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Dodger Notes: Hiroki Kuroda & The Bullpen

Hiroki Kuroda issued zero unintentional walks for the 20th time in 52 career starts last night.
Hiroki Kuroda issued zero unintentional walks for the 20th time in 52 career starts last night.

After throwing 12 innings in the first three games of the season, the Dodger bullpen got a much needed boost from Hiroki Kuroda last night, with his dominant eight inning performance.  He was a groundball machine, with a 71.4% GB%, and allowed just one unearned run, keeping a pattern alive:

Hiroki Kuroda First Starts of the Season
Date Opp IP H R ER BB K Dec
4/4/08 at SD 7.0 3 1 1 0 4 W
4/6/09 at SD 5.2 4 1 1 1 2 W
at Fla    8.0 5 1 0 1 7 W

Kuroda has made three road starts to start his three seasons with the Dodgers, and has allowed just one run in each game, picking up a win each time.  Outside of his performance on the mound, Kuroda is well-respected in the Dodger clubhouse.  Looking at a quote from Kuroda after last night's game, it's not hard to see why.  As Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reported, Takuya Kimura, a teammate of Kuroda's from the Hiroshima Carp passed away this week.  Here's what Kuroda had to say about his performance last night:

"Instead of saying that I did this for him, I'd like to think that I have a renewed appreciation for being able to wear this uniform and take the field every day," Kuroda said. "That's something I learned from Takuya-san."

How cool is that? I have renewed appreciation for Kuroda being able to wear the Dodger uniform, too.

Inherited Runners

Each game so far has featured a situation with inherited runners.  Using the Baseball Prospectus Run Expectancy Matrix, we can find out the average runs scored each inning after every base-out situation.  For instance, in 2009 having runners on second and third base with one out yielded an average of 1.41383 runs from that point forward in the inning.  I'm using 2009 numbers here, because the 2010 numbers just don't have a lot of data less than a week into the season.

Here are all the situations so far with inherited runners this season:

Day Pitcher Inning Bases Outs Inherited Runners Scored Expected Runs Runs Saved
Mon Ra.Ortiz    5th 123 1 3 3 1.55801 (1.44199)
Wed Weaver 5th 123 2 3 0 0.74989 0.74989
Thu Weaver 6th -2- 1 1 1 0.68844 (0.31156)
Fri Broxton 9th 123 1 3 2 1.55801 (0.44199)
Totals 10 6 4.55435 (1.44565)

So the Dodgers have given up about a run and a half more than expected in those situations.  Of course, some situations were more critical than others.  Here are the Dodger win expectancies both before and after these relievers entered the game (thanks to box scores):

Day Pitcher WE Before WE After
Mon Ra.Ortiz    12% 2%
Wed   Weaver 41% 50%
Thu Weaver 86% 90%
Fri Broxton 98% 100%

The one situation with the game really on the line was Wednesday in Pittsburgh, when Jeff Weaver relieved Clayton Kershaw with the bases loaded.  The game was tied at three, and this presented a situation in which Jeff Weaver excelled in last year.  In 24 plate appearances with the bases loaded last season, Weaver allowed one measly single, allowing opposing batters to hit .050/.167/.050.  There was some luck involved -- one hit in 15 ball in play for a .067 BABIP -- so this wasn't expected to continue into this season.

After all, many of the fun stats from last season had already taken a turn this season:

  • Andre Ethier had no extra-base hits in 94 plate appearances against lefties on the road in 2009, but hit a double off southpaw Zach Duke in his first such plate appearance this year
  • George Sherrill allowed just two runs as a Dodger last year, good for the lowest ERA in franchise history with 20 or more innings, but allowed three runs in his first game of 2010
  • Randy Wolf allowed only four extra-base hits to left-handed batters in 185 plate appearances last year with the Dodgers, allowed two doubles and a home run to lefties in his first game with the Brewers this season.

When Weaver entered from the bullpen with the bases loaded Wednesday, I expected his run of bases loaded success to come crashing down as well.  However, one pitch was all he needed to induce a pop out from Old Friend Delwyn Young.

Minor League Starting Pitching Game Scores

Player Date Game Score
Brett Wallach 4/9/2010 73
Scott Elbert 4/9/2010 72
Chris Withrow 4/8/2010 61
Aaron Miller 4/9/2010 59
James McDonald 4/8/2010 52
Alberto Bastardo 4/9/2010 51
Jon Redding 4/8/2010 47
Josh Wall 4/8/2010 31