Clayton Kershaw and the greatest five-year runs of the last 100 years

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

When I was a kid, I had baseball books filled with stats and rankings of the greatest baseball players of all time.

The numbers fascinated me at an early age.

But this was a time when the most advanced statistic listed in those books was on-base percentage. Not even a WHIP here or an OPS there. It was your basic home runs, batting average, win-loss and ERA stuff.

So in a very rudimentary way (I remember being 12 years old or so at the time), I ranked who I thought were the greatest baseball players of all time, based off these numbers and some mathematics on my own part.

I determined it was Ted Williams, followed by Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.

Pretty good choices I’d say.

Some 20-plus years later, with Baseball Reference at my disposal, I decided to try this exercise in a similar way all over again based off something I’ve witnessed the last five years.

After some deep number crunching, I’ve come to the conclusion that Clayton Kershaw’s span from 2011-2015 is one of the five greatest five-year pitching runs of the last 100 years.

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Seven Dodger prospects in ESPN’s top 100

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By Jon Weisman

ESPN prospect analyst Keith Law ranked the Dodger farm system second in MLB, thanks in no small part to the appearance of seven prospects in his top 100 list that was released today.

As has been their custom, Corey Seager and Julio Urias landed in Law’s top five, with Seager claiming the top spot previously held by Minnesota’s Byron Buxton. They are the only Dodgers in Law’s top 50. However, there are five in the next half-hundred: Alex Verdugo (51), Jose De Leon (60), Grant Holmes (71), Yusniel Diaz (79), the Cuban emigré whose signing hasn’t been officially announced by the Dodgers, and Cody Bellinger (92).

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Dodger mix picks Hicks

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

By Jon Weisman

Ex-San Francisco infielder Brandon Hicks has become the 21st player to receive a non-roster invitation to the Dodgers’ big-league Spring Training camp.

After missing the first half of the 2015 season with an injury, Hicks had a .308 on-base percentage and slugged .326 for Triple-A Sacramento last year. Robert Avery of the Pasadena (Texas) Citizen recapped the Houston native’s year, which included this highlight.

… On July 23, playing second base against El Paso, Hicks was involved in a play that River Cat officials say was the greatest play of the entire season.

First baseman Adam Duvall attempted to backhand a hard-hit grounder that careened off his glove and sailed into the air. That’s when Hicks entered the picture. He grabbed the ball bare-handed and on the run, spun and fired to first base where pitcher Brett Bochy was waiting, getting the runner by a split second. …

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Baseball and us: It’s a private conversation

😍. #HurryUpBaseball

A photo posted by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

By Jon Weisman

It’s warm in Los Angeles. Spring Training warm. Some might even say it’s hot. Regular-season hot.

We’ve still got some El Nino-style rain ahead of us, believe it or not, and the official home opener at Dodger Stadium is nine weeks away. But it’s hard to ignore that you step outside today and it’s feeling like … baseball.

That’s good, right?

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Depth before dishonor: No. 5 is alive in Dodger rotation

Kenta Maeda brings a 2.39 career ERA from the Japan Central League to MLB. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Kenta Maeda brings a 2.39 career ERA from Japan to MLB. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Almost notoriously, the Dodgers used 16 starting pitchers in 2015. But in one sense, that’s a little misleading.

You could organize them this way:

  • No. 1 starter: Clayton Kershaw (33 starts)
  • No. 2 starter: Zack Greinke (32 starts)
  • No. 3 starter: Brett Anderson (31 starts)
  • No. 4 starter: Mike Bolsinger and Alex Wood (33 starts)
  • No. 5 starter: Carlos Frias, Mat Latos, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Baker, Joe Wieland, Brandon Beachy, Juan Nicasio, Eric Surkamp, Ian Thomas, David Huff, Zach Lee (33 starts)

Overall, this is a reasonable way to look at the five slots of the 2015 rotation, though I’m taking some small liberties here.

  • A few of the starts from the No. 5 group were spot starts for one of the first four. Bolsinger, for example, didn’t make his first start until April 23, one turn after Huff got his first shot.
  • Relief pitchers Yimi Garcia and Juan Nicasio technically started games before being followed in long relief by Surkamp and Thomas, but I’m counting the latter two as the de facto starting pitchers.

With those caveats, here’s the performance of each slot of the rotation last year:

Starting rotation by group

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Ross Stripling: ‘Remember my name’

Photo by Ben Platt/MLB.com

Ben Platt/MLB.com

By Cary Osborne

It’s the low-hanging fruit storyline, and Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling didn’t mind talking about it.

