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1920 Dodgers Week 4: An overworked pitching staff

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58 innings in 3 days for the Robins. 3 complete games

Brooklyn Dodgers...
Burleigh Grimes last week in 1920 had a 13-inning complete game and pitched twice in relief.

The Dodgers finished off the previous week with the longest major league game ever played, But that was only a prelude to a taxing yet fruitless stretch for Brooklyn, and highlighted how reliant the Robins are on their starting pitchers.

After Leon Cadore and the Braves’ Joe Oeschger each pitched 26 innings on Saturday, May 1, the Dodgers traveled from Boston to Brooklyn for a single game against the Phillies on Sunday, one that saw Burleigh Grimes and Philadelphia’s George Smith each pitching all 13 innings.

That lone Sunday home game against the Phillies wedged in between two games in Boston, with the Dodgers taking trains back and forth after each game. The Dodgers also have a game next Sunday (May 9) at home against the Phillies, too. One of the reasons for this was Sunday baseball was illegal in Philadelphia at the time.

After 26 innings Saturday in Boston and 13 innings Sunday in Brooklyn, the Dodgers were back in Boston to play the Braves on Monday, and naturally this game went 19 innings. Sherry Smith, who has been a valuable swingman for the pitching staff in his first four years with Brooklyn, averaging 22 starts and 11 relief appearances each year, made his first appearance of 1920, and pitched a complete game. Braves starter Dana Fillingim was true to his name in relation to innings, also pitching a complete game.

After the tie on Saturday, the Dodgers lost 4-3 to the Phillies and 2-1 to the Braves. So not only did their 58 innings over three days dwarf LA’s still Herculean 53 innings in three days 69 years later, but these Dodgers scored only five runs in those three games and didn’t have a win to show for it.

What they did have was a tired pitching staff. A Tuesday rainout in Boston was a welcome relief.

Only twice in the Dodgers’ first 15 games did they bother to use a relief pitcher — April 15 against the Phillies, April 25 against the New York Giants — and the bullpen was used as a white flag, turning to relief down 7-0 and 5-0 in those games.

The Dodgers finally used a reliever in a proactive sense on Wednesday in a series opener at the Polo Grounds, turning to the bullpen with a one-run lead for the final two innings. But even that was starter-reliant, with Grimes earning the save (retroactively, since saves didn’t become an official stat until 1969) three days after pitching 13 innings.

On Friday against the Giants, the Dodgers used not one but two starters in relief, but both Clarence Mitchell and Grimes blew leads in an 11-inning loss, the Robins’ fourth extra-inning game in seven days.

Another rainout Saturday was a much needed rest for a weary pitching staff.

Though May 8, the Dodgers are reliant on their starting pitchers more than any other National League team, and that’s even counting the 4⅔ innings by starters Grimes and Mitchell as relief. Dodgers starting pitchers are averaging over 10 innings per game this season, and account for 94 percent of their total innings.

1920 National League starting pitchers

Team Games Starters IP Relief IP Starters % IP/start
Team Games Starters IP Relief IP Starters % IP/start
Dodgers 18 181.7 11.7 94.0% 10.09
Reds 20 167.7 15.7 91.5% 8.38
Braves 14 137.0 17.7 88.6% 9.79
Cubs 21 166.0 27.0 86.0% 7.90
Phillies 18 127.7 21.3 85.7% 7.09
Pirates 17 135.3 26.7 83.5% 7.96
Giants 16 106.7 31.7 77.1% 6.67
Cardinals 18 114.0 55.3 67.3% 6.33
Through Saturday, May 8

Week 4 summary

1-4 record
15 runs scored (3.00 per game)
18 runs allowed (3.60 per game)
.417 pythagorean record

Year to date

9-8 record
67 runs scored (3.72 per game)
53 runs allowed (2.94 per game)
.606 pythagorean record

NL standing: t-3rd place, 1½ games back of the Reds

Game results

Up next

The Dodgers run the Frank Corridon gauntlet, playing the Phillies at home then heading to Chicago and St. Louis.