Dodger Starters Making Their Major League Debut

With John Ely set to make his major league debut today against the Mets, I thought I'd take a look back at other LA Dodgers making their major league debut as a starter.  The most spectacular debut ever by a Dodger starter, and perhaps by any major leaguer, was that of Karl Spooner.  The 23-year old Spooner made his major league debut for Brooklyn against the soon-to-be-World-Champion Giants on September 22,1954, and proceeded to strike out 15 batters in a complete game shutout.  Spooner made one more start that season, three days later, and proceeded to shutout the Pirates, too, this time striking out "only" 12.

Karl Spooner's Major League Debut
Date Opp IP H R BB K Game Score
9/22/54 NYG 9 3 0 3 15 93
9/26/54 Pit 9 4 0 3 12 88

I mean, it doesn't get any better than having a pair of shutouts and 27 strikeouts after your first two major league games, does it?  You might be asking yourself, "If he is so good, why haven't I heard of Karl Spooner?"  In two words: arm problems.  He battled arm problems in 1955, and was a part-time starter and reliever, and never pitched in the major leagues again.

Spooner's debut was magnificent, but I am only going to focus on Los Angeles Dodger major league debuts.  This is mostly because, thanks to Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.com, the play-by-play data is available for every game since the franchise moved west.  One of the more surprising finds was that there have only been 28 Dodgers since 1958 to make their major league debut as a starter.  However, it does make sense, as so many prominent Dodger starters -- Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, to name a few -- made their debuts in relief.

Amazingly, since 1971, only one Dodger starter -- William Brennan, in 1988 -- was hung with the loss in his major league debut.  During that same period (18 starts), only one Dodger -- Terry Wells, in 1990 -- gave up more than three runs.  The performance of Dodger starters making their major league debut has been pretty remarkable:

LA Dodger Starters Making Their MLB Debut
Pitcher Age Date IP H R ER BB K GmScr Dec Team
Clayton Kershaw 20 5/25/08 6.0 5 2 2 1 7 60 W
Hiroki Kuroda 33 4/4/08 7.0 3 1 1 0 4 71 W W
Chad Billingsley 21 6/15/06 5.1 6 2 2 2 3 49 W
Derek Thompson 24 5/25/05 5.0 2 2 2 4 4 55 L
Edwin Jackson 20 9/9/03 6.0 4 1 1 0 4 64 W W
Kazuhisa Ishii 28 4/6/02 5.2 2 0 0 3 10 72 W W
Eric Gagne 23 9/7/99 6.0 2 0 0 1 8 75 L
Dennys Reyes 20 7/13/97 6.0 4 3 3 4 6 54 W W
Hideo Nomo 26 5/2/95 5.0 1 0 0 4 7 68 L
Pedro Astacio 23 7/3/92 9.0 3 0 0 4 10 87 W W
Jim Neidlinger 25 8/1/90 6.0 7 1 1 1 3 56 L
Terry Wells 26 7/3/90 6.0 8 6 4 1 6 41 W
Ramon Martinez 20 8/13/88 7.2 4 1 1 4 5 68 W
William Brennan 25 7/19/88 4.2 6 3 3 3 2 39 L L
Shawn Hillegas 22 8/9/87 8.2 7 2 2 3 6 65 W W
Rick Sutcliffe 20 9/29/76 5.0 2 0 0 1 3 65 W
Doug Rau 23 9/2/72 9.0 3 1 1 2 2 77 W W
Doyle Alexander 20 6/26/71 8.0 7 2 2 0 3 63 W
Sandy Vance 23 4/26/70 6.0 4 3 3 1 0 51 L L
John Duffie 21 9/18/67 5.0 3 4 1 3 4 52 L L
Don Sutton 21 4/14/66 7.0 7 3 2 1 7 59 L L
Mike Kekich 20 6/9/65 3.1 2 4 4 5 5 40 L L
Bill Singer 20 9/24/64 6.1 4 1 1 5 1 57 L
Larry Miller 27 6/21/64 6.1 5 2 2 5 5 55 L L
Nick Willhite 22 6/16/63 9.0 5 0 0 1 6 82 W W
Jim Golden 24 9/30/60 7.0 6 5 5 4 4 45 W W
Ralph Mauriello 24 9/13/58 0.1 3 3 3 1 1 33 L L
Bob Giallombardo 21 6/21/58 4.0 7 5 5 3 2 27 L
Totals 28 starts
170.1 122 157 51 67 128 58.2 avg 9-7 15-13
Averages 6.08 IP/GS 2.69 ERA
1.110 WHIP
3.54 BB/9
6.76 K/9
Since 1971 (18 starts)
13-5 6.44 IP/GS 1.94 ERA
0.983 WHIP
2.95 BB/9
7.22 K/9

Pedro Astacio and Nick Willhite each reached the Spooner Zone, pitching a shutout in their debut.  But for the last 40 solid years, Dodger debuts have been quite successful.

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