As Dodgers enter offseason, young starters provide foundation for rotation

NLDS-Game 5-Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals

By Jon Weisman

In 2015, the combined total of big-league starts by Jose De León, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Julio Urías — not to mention Kenta Maeda — was zero.

This year, the four traditional rookies amassed 38, with Maeda good for another 32. Nearly half the starts for the 2016 National League West champions came from brand new Major Leaguers, with the team going 40-30 (.571) in those games, compared with 51-41 (.554) in games started by veterans.

Just to clarify for the paranoid: Over the coming offseason, the Dodgers will scour the trade and free-agent markets (which includes midseason acquisition Rich Hill) for starting pitchers that might bolster the 2017 rotation.

At the same time, this year’s rookie quintet already puts Los Angeles a step closer to alleviating the reliance on quantity in recent seasons (16 starters in 2015, 15 in 2016).


Success and shortcomings alike fuel Dodgers’ 2017 World Series bid

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

When you fall short of a championship, as the Dodgers did this year, there’s a certain game face you’re required to display — a certain stoicism or even gravity.

Show any pride in partial achievement, and you risk conveying that you aren’t committed to the larger goal, that you don’t understand how important a title is, that you just don’t get it.

The reality is, yes, you can feel good about the positives from a season without diminishing the craving — the gut-wrenching craving — for ultimate greatness. Pride and desire aren’t opposites.

Think of your team as you would your child. To want anything less than the best for your kin would be negligent. To dismiss your children’s smaller accomplishments wholesale when they aren’t the best — that’s negligent, too.

You learn from failure, but you can also feed off success.

When Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts met reporters this afternoon to bring closure to the Dodgers’ season, the different threads were front and center. No one felt ashamed of the effort or the intermediate achievements, even if no one was satisfied with the final result.

In other words, there was no mistaking the determination to go farther. Pride and desire.

“Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to play in the World Series, and we came up short,” said Roberts, who was named Sporting News NL Manager of the Year today. “I think a lot of good things are in place to bring a championship back here to Los Angeles. Since last December, the process of how we go about things as an organization, how the guys on the field play the game … I think we did a lot of good things.

“You can look back at this past series (against Chicago), and we didn’t play our best baseball and certain things could have changed that would have affected the outcome. You can talk about that forever. But I think the time we put into creating an environment, syncing it with the ownership, front office, coaching staff, players, training staff — those are things that are really tangible I think. I think that is something we’re going to hang our hats on, and we’ll be ready to go next spring.”


Sporting News awards honor Roberts, Seager

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

The Sporting News has named Dave Roberts its National League Manager of the Year and Corey Seager NL Rookie of the Year.

Remarkably, Roberts is the first Dodger named Manager of the Year by the Sporting News since Walter Alston, who won the honor in 1955, 1959 and 1963, when there was only one award to cover both leagues. Leo Durocher was the first in the franchise to win the award, in 1939.

During the Dodgers’ two World Series title seasons under Tommy Lasorda in 1981 and 1988, the Sporting News honored Oakland’s Billy Martin (1981 overall winner) and Pittsburgh’s Jim Leyland (NL 1988).

Major League managers form the voting body for this award. Roberts won seven of a possible 14 votes in the NL, followed by Washington’s Dusty Baker and Chicago’s Joe Maddon, who had three apiece.


Reflecting on a Dodger season that came so close

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Chicago Cubs

By Jon Weisman

Late on Tuesday evening, it had started to feel real, more real than it had felt in a long, long time.

Three nights earlier, the Dodgers had nearly stolen Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, despite their most disadvantageous pitching matchup and coming off an exhausting National League Division Series. No matter — over the next two ballgames, the Dodgers completely shut down the best team in baseball during the regular season, allowing not a single Cub to score. The offense pushed across six runs in Game 3, the pitching was as rested as it had been in two weeks.

Los Angeles was two games away from the World Series with four to play.

Four nights later, the Dodgers went to bed with their season over, left to ponder how far they had gone, how close they had come and how short they fell.


Cubs make history, beat Dodgers for NL pennant

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Undeniably, emphatically, the Chicago Cubs have made 2016 their year.

And like Al Downing allowing Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, the Dodgers’ ultimate role in 2016 turned out to be as a springboard to history.

Putting the Dodgers on their heels from the second pitch of the game, the Cubs hosted a nine-inning Wrigley Field parade to a mad celebration of their first World Series in 71 years, capturing the National League pennant with a 5-0 victory.

For the third time in the past 28 years, the Dodgers came within two wins in the National League Championship Series of ending their own Fall Classic drought, their fans’ own suffering a pale footnote to the Windy City celebration triggered by the final out.


