Tag Archives: Hiroki Kuroda

Dodgers Have Good Shot to Capture NL West Lead by Week’s End

On paper it looks like the San Diego Padres, who hold a tenuous one-game lead in the NL West over the Dodgers, will still lead the NL West after the weekend. The Padres get to play at depressed Seattle while the Dodgers have to play the NL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.

But the Padres may be a good fit for the Mariners to earn a few wins and the Dodgers get to face the back of the Tigers’ rotation. Take a look:

Tonight: SDP Wade LeBlanc vs. SEA Cliff Lee
Tomorrow: SDP Clayton Richards vs. SEA Ryan Rowland-Smith
Sunday: SDP Mat Latos vs. SEA Felix Hernandez

In the Dodgers-Tigers match-up?

Tonight: LAD Chad Billingsley vs. DET Dontrelle Willis
Tomorrow: LAD John Ely vs. DET Armando Galarraga
Sunday: LAD Hiroki Kuroda vs. DET Rick Porcello

Gotta like those odds as a Dodger fan. The Latos-King Felix match-up looks most interesting for Sunday. On the other hand, the Mariners’ offense can make any team look like they’re facing the 1890 Cleveland Spiders, so who knows.

It’s a little more complicated than starting pitcher match-ups, but long and short of it is the Dodgers are at least tied for the division if they win two of three and the Padres lose two of three. With the Mariners throwing out two of their best starters, I’d lean in their favor. Likewise, the Tigers are starting their two worst pitchers this year (Porcello has a 11.9 hits per nine rate; Willis has a 6.1 walks per nine rate) and a minor league call-up. The Dodgers don’t have to see Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ offense should be able to take advantage even without Andre Ethier. while two of Kuroda, Bills and Ely should find their way through the Tigers’ line-up.

That’s my one unknown, is what the Tigers’ line-up has to say. Starting four guys with sub-.80 OPS+s is hilarious, but it’s not those four that I’m worried about.

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Maybe the sky isn’t falling? Dodgers’ pitching delivers three wins

There’s that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when they’re attempting to bring their ship back from the world of the dead and they figure out they have to capsize at exactly sundown.  They’re wet for a few seconds, but when the Black Pearl makes the flip, they come out back into their world right-side up, everyone alive and breathing air.

The Dodgers’ pitching ship was flipped early this season.  The bullpen, which was such a source of strength over the previous three years, was inept.  Chad Billingsley struggled with consistency and Kershaw wasn’t able to wrangle in the walk rate, throwing 110 pitches per game through five innings.  Then Padilla and Haeger imploded.

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Get higher K-rates for your pitchers, ask me how~

The Marlins strike out a lot.  This isn’t just a “hey, that’s a lot of strikeouts,” this is a monolith of strikeouts. Four of their starters topped 100 last year, none had fewer than 81. And that was a good season for them.

In 2008, the Marlins came close to breaking the record for most strike outs by a team in baseball history, striking out an incredible 1,371 times,  a record set by the 2001 Brewers’ awful 1,399.

Why bring this up now?  Well …

Today, a knuckleballer (the Dodgers’ Charlie Haeger) struck out 12 Marlins in 5 innings.  That isn’t normal.  Knuckleballers give up weak ground balls, give up fly balls, give up walks, give up home runs.  They don’t strike out anyone.  The best part was the Marlins began walking when all of a sudden they figured out they didn’t have to swing at every pitch.

Maybe the best part is that the Marlins haven’t faced much in terms of pitching. Here’s who they faced (how many strikeouts the starter got / the starter’s career K/9 / how many strikeouts the Marlins had in the game).

Johan Santana (5, 9.1, 7)
John Maine (3, 6.1, 7)
Jonathan Niese (3, 8.2 (in minors), 3)

Hiroki Kuroda (7, 6.1, 10)
Vicente Padilla (6, 6.2, 9)
Charlie Haeger (12, 6.6, 13)

So six games played, 8.17 K/9 for the Marlins batters.  (That 2008 Marlins team averaged 8.42; 2001 Brewers, 8.64).  They haven’t even been facing optimal pitching talents.  Santana’s just back after an injury sidelined him for most of 2009, John Maine is John Maine, Niese is a prospect with a ways to go and the three Dodgers are the back end of the rotation.  Best of all, with the exception of Santana’s 7.9 K/9 last year, all of these pitchers had below league average K/9 in 2009.  How hilarious is that.  What’s gonna happen when the Marlins start facing pitchers with league average K/9?

The Marlins have averaged 1,294 strikeouts the last four years.  They had the second-most in history in 2008, and then dropped to a somewhat normal 1,226 in 2009, but a number of last year’s lower K-rate batters have been replaced.  Jeremy Hermida’s meager 101 strikeouts from last year will be replaced with Cameron Maybin, who had 50 strikeouts in 200 PAs in the majors last year and 125 strikeouts in 450 plate apperaances in AA.  Dan Uggla and the platoon of John Baker/Ronny Paulino behind the plate gives them at least another 300 combined.  Imagine Cody Ross puts up 125 or so.  Then throw in Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu posting in the low 100s and Gaby Sanchez’s likely 100 K finish (~75 in 500 PAs in the minors).  If Chris Coghlan posts 80, that’s 955 in the bank from the position players.  Throw in another 150 or so from the pitcher’s spot.  And another 150 from the bench players and another 50 from the bench spot you give up from Maybin playing center field now.  So they’re in the ballpark of 1,300.  If Uggla, Baker/Paulino and Ross overachieve, they could break the 1,400 barrier.

Take into consideration that the Phillies also upgraded their starting pitching to include Roy Halladay, the Nationals will have a full year of Jordan Zimmermann and Strasburg’s high K-rate will be in the majors before year’s end, Johan Santana will likely pitch 200-220 innings this year after 166 last year and the Braves will have replaced Vazquez’s 2009 year with a reasonable 2010 Tommy Hanson fill-in.

Obviously it’s way, way early for any kind of talk like this, but I like kicking around these ideas.

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Brilliant performance by Kuroda last night

So far, we’ve heard a number of reasons for the Dodgers’ first two losses, but frankly, this is one of those times when the “we have 158 games left to play” is applicable.  A shakey start from an ace and a horrible start from a mediocre pitcher caused two losses.  Two brilliant performances by a potential ace and a decent starter created two wins.

Hiroki Kuroda came in last night and pitched a hell of a game.  He was locating his pitches and was able to fool the Marlins, who are one of the better patient-hitting teams in baseball (.268 BA/.340 OBP last year), into swinging at a number of balls.  From the look of MLB.com’s Pitch F/X, it looks like he was gifted a wider strike zone, but damn if he wasn’t filling it.

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