahead of Washington’s Anthony Rendon who was at 12.9. Turner was second in the Majors in the stat to Texas’ Adrian Beltre (16.5). He ranked first in the Majors among all third baseman with a UZR/150 (a defensive run value scaled to an average number of chances for a season) of 17.2.

Turner was third in defensive runs saved (seven), behind Colorado’s Nolan Arenado’s 20 and Rendon’s eight, also according to Fangraphs. Among qualifying third baseman, his nine errors were tied for the lowest with Miami’s Martin Prado and he tied for third with a .972 fielding percentage.

With the Dodgers out, I still have a Cub in the fight

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By Cary Osborne

Your favorite team loses in the postseason, but you don’t want to stop watching baseball. So you pick a team from one of the leftovers — and that team is definitely not the one that beat your team. Yet I root for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

Not because of the obvious — although that history aspect is pretty cool. I root for the Cubs because of Michael Montgomery. Check that — Mike Montgomery.

I’ve always known him as Michael. We both graduated from the same high school — Hart High in Newhall, Calif. — although it was 10 years apart.

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Dodger fans react: 50 ways to cleave your lover

By Jon Weisman

When Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts spoke to reporters Monday, two days after the Dodgers’ season ended in Chicago, the press conference aired on Facebook Live, aka our planet’s complaint department.

Looking back at the video later, I was taken with these penetrating real-time comments from Dodger fans and thought they deserved a response.

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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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Success and shortcomings alike fuel Dodgers’ 2017 World Series bid

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

When you fall short of a championship, as the Dodgers did this year, there’s a certain game face you’re required to display — a certain stoicism or even gravity.

Show any pride in partial achievement, and you risk conveying that you aren’t committed to the larger goal, that you don’t understand how important a title is, that you just don’t get it.

The reality is, yes, you can feel good about the positives from a season without diminishing the craving — the gut-wrenching craving — for ultimate greatness. Pride and desire aren’t opposites.

Think of your team as you would your child. To want anything less than the best for your kin would be negligent. To dismiss your children’s smaller accomplishments wholesale when they aren’t the best — that’s negligent, too.

You learn from failure, but you can also feed off success.

When Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts met reporters this afternoon to bring closure to the Dodgers’ season, the different threads were front and center. No one felt ashamed of the effort or the intermediate achievements, even if no one was satisfied with the final result.

In other words, there was no mistaking the determination to go farther. Pride and desire.

“Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to play in the World Series, and we came up short,” said Roberts, who was named Sporting News NL Manager of the Year today. “I think a lot of good things are in place to bring a championship back here to Los Angeles. Since last December, the process of how we go about things as an organization, how the guys on the field play the game … I think we did a lot of good things.

“You can look back at this past series (against Chicago), and we didn’t play our best baseball and certain things could have changed that would have affected the outcome. You can talk about that forever. But I think the time we put into creating an environment, syncing it with the ownership, front office, coaching staff, players, training staff — those are things that are really tangible I think. I think that is something we’re going to hang our hats on, and we’ll be ready to go next spring.”

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Sporting News awards honor Roberts, Seager

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

The Sporting News has named Dave Roberts its National League Manager of the Year and Corey Seager NL Rookie of the Year.

Remarkably, Roberts is the first Dodger named Manager of the Year by the Sporting News since Walter Alston, who won the honor in 1955, 1959 and 1963, when there was only one award to cover both leagues. Leo Durocher was the first in the franchise to win the award, in 1939.

During the Dodgers’ two World Series title seasons under Tommy Lasorda in 1981 and 1988, the Sporting News honored Oakland’s Billy Martin (1981 overall winner) and Pittsburgh’s Jim Leyland (NL 1988).

Major League managers form the voting body for this award. Roberts won seven of a possible 14 votes in the NL, followed by Washington’s Dusty Baker and Chicago’s Joe Maddon, who had three apiece.

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