Andrew Toles is the eye in the hurricane


By Jon Weisman

Chicago is giddy with enough excitement and anticipation to spread all over the city’s famous hot dogs, if they weren’t so particular about what you put on their hot dogs.

Wrigley Field is jumping. The streets around the old ballpark are rollicking. At once confident and paranoid, Chicago is a quaking nerve brought to life, and the roar at Game 6 of the National League Championship Series will be deafening beginning with tonight’s very first pitch.

And stepping into the batters’ box for that very first pitch will be none other than Andrew Toles.


Will Kershaw bust seven-inning barrier in Game 6?

2016 NLCS Game 5---Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Andrew Toles, LF
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Chase Utley, 2B
Clayton Kershaw, P
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Ben Zobrist, LF
Javy Baez, 2B
Willson Contreras, LF
Addison Russell, SS
Albert Almora Jr., RF
Kyle Hendricks, P

By Jon Weisman

The Dodgers have one big mountain to climb this weekend in the National League Championship Series, and in the process would surely benefit from Clayton Kershaw climbing a smaller one.

In 13 career playoff starts, Kershaw has completed the sixth inning 10 times, the seventh inning three times and beyond … not at all.

While Kenley Jansen is more than ready to go two innings in relief tonight, every extra out Kershaw might provide could be a benefit. And pitching on five days’ rest against a Cubs lineup he just shut out over seven innings, all is possible.

Two of Kershaw’s seven-inning starts came on short rest, when the Dodgers were glad for any effective innings they could get from their ace. He obliged, allowing one run in Game 4 of the 2015 National League Division Series before going that one better this week in NLCS Game 2.

The other was the opening game of the 2013 NLDS, when Kershaw struck out 12 while throwing a career postseason-high 124 pitches in a 6-1 victory over Atlanta.

Before Kershaw went on the disabled list this summer, length was one of his many calling cards. Nine times from April to June, Kershaw got at least one out in the eighth inning and seven of those times, he finished the eighth.

It’s who scores the most, but it helps to score first


By Cary Osborne

One truth about this National League Championship Series is that the team that has scored first has won every single game.

Is that coincidental? Maybe. But consider the starting pitching we’re seeing here. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester, in that order, ranked one through four in ERA among all starting pitchers who threw at least 100 innings this season. Jake Arrieta was 10th in the National League.

When these pitchers have a lead, the pressure appears to shift onto their opponents.


Cubs’ comeback a model for Dodgers in NLCS

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

“Well, we’re working the at-bats,” said the manager. “Obviously we’re looking for more results. We did attempt to shake it up a little bit, and obviously didn’t play very well. But, listen, I’ve got a lot of faith in our guys. It’s a difficult moment to be in … you have to fight through some pretty stringent adversity. But that’s how this thing works sometimes. Again, from my perspective, there is nothing differently to do, except to really come out tomorrow with the right mental attitude, and that’s our best weapon, I think.”

That was Cubs manager Joe Maddon after Chicago lost Games 2 and 3 of the National League Championship Series, and it’s no different in substance from what Dave Roberts said after the Dodgers’ Game 5 loss.

While the Cubs had breathing room that the Dodgers now lack when Maddon made that statement, it was the steadying approach — the choice of poise over panic — that said it all. Given a chance to rebound, the guys who weren’t producing did just that.

As the Dodgers head to Chicago to save a dream, it’s worth keeping this in mind. This is the team that rallied from eight games back in the NL West, the team that rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the National League Division Series, the team that, up to now, has won every must-win game it has faced.


After NLCS Game 5 defeat, it’s Kershaw and Hill again and pray for reign


By Jon Weisman

The earth spins, seven days of suns rise and set, and here we are once more.

Two wins needed for land. Two games to do it, with two prime captains in Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.

That’s the map of the world for the Dodgers, who find themselves back in the strait between exhilaration and elimination after losing Game 5 of the National League Championship Series tonight to the Cubs, 8-4.

Barely a week ago, Kershaw and Hill (with a large dose of Kenley Jansen and others) rescued the Dodgers’ title raft in the National League Division Series against Washington. Following two more victories in NLCS Games 2 and 3 against the Cubs, the Dodgers will look to circumvent their Game 4-5 losses and complete a happy repeat.

To continue scavenging sea and sky for good omens, know that those two wins followed an 8-4 Game 1 loss that played out similarly to Game 5, even to the final score. Tonight, the Dodgers fell behind early, tied the game — then watched that tie broken thanks to a home run off the previously stalwart Joe Blanton. There was even another late five-run eighth inning to ride out, and an even later short-lived comeback attempt.