Archive for the ‘ Pitching ’ Category

Urías’ company: Kershaw, King Felix and the Babe

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-8-33-32-pm

By Cary Osborne

Baseball Reference’s Play Index tool is a wonderful thing. It can connect players throughout the history of the game. Like Julio Uriás and Babe Ruth. And it can really tell you how special the Dodger phenom was in 2016.

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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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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.

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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Dodgers to starters: Leave no pitch behind

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

Cubs
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Javy Baez, 2B
Jorge Soler, RF
Addison Russell, SS
Miguel Montero, C
Jake Arrieta, 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
Rich Hill, P

By Jon Weisman

“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can, and we’ll figure out the rest.”

That’s the mantra Dave Roberts has sent to his starting pitchers. Sure, seven, eight innings would be nice, but that’s no longer the barometer. For that matter, the homespun charm of a quality start started sounding all too quaint around the fourth of July.

“There’s not been really one formula for us to win the baseball games that we’ve won,” Roberts said today, before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. “So this postseason, it’s more for me just kind of sending the message to the starters to go out there and leave it all out there.”

Rich Hill, who in the regular season with the Dodgers never went fewer than five innings and had seven perfect frames September 10 at Miami, epitomizes this approach. In this postseason, he has struck out 13 batters in seven innings over two starts, including six in 2 2/3 innings on three day’s rest in the final game of the National League Division Series against Washington.

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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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Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen reach playoff glory

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

By Cary Osborne

Clayton Kershaw threw 1,278 postseason pitches in his life prior to Thursday, but he wasn’t supposed to throw one in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

Instead, he threw the seven most courageous, gutsy and maybe important pitches of his baseball career.

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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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Dodgers face their biggest pitching decision of season

Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2016

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

There were roughly 10 minutes between the end of the Dodgers’ 8-3 loss to the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series and Dave Roberts’ arrival in the interview room at Dodger Stadium.

The second question he was asked was about his Game 4 starter. He didn’t name one.

Rightfully so.

Whomever he goes with — the ace Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest, or the rookie Julio Urías — will have a domino effect on the entire pitching staff.

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Hill will use his curve in attempt to carve up the Nats

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

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
Rich Hill, P
Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
José Lobatón , C
Tanner Roark, P

By Cary Osborne

Today, one of the best curveball pitchers in the game faces one of the worst curveball hitting teams.

There’s the advantage for Rich Hill against the Nationals in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

According to Fangraphs, Hill had baseball’s second-best curveball in 2016 among pitchers with a minimum 100 innings pitched. His 16.0 wCB (curveball runs above average) only trailed Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

According to Statcast, opposing batters hit .180 and slugged .243 against Hill’s curveball. Chris Iannetta (April 9) and Jose Altuve (May 1) were the only players to homer off the pitch.

As for the Nationals, they ranked 21st in the Majors against the curveball with a .202 batting average and 23rd with a .317 slugging percentage. The league average for both were .211/.342.

There are no secrets here. Hill throws the curveball — a lot. Brooks Baseball has the percentage at 46.82 percent this season. And he’ll also bring it with his fastball — a lot: 47.05 percent of the time.

And here’s one more thing that stands out about Hill. Only three pitchers ranked in the top 20 in wCB and wFB (fastball runs above average): Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester and Rich Hill. Pick your poison, Nats.

The reins are loosened for Rich Hill, but will rain challenge him Saturday?

Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

When 4 p.m. hits on Washington D.C. on Saturday, there is a strong likelihood that it will be raining and extremely humid for the start of Game 2 of the Dodgers-Nationals National League Division Series.

That’s the sort of concoction that could issue a challenge for the Dodgers’ Game 2 starter Rich Hill, who has fought blister problems since July.

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