Stripling is a Tommy John surgery guy. And because of it, a lot of the stories about him will begin there.

There was a buzz surrounding him coming into 2014 Spring Training when he started big league camp. And just two weeks in, the buzz was killed when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament

When Stripling was at Dodger FanFest last week, he came in with a new lease on his career — rebuilt elbow, strong comeback at the tail of the 2015 season and a spot on the 40-man roster. So when I asked him if he minded the Tommy John questions, his reply was pleasantly amusing.

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Kendrick looks forward to reuniting with Dodgers, teaming up with Seager

Corey Seager feeds Howie Kendrick to retire Curtis Granderson and start a double play in the first inning of Game 2 of the 2015 National League Division Series. (Patrick Gee/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Corey Seager feeds Howie Kendrick to retire Curtis Granderson and start a double play in the first inning of Game 2 of the 2015 National League Division Series. (Patrick Gee/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Howie Kendrick will go from playing alongside 16-year veteran Jimmy Rollins in 2015 to 27-game veteran Corey Seager in 2016.

But Kendrick isn’t worried about the adjustment period this year, any more than he was when he and Rollins joined the Dodgers last year.

“It’s just gonna be one of those things of just getting a feel for how (Seager) plays,” Kendrick said today in a conference call with reporters. “I played with him a little bit toward the end when I came back after I was hurt, and Seager’s a great guy.”

Kendrick wasn’t surprised, having come across Seager’s older brother Kyle many a time when Kendrick was with the Angels.

“I really like his brother,” Kendrick said. “Kyle’s an awesome guy. … Then once I got around Corey, I was like, ‘Man, it must just run in the family,’ because both of those guys are really awesome people, let alone as players. His demeanor as a player is really calm — you don’t see him get upset too much. He has a confidence about him when he gets out on the field. Out on defense or even in the locker room or in the dugout, that’s going to be huge, because you’ll be able to talk to him.

“We’re gonna make mistakes. Hopefully he’ll ask me questions, and I can give him as much info as I possibly can. I’m always open to helping guys out, and you never know, I might learn something from him, too.”

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Why the fans go bananas for Kiké Hernandez

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By Cary Osborne

Almost one year ago at the 2015 Dodgers FanFest, Kiké Hernandez could have walked through the thousands of people at Dodger Stadium, even with a Dodger jersey on, and gone mostly unnoticed.

It was undeniable at 2016 FanFest — by the sounds of cheers and screams — that in a year’s time, Hernandez has become a rock star.

Forgive the writer for saying this, but people were going bananas for Kiké.

Hernandez did the same private Q&A for fans in 2016 that he participated in the year before. This time, there was a significant difference. Last year, fans reacted to his stories with laughter. This year, so familiar with him, they anticipated how he would answer a question with laughter.

It didn’t slip past Hernandez how last year’s FanFest was his introduction to Dodger fans, and this year was his embrace by them.

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Howie Kendrick and the long Dodger lineup

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers’ lineup might be defined less by the absence of a traditional leadoff hitter than by the absence of a traditional No. 8 hitter.

Of their eight most likely 2016 position-player starters — and we’ll count newly resigned second baseman Howie Kendrick among them — none has a projected on-base percentage below .311, nor a weighted on-base average below .319.

In 2016, according to Fangraphs, the average No. 8 hitter in the National League had a .302 OBP and .283 wOBA.

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Dodgers regain Howie Kendrick on two-year deal

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Pittsburgh Pirates

By Jon Weisman

If the Dodgers were prepared to move into the 2016 season without Howie Kendrick, it’s also clear how happy they should be that he’s coming back.

The 32-year-old second baseman has signed a two-year contract to reunite with the Dodgers, whom he provided a .336 on-base percentage and 109 weighted runs created last season.

2015 NLDS-Game One-Los Angeles Dodgers vs New York Mets

The immediate impression is that Kendrick is the player who solidifies the Dodger infield. His return frees Chase Utley to spend more time supporting Justin Turner at third base and Kiké Hernandez to roam around the field as he did in 2015. Kendrick himself might dabble in the hot corner.

Though Opening Day is nearly nine weeks away, and Spring Training and injuries will certainly shuffle the deck, here’s how the Dodger roster of position players currently shapes up:

  • Catchers: A.J. Ellis, Yasmani Grandal
  • Infielders: Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chase Utley
  • Infielder-outfielders: Alex Guerrero, Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke
  • Outfielders: Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig
  • In the wings: Austin Barnes, Micah Johnson, Trayce Thompson, plus the non-roster invitees

Kendrick x 2

An above-average player for each of the past five years, Kendrick is a nice one to say hello to again.

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