December 19, 2014

Kuroda’s Inconsistency Needs Attention

Hiroki Kuroda (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Lenny Ignelzi)
One by-product of the Dodgers current win streak is that the pitching crew is finally getting some help in the form of Dodger runs. I’ve said previously that Hiroki Kuroda’s record to-date this year didn’t really reflect his true talent or performance because the Dodger offense was practically non-existent. On top of that, the boys in blue were doing an excellent job sacrifing a small early lead late in the game with mediocre defense.

I was convinced that this latest outing against the Mets would help show what Kuroda could really provide as the Dodgers challenge Arizona for first place in the NL West. My convictions, as it turns out, was misguided as Kuroda’s control was lacking. It’s not an issue of capability, but of consistency. He really impressed me early on and I had chalked most of his peformance up to issues with the rest of the team. Defense lacking late in games, hitting almost nonexistent…you get the idea. This time, however, Kuroda couldn’t get it together from the start and dug as big a hole as I’ve seen from him all season.

In 3.1 innings, Kuroda threw 80 pitches. 8 hits, four runs (two earned), three walks, and only one strikeout. Even Torre commented on the consistency issue in a post-game comment to the L.A. Times: “His stuff is quality. When you look up there, his velocity is good, it’s just that he hasn’t had the command that we saw in the first game he pitched, and that we certainly know he’s capable of.”

In fairness to Hiroki, he didn’t get lots of defensive help in this outing and the bats weren’t delivering early on as they have in some other series (such as Florida), but this performance feels like a pitching issue more than anything else. Before getting yanked, he dug a 4-1 hole for the Dodgers and was lucky that things weren’t worse given that the Mets left 8 players on base during this time.

The big question is – how do the Dodgers get Kuroda’s pitching woes under control and is he a liability down the stretch if the Dodgers are still competing for first in the NL west? Comments welcome…

Dodgers Ask Fans to Crown L.A.’s All-Time Relief Pitcher

So the Dodgers have been working to get their “all-time” team together as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. They’ve got their short list of relief pitchers up for voting as follows (courtesy of the Dodgers Press Release):

* Jim Brewer, who appeared in an L.A. Dodger record 474 games out of the bullpen, pitched in Los Angeles from 1964-75. Brewer also pitched in three different World Series (1965, ’66, ’74) and was named to the NL All-Star Team in 1973. In a Dodger uniform, Brewer was 61-51 with an ERA of 2.62 and 126 saves. Hailing from Broken Arrow, OK, the left-handed screwball specialist recorded six straight seasons with double-digit saves (1968-74).

* Eric Gagné was the most dominating relief pitcher in baseball over three seasons, saving 52, 55 and 45 games in 158 chances (96.2 %) from 2002-04. Gagné won the 2003 National League Cy Young Award with an amazing 1.20 ERA while going a perfect 55-for-55 in save opportunities. Most impressively, his consecutive saves streak of 84 games, which lasted from Aug. 14, 2002 until July 3, 2004, set a Major League record that may not ever be broken. Gagné also spawned a ninth-inning Dodger Stadium phenomenon, as the Dodger faithful couldn’t wait until the first few guitar licks from “Welcome to the Jungle” were played so they could stand up and scream while the Canadian closer charged in from the bullpen to electronic signs that proclaimed “Game Over.” Gagné’s 161 saves as a Dodger are first in franchise history.

* Mike Marshall only pitched in Los Angeles for two-and-a-half seasons, but left an indelible mark on the franchise by winning the 1974 Cy Young Award and leading the Dodgers to the NL pennant that season. Marshall appeared in a Major League record-106 games that season, going 15-12 with a 2.42 ERA and 21 saves. In the postseason, Marshall went on to allow just one run in 12.0 innings (seven games). The Michigan native was an All-Star for the Dodgers in 1974 and ’75, finishing 129 games over those two years.

* Ron Perranoski
was a vital part of four World Series teams in Los Angeles, first as a hard-nosed reliever and then as a pitching coach. Perranoski was the glue for an exceptional Dodger pitching staff in the early and mid 60’s, helping the Dodgers to World Series championships in 1963 and ’65. In 1963, Perranoski finished fourth in the NL MVP voting after going 16-3 with a 1.67 ERA and 21 saves over a league-leading 69 appearances. After coming out of the bullpen in Los Angeles from 1961-67, Perranoski returned to Dodger Stadium, first as a player in 1972 and then as Tommy Lasorda’s pitching coach from 1981-94. In the 14 seasons he was the pitching coach, Perranoski’s teams were first or second in the league in ERA nine times. Overall, the left-hander was 54-41 with a 2.56 ERA and 101 saves for the Dodgers in eight seasons.

* Jeff Shaw has the distinction of being the first player Tommy Lasorda traded for while acting as the General Manager in 1998. Shaw appeared in two All-Star games for Los Angeles (1998, 2001) and saved 129 games in a Dodger uniform from 1998-2001, which ranks him second on the all-time Dodger list, behind Gagné. In his four years as the closer at Dodger Stadium, Shaw finished in the top-10 in saves each season.

* Todd Worrell burst onto the National League scene in 1986 and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award for the Cardinals, so he was already a well-known name by the time he made his way to Los Angeles in 1993. After overcoming injury in ’93 and ’94, Worrell then saved 32, 44, and 35 games over the next three seasons and was the closer on the Dodgers’ 1995 and ’96 playoff teams. His 127 saves set an All-Time Dodger record in 1997, that has since been broken by Shaw and Gagné. The California native and Biola graduate’s best season came in 1996, when he went 4-6 with a 3.03 ERA and a league-leading 44 saves in 72 games. Worrell also finished tied for fifth in the Cy Young voting that season.

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Kuroda and Duke Offer Interesting Matchup for Dodgers and Pirates

Hiroki Kuroda
OK, so I for one am itching to see Kuroda and Duke face off tonight for a few reasons:

1. Their stats are nearly identical – Both have pitched about 12 innings, both have a 2.13 ERA, both have given up three earned runs so far this season. Kuroda’s 1-1 record is partly based on some unearned runs, so I’ll let that difference slide for now.

2. Current Dodger players have struggled against Duke in the past - Jeff Kent is 1-11, Rafael Furcal is 2-10, Andruw Jones is 1-8, and poor Juan Pierre is 3-17 (glad to see he is nowhere in tonight’s lineup).

3. The Matt Kemp factor - OK, so he’s FINALLY in the lineup and not being brought up off the bench…very pleasing (especially given Pierre’s stats against Duke). Batting third should give him a chance to stretch his legs a bit here – but his historical performance against Duke has been spotty as well (although not nearly as bad as those already mentioned)

4. Kuroda isn’t facing the D-backs this time – The “all of nothing” approach to batting that the D-backs are using definitely hurt the Dodgers (and Kuroda). Pittsburgh, however, has only registered two games where they scored over four runs (the Florida game was the only impressive victory) and aren’t putting up impressive numbers from the batters box consistently. Kuroda has a decent shot to preserve any early lead that the Dodgers can muster here (remember Russel Martin and Kuroda vs. the Padres). Did I mention that Martin is hitting better against Duke than just about any Dodger player?