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

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.53.12 PM

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.

Introducing the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers Yearbook: Clayton Kershaw, Vin Scully and more

2016 yearbook cover
By Jon Weisman

In June, Clayton Kershaw will celebrate his 10th anniversary in the Dodger organization. In turn, the Dodgers are celebrating Kershaw in the 2016 Yearbook.

Publishing at the start of March — in time for the opening game of Spring Training — and available at both Dodger Stadium and Camelback Ranch, the 2016 Yearbook will feature a special 27-page section reminiscing over the divine decade of Kershaw’s life as a Dodger.

In addition, 2014 Yearbook cover subject Vin Scully will receive a special tribute of his own in the 2016 Yearbook, which takes a trip through memory lane with the legendary, beloved broadcaster.

Of course, the 2016 Yearbook looks ahead as well, offering a big compilation of season previews of every Dodger on the roster, top prospects and new manager Dave Roberts, as well as tidbits about going to Dodger Stadium in the coming year, and much more.

A season’s worth of enjoyment is packed into more than 200 pages, available for only $15.

For those ordering the yearbook online, place your order by February 15 for earliest possible shipping.  Special offer: The 2016 Yearbook is free with a year’s subscription to Dodger Insider magazine.

To place an order or for more information, visit dodgers.com/yearbook.

Dodger Insider magazine: Free at Dodger Stadium in 2016

By Jon Weisman

There’s a big change coming in 2016 for the Dodgers’ official magazine.

Starting in April, Dodger Insider magazine will be distributed for free at the autogates at every Dodger Stadium regular-season game.

Previously, Dodger Insider magazine cost $5 per issue, while the Dodger Playbill received free autogate distribution (one per vehicle). We are merging the two publications into one great magazine for everyone.

Each issue of the new Dodger Insider magazine will be at least 80 pages, plus a scorecard, with the news, features, photos and games you have grown accustomed to seeing in the program over past years.

There will be a new issue for every homestand, meaning that there will be at least 160 pages of free content each month during the season, plus a 13th issue at the start of October. All free.

Fans who arrive via alternative transportation will be able to pick up a copy of the new magazine at Fan Services booths in Dodger Stadium.

The bonus for this blog is that, unlike past years when we had to limit what we could share online from the magazine, that wall comes down this year. So everyone online will have access to the best pieces from the magazine.

If you still want to subscribe to the magazine — we do have our out-of-town fans, for example — don’t worry. Subscriptions are available at dodgers.com/magazine, for an annual cost of $39.95. Each issue will be polybagged to protect it during shipping.

Special offer: The 2016 Yearbook ($15 value) is free with a new year’s subscription to Dodger Insider magazine.

Note: Current Dodger Insider magazine subscriptions will be honored, with one issue of the previous monthly magazine counting as two issues of the new twice-a-month magazine. For any questions or concerns about current print subscriptions, email subscription.service@skies.com or call (877) 258-3062.

For more information, visit dodgers.com/magazine.

That time Greg Maddux kinda threw a no-hitter for L.A.

Greg Maddux averaged 12 pitches per inning in his first Dodger start. (Al Behrman/AP)

Greg Maddux averaged 12 pitches per inning in his first Dodger start. (Al Behrman/AP)

By Jon Weisman

News of “Greg Maddux III: This Time, It’s Tutorial” unavoidably brought back memories of his first appearance in a Dodger uniform — one that almost became the most memorable of his 740 career Major League starts.

Ten years ago this August, pitching for the Dodgers three days after they traded Cesar Izturis to the Cubs for him, Maddux took the mound on a humid night in Cincinnati after a 65-minute rain delay.

The 40-year-old then needed only 72 pitches to complete his first six innings, walking three (two of whom were eliminated by double-play grounders, including only the second 3-5-1 double play in the past 50 years) and striking out three.

He had allowed exactly zero hits.

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‘Lost L.A.’ episode features Dodger Stadium

By Jon Weisman

Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. episode of the KCET series “Lost L.A.” will explore the history of the view of Los Angeles from Chavez Ravine before Dodger Stadium was built, and how the Dodgers now plan to help restore the original view.

In this episode, Lost L.A. explores the various ways Southern California’s inhabitants have used the hills around Dodger Stadium. The Elysian Hills once stood where the now-iconic Dodger Stadium hosts legendary baseball. Raised up by tectonic forces andcarved into deep ravines by the ancient precursor of the Los Angeles River, these highlands meant many things to many people long before Sandy Koufax threw Dodger Stadium’s first pitch, and even before the first residents moved into Chavez Ravine. The region’s native Tongva Indians escaped floods there, and later settlers quarried stone in the hills to build what would become an American city.

Viewers will discover a lithographic view of nineteenth-century L.A. as drawn from an Elysian hilltop, the vanished neighborhood of Chavez Ravine, and a massive construction project that reshaped the land into a modern baseball palace. Created by filmmakers Ben Sax, Javier Barboza, and Amy Lee Ketchum.

Dodger senior vice president of planning and development Janet Marie Smith is among those interviewed. The episode will also stream at KCET’s “Lost L.A.” website.

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