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2017 Dodgers review: Rich Hill

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The unique career of Rich Hill added many memorable moments for the Dodgers in 2017.

What went right

Hill reached totals in starts (25), innings (135⅔) and strikeouts (166) that were the second-best of his career and his most in literally a decade (2007). His 12 wins matched his career high, set in 2016.

In July Hill was the National League Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA in five starts, with 40 strikeouts in 31 innings with only five walks and five runs allowed.

Over the final three months of the season Hill had a 6.1% walk rate and walked more than two batters only twice in his final 16 starts. From July 1 through the end of the season Hill had a 2.64 ERA.

Hill is one of the most fascinating players I have ever covered, combining ultra-competitiveness on his game days with a much deeper, philosophical side. During the World Series he talked about his long and winding baseball journey, which saw him rise in 2015 from independent league, unaffiliated baseball, when something clicked for him.

“It was more of a realization of disassociating yourself from the results and understanding that it is about the moment and understanding about the moment, in that moment, your effort is all that matters,” Hill said. “When you go out there and you do that, you're going to have a higher percentage of success than not.”

There was also Hill stepping off the mound during Game 6 of the World Series, giving Dodgers fans more time to boo Yuliesky Gurriel after his racist gesture about Yu Darvish in Houston, something Hill called “my silent gesture.”

Hill was just 5-for-45 at the plate with 18 strikeouts in 2017, but he collected his first extra-base hit — a double in the division-clincher on Sept. 22 — and first RBI (he drove in four runs this year) since 2009.

What went wrong

Blister problems crept up again for Hill in literally the first regular season start of his new three-year contract. He missed one start in April, then spent another month on the disabled list before returning in May.

Hill walked seven batters against the Cardinals on May 24, two more than he ever walked in any other game in his career. Through June Hill had a 13.6% walk rate, up 7% in his 24 starts in 2015-16 combined.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers
This was the most painful hit by pitch of the season for the Dodgers, but somehow Rich Hill stayed in the game and pitched two more scoreless innings.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Hill got hit by a pitch in the damn neck on Aug. 11 but remained in the game and pitched two more scoreless innings. Hill has been hit by two pitches in 183 career plate appearances, and both were by Clayton Richard at Dodger Stadium in 2017.

The Dodgers put the clamps on Hill in the postseason, only letting him finish five innings once in four starts. He was allowed to face a total of two batters a third time through the order in those starts, and once was only to issue an intentional walk. Hill’s performance was good, posting a 2.55 ERA in his limited duty with 24 strikeouts and eight walks in 17⅔ innings.

2017 particulars

Age: 37

Stats: 12-8, 3.32 ERA in 25 starts, 166 K, 49 BB in 135⅔ IP

Salary: $14 million, including a $2 million signing bonus and $12 million in base pay in the first year of his deal.

Game of the year

For the second straight year Hill flirted with perfection, this time on Aug. 23 in Pittsburgh. He retired his first 24 batters faced and took a no-hitter into the 10th inning, with the only blemish a fielding error on Logan Forsythe at third base. But the Dodgers didn’t score, which meant extra innings. Hill was remarkably efficient with just 95 pitches through nine innings, but his fourth pitch of the 10th inning was hit out of the park by Josh Harrison for a walk-off win for the Pirates.

Hill, who struck out 10 and walked none in his masterpiece loss, was the first Dodgers starter to throw a pitch in the 10th inning since Orel Hershiser in 1989.

Roster status

Hill has two seasons remaining on his three-year contract and will make $16 million in 2018.