Dodgers Dugout: Today is Julio Urias’ big day; special guest Jonah Keri discusses the Dodgers
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and with the way social media has been reacting, I’m wondering if it is too soon to retire Julio Urias' number.
Julio is here
Today is a big day. Julio Urias, the top prospect in all of baseball, will start for the Dodgers against the New York Mets. If you have been reading this newsletter since last season, then you know how big today is and there's nothing I can say you haven't heard before. If this is the first time you have read this newsletter, then there's nothing I can write to explain how big this is.
Today we learn if Urias is ready. Will he shut down the Mets? Will he get blown out of the game? What will his pitch-count limit be? And whatever happens makes Saturday interesting. If he shuts down the Mets, do the Dodgers keep him up? All we have today are questions and expectations. On Saturday, we should have some answers.
A week ago, it seemed this team was slipping out of contention just 45 games into the season. Today the Dodgers are riding a four-game winning streak and the rotation may have gotten stronger. This is when it is fun to be a baseball fan, knowing this could be a turning point, and hoping it doesn't turn out to be just a routine day in a long season.
We will discuss Urias' outing in full in Monday's newsletter.
Jonah Keri discusses the Dodgers
I have been doing this newsletter for over a year now, and those of you who have been with me from the beginning pretty much know how I feel about the Dodgers. For more than a year, you have been reading me twice a week (or more during the playoffs). Even I don't like listening to myself that much. So, periodically for the rest of the season, I am going to invite special guests to talk about the Dodgers so that all of you can see what those outside of Los Angeles or those who don't follow the team every day think.
First up is Jonah Keri, who is the author of one of my favorite books, "Up, Up & Away" about the Montral Expos. Keri currently writes for CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated and hosts The Jonah Keri Podcast on the Nerdist Network. Until last year, he was lead baseball writer for Grantland. He has also written for ESPN, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, fangraphs.com and Baseball Prospectus, among others. Although not a Dodger fan, he lived in Southern California for six years, but has since lived in Seattle, New Hampshire, and now Denver.
Keri answered some questions I posed via email.
Houston Mitchell: What is your assessment of the Dodgers this season, and how much of a chance do you give them to win the World Series?
Jonah Keri: The Dodgers are a talented but flawed team. Their bullpen has been awful, and has cost them a bunch of games. Yasiel Puig's been a major disappointment. On the other hand, they're going to get multiple injured players back soon, and the bad luck they've had for a while should eventually dissipate. As for predicting the World Series winner, there's not much point there, since the playoffs are a crapshoot. But the Dodgers will need to make the playoffs to have a chance to win the World Series, and the top of the National League figures to be very competitive this year. So it won't be easy.
HM: Most Dodgers fans were upset (and I still get emails from irate fans) that the team let Zack Greinke get away in the off-season. What did you think?
JK: Huge, long-term contracts for pitchers in their 30s almost always fail spectacularly. The Dodgers recognized that and sought other options. Kenta Maeda has been comparably effective, for a fraction of the price.
HM: The Dodgers promoted their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias, from the minors are are going to start him against the Mets today. There has been a lot of talk of not bringing him up too soon and conserving his innings. What would you do with Urias?
JK: I don't expect Urias to start all season long. Unless he absolutely dominates in his first start, I imagine they'll use him out of the bullpen -- or at least they will once Ryu, McCarthy, et al return from injuries. I like the bullpen approach. Keeps his innings in check, addresses the team's biggest weakness, and enabled Urias to further his development in the big leagues. Future aces like David Price and Roy Oswalt started their careers in relief roles, no reason this can't work for Urias too.
HM: The Dodgers have many young players who could be productive for years. Let’s say the team is battling for a playoff spot at the trade deadline and have a chance to upgrade their shaky bullpen with someone like Aroldis Chapman. Would you consider trading any one of Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias or Jose De Leon?
JK: No. You don't trade a really good, young, major league-ready player for a two-month relief pitcher rental. The Dodgers can get bullpen help without giving up nearly that much.
HM: Last week I wrote that the Dodgers should send Puig down to the minors to rediscover his batting stroke, which he lost sometime near the end of the 2014 season. The mail I got was divided, with half thinking it was a great idea, and half thinking I am the stupidest person in the history of earth. While I know it is improbable that they would send him to the minors, what is your assessment of Puig?
