Dodgers Dugout: Here’s why Julio Urías isn’t being mentioned as a Cy Young contender
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and, let’s reveal some random thoughts about the last week while we await the final 15 games of the regular season.
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—Julio Urías won his 18th game Wednesday and has a chance to win 20. The last Dodger to win 20 games in a season was Clayton Kershaw, who went 21-3 in 2014. Kershaw also won 21 in 2011, and before that you have to go back to 1990, when Ramon Martinez won 20.
—Which brings up a question many have been asking me: Why isn’t Urías getting mentioned when “experts” talk about Cy Young candidates? Because victories are an antiquated way of judging a pitcher’s effectiveness. Look at it like this: Pitcher A gives up six runs in five innings, but his team wins 17-6 and the pitcher gets the win. Pitcher B gives up one run in eight innings, but loses 1-0. Which pitcher is better? Pitcher A is 1-0, Pitcher B is 0-1, but Pitcher B was more effective. The Dodgers score an average of 6.3 runs when Urías starts. Only San Diego’s Chris Paddack (6.8) and Cincinnati’s Wade Miley (6.4) have received more run support in the NL this season.
Don’t get me wrong. Urías is a good pitcher. On the Dodgers though, his numbers, other than wins, are not as good as Walker Buehler‘s or Max Scherzer‘s. So, if you are the third-best starter on your team, the chances of you being mentioned in Cy Young talk decrease dramatically.
—Since returning from the minors earlier this month, Gavin Lux is hitting .467 (7 for 15). He has played a decent left field and has been seen taking ground balls at third base before games. Soon, he’ll be following the peanut vendor around and shadowing a ticket taker.
—Scherzer’s numbers with the Dodgers: 6-0, 0.88 ERA, 51 innings, 29 hits, five walks, 72 strikeouts.
—Since making a couple of adjustments to his batting stance and not trying to hit every ball 20 miles, Cody Bellinger is hitting .214 (3 for 14) with four walks. It’s not much so far, but it’s a start. And after criticizing him for being stubborn and not adjusting his stance at all, it’s only right to give him credit for trying a different approach.
—The Dodgers clinched a playoff spot for the ninth straight year. Before this stretch, they never had more than a two-year streak (granted, for much of that time it was World Series or nothing, or win your division or nothing).
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—If the Giants go 8-7 the rest of the way, then the Dodgers will have to go 10-5 to win the division outright.
—In order for the Dodgers to win the division, the Padres will have to do very well against the Giants (there are six games remaining between the two). But if they do well, that would mean the Padres would probably end up the second wild-card. Talk about a quandary.
—Three fans ran onto the field during Wednesday’s win over the Diamondbacks. They ran out while the Dodgers were on defense, disrupting the rhythm of pitcher Alex Vesia. He hit the next batter. If you are going to run onto the field, at least wait until the opponent is on defense so you disrupt their pitcher.
—The fans were holding up signs that read #Bishop #LaLoma #PaloVerde, which are the three neighborhoods that were located where Dodger Stadium resides. To learn more, I recommend the excellent book “Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers and the lives caught in between” by Eric Nusbaum.
—Guess what? No more bullpen games. The Dodgers have a five-man rotation again with the return of Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin.
—How is this team on pace to win 104 games? Seems impossible, but here we are. And imagine winning 104 games and finishing in second place.
—For those of you who missed the preseason announcements in this newsletter and are wondering what happened to Ross Porter: He is still a friend of the newsletter but stopped doing “Ask Ross Porter” this season. Instead, he has his own Facebook page and interacts with fans there, answering their questions directly. If you have a Facebook account, go there and search for Ross Porter Sports. I’ve been known to chime in a time or two over there myself.
Hall of Fame: Shortstops
We are going to set aside the statistics for the most part this week and talk about the candidacy of one man for the Hall of Fame: Maury Wills.
Let’s get one thing straight right away: Maury Wills should be in the Hall of Fame. He won an MVP award, and he made the stolen base a weapon again, and that alone should put him in.
Wills came up to the Dodgers in 1959 and in 1960 he led the league with 50 and led again in 1961 with 35. Good, but not earth-shattering numbers, and well below the record, at the time, of 96 set by Ty Cobb in 1915.
And then, in 1962, Wills stole the spotlight.
He stole five bases in the first two games of the season, giving the league fair notice that he was planning to run with abandon. He stole eight bases in April, 19 in May, 15 in June, nine in July and 22 in August. But in September he really turned it on.
In a game against the Cubs in Chicago, he stole second, but the Cubs protested to umpire Jocko Conlan, saying he made the call before the ball even reached the bag.
Conlan replied, “You ain’t got him all year. Why would you think you’d get him this time?”
Wills had 95 stolen bases, one from tying the record, as the Dodgers began a game against the Cardinals on Sept. 23 in St. Louis. Curt Simmons was scheduled to start for the Cardinals.
“The writers were always asking me who was the easiest pitcher to steal off of,” Wills said in a 2012 interview with the Times’ Bill Dwyre. “I never told them, but the truth was it was Curt Simmons. I think I could steal off him today.”
When the game started, Simmons wasn’t on the mound. Larry Jackson was.
“The toughest guy to steal off was Larry Jackson,” Wills said. “Suddenly, he was on the mound. I found out later that Simmons had given him the ball. The Cardinals didn’t want to give up the record.”