JK: Puig hasn't been a truly great hitter since the first half of the 2014 season. It's not unreasonable to think that he just might not be very good.
HM: I know you are an enormous Expos fan (and by the way, you don’t have to be an Expos fan to enjoy Keri’s book on the team. It is a great book for all baseball fans). So keeping that in mind, how much do you hate Rick Monday?
JK: I don't hate anyone. And Monday was exceptionally gracious, and even funny, when I interviewed him at length for "Up, Up, & Away".
HM: OK, we will actually close with a serious question: I loved when the Dodgers played in Montreal because on TV or radio you could hear the PA person say things in French and English, allowing me to pretend I knew French when I played baseball with friends. Do you think Montreal will ever get another baseball team?
JK: I do think they will get a team back. Commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly identified Montreal as a top candidate for a team, be it via relocation...or far more likely, through expansion. It will take some time, and a whole lot of money, though. Between the cost of acquiring a team and building a stadium, combined with the weak Canadian currency, by the time this happens, it might cost $2 billion Canadian, all in.
What Vin Scully means to me
I asked you to tell me your best Vin Scully memories, and I got a lot of responses. I will publish selected ones in each newsletter. And keep emailing them to me.
Jason Hashmi: Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t have the good fortune of listening to Vin Scully during my childhood summers. However, Vin is an instant classic, and one particular experience illustrated to me his place in the L.A. landscape.
I was running along the beach in Venice and turned onto the pier. The sun was setting on a lovely summer evening. Surfers were riding the crashing waves, the palm trees towered overhead and the mountains rose purple out of the ocean. The Santa Monica pier lights were twinkling in the distance. Just when I thought the scene was perfect, I reached the end of the pier and came upon a group of fisherman lazily casting their lines into the ocean. By their side was a crackly AM radio. Vin’s kind, clear voice was ringing out into the night “…Oh my. What a throw by Van Slyke. You could of hung a week’s worth of laundry on that…”
Vin’s warm voice floating out into the summer evening was every bit as L.A. as those mountains, the surf, and the palm trees, and it was his voice that made the moment utterly, completely, unmistakably, Los Angeles.
Ask Ross Porter
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be answering select reader questions for the rest of the season. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on. His latest response:
Harry Bluebond asks: Clayton Kershaw has a phenomenal strikeout-to-walk ratio this season. What's the record, Ross, for the best ratio in one year?
Ross: Until Monday night against Cincinnati, Harry, Kershaw had made six consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts and one walk or fewer. That was the longest streak of its kind since 1900........116 years ago. Clayton fanned seven Reds and walked one in his complete game two-hit, 1-0 victory, running his record to 7-1.
Kershaw has 95 strikeouts and just five walks this season.
ESPN research found no pitcher has recorded even 80 strikeouts before issuing his fifth walk of the year since the pitching mound was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate--in 1893.
The Dodger left-hander has had 10 games in the majors with 10 strikeouts, no walks, and no more than one run allowed. Only four pitchers have accomplished that feat more often since 1893.
This month, Clayton has 55 strikeouts and 2 walks.
BEST STRIKEOUT-TO-WALK RATIO IN MLB HISTORY
Clayton Kershaw, 2016 Dodgers, 95 K's, 5 walks, 19-1 ratio
Phil Hughes, 2014 Twins, 186 K's, 16 walks, 11.6-1
Bret Saberhagen, 1994 Mets, 143 K's, 13 walks, 11-1
There are four months left in this season, but what Clayton Kershaw has done so far has been remarkable.
The TV situation
If you would like to complain about the Dodgers’ TV situation, you have three options: The Dodgers, Time Warner Cable and whatever local cable or satellite provider you have that doesn’t carry the Dodgers. Here’s who to contact:
For the Dodgers, click here or call (866) DODGERS ( 363-4377). (I hope you like form letters).
For Time Warner, click here.
For DirecTV, call (800) 531-5000 or click here.
For your local cable or satellite provider, consult your bill for the customer service number and for the website.
As he returns to New York, Chase Utley talks about the infamous playoff slide. Read all about it here.
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