Wills singled and stole second in the first inning to give him 96 steals, tying Cobb.
“Tying it is nothing,” Wills said. “When you get that far, you want it alone.”
Wills stayed off the bases until the ninth inning, when he singled with two out and no one on. The whole stadium knew he would go for the record. Jackson knew too.
“Jackson threw over to first 16 times,” Wills said. “Bill White was the first baseman and every time I went diving back into first base, he’d slap the ball down hard on my head or face. They were killing me.”
It was then that something Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis told him came into his mind.
“It had been just a couple of weeks earlier,” Wills says. “Al stopped me on the way in, took me in his office and reminded me that, once in a while, I ought to try a delay steal. We practiced it right there in his office. You take a shorter lead, you make the pitcher think you have given up, that he’s won. You don’t even break until you see the white of the ball leave the catcher’s hand. At that point, the catcher’s eyes and infielders’ eyes are off you and on the ball. Then you break.”
Wills broke and stole second. The record was his. He finished the season playing every inning of the Dodgers’ 165 games, stealing 104 bases.
In 1961, the entire National League stole 468 bases. That number rose to 788 in 1962 and in 1970, the NL had 1,045 stolen bases. Mainly because of Wills, who blazed a new trail for baseball.
Wills spent 15 years on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot. The highest percentage he received was 40.6% in 1981 (you need 75% to be elected). He dropped off the ballot after the 1992 election and today his fate rests in the hands of the Golden Days Era Committee. One of the criteria for making the Hall is impact on the game. And for me, that is what lifts Wills to the Hall of Fame level. He brought back the stolen base. Few people have had a bigger impact.
Also, if we want to look at numbers other than steals, 14 shortstops have finished in the top 10 of MVP voting at least four times. All of those 14 are in except for Alex Rodriguez (who will appear on the ballot for the first time this year), Nomar Garciaparra, and Wills.
I asked you recently to send in questions for Wills for a Q&A. His responses will appear in a newsletter next week, along with an address where you can send a letter to the Golden Days Era Committee, which will meet in December to determine if Wills (and some others) should make the Hall of Fame. Wills fell three votes short the last time this committee met in 2015. If Wills, 88, doesn’t make it this year, he will have to wait until 2025.
Next week: Left field.
Cover your ears
If you were curious as to what the voice behind the newsletter sounds like, I was a guest on the Dodgers Nation Blue Heaven podcast on Thursday. You can listen to it here and discover why my face is made for radio.
NL West standings
x-San Francisco, 95-52,
x-Dodgers, 94-53, 1 GB
San Diego, 76-70, 18.5 GB-e
Colorado, 68-78, 26.5 GB-e
Arizona, 47-99, 47.5 GB-e
x-clinched playoff spot
e-eliminated from division title
Top two qualify for the wild-card playoff game to advance to NLDS
y-Dodgers, 94-53, +17
St. Louis, 76-69, —
San Diego, 76-70, 0.5 GB
Cincinnati, 76-71, 1 GB
Philadelphia, 74-72, 2.5 GB
New York, 72-75, 5 GB
y-clinched at least a wild-card spot
The rest of the schedule
Who do the Dodgers and Giants play the rest of the way? Let’s take a look.
Sept. 28-30: San Diego (9-7 against Padres this season)
Oct. 1-3: Milwaukee (1-3)
Tonight-Sunday: Cincinnati (1-2)
Tuesday-Thursday: Colorado (11-5)
Sept. 24-26: Arizona (14-2)
Tonight-Sunday: Atlanta (1-2 against Braves this season)
Sept. 28-30: Arizona (14-2)
Oct. 1-3: San Diego (7-6)
Tuesday-Thursday: San Diego (7-6)
Sept. 24-26: Colorado (12-4)
Scott Alexander (10-day IL, left shoulder inflammation): Alexander has had shoulder problems all season. After all this time on the IL, and with only a couple of weeks left in the season, he seems unlikely to return.
Garrett Cleavinger (60-day IL, oblique strain): He will not return this season.
Danny Duffy (60-day IL, left flexor strain): He had a setback in his rehab and is unlikely to pitch this season.
Billy McKinney (10-day IL, left hip impingement): There is no announced timeline for his return.
AJ Pollock (10-day IL, right hamstring): It looks as if he is 7-10 days from returning, so if all goes well he will be back for the postseason.
Caleb Ferguson, Tommy Kahnle and Dustin May are all recovering from Tommy John surgery and are out the rest of this season. Jimmy Nelson had elbow surgery and is out for the rest of the season. Cole Hamels has an elbow injury and won’t pitch this season. Jimmie Sherfy has an injured elbow and won’t return this season. Edwin Ríos had shoulder surgery and is also out for the rest of the season.
In case you missed it
Tonight, Dodgers (Walker Buehler, 14-3, 2.32 ERA) at Cincinnati (Luis Castillo, 7-15, 4.24 ERA), 4 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Saturday, Dodgers (Max Scherzer, 14-4, 2.17 ERA) at Cincinnati (Sonny Gray, 7-7, 3.80 ERA), 11 a.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Sunday, San Diego (*Clayton Kershaw, 9-7, 3.33 ERA) at Cincinnati (*Wade Miley, 12-5, 3.09 ERA), 10 a.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570, KTNQ 1020
Vin Scully on the problem with sabermetrics. Watch and listen here.
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