25 June 2012

the evolution of the ace, part 3

here's the third installment in the evolution of the dodgers' ace.  that's ace as defined by me.

orel hershiser (1985, 1987-1989)
bulldog burst on the scene with a 19-3 record in 1985.  he finished 3rd in the cy young voting that year, and followed it up with a couple of .500 campaigns.  in 1987, however, his 16-16 record also came with a  3.06 era and a league leading 264.2 innings pitched.  it also netted him a fourth place showing in the cy young vote.  then, in 1988, the stars aligned and hershiser won 23 games, broke don drysdale's scoreless innings streak, led the league in wins (tied with danny jackson), innings pitched, complete games and shutouts, and won the cy young and the nlcs and world series mvp awards.  not bad.  in 1989, hershiser fell back to .500 with a 15-15 record, but had a tidy 2.31 era and led the league in innings pitched for the third straight year.  he also finished fourth in the cy young vote.  of course, all that work caught up to him, and he missed most of the following season due to injury.

ramon martinez (1990-1991, 1994)
mike morgan, bob ojeda and tim belcher had better eras in 1991, as did hershiser and gross in 1994, but i give the nod to martinez in those years.  1990 was a no-brainer, though, as ramon won 20 games for the only time in his career, going 20-6 with a 2.92 era and 12 complete games.  he also had 3 shutouts that year, including one against the braves in which he struck out 18 batters.  he won 17 games in 1991, and then posted 12 victories in 1994, leading the staff both times.  what made him the ace in those years, in my mind anyway, was that he led the team in starts, and shutouts, and nearly led in complete games and innings pitched.

tom candiotti (1992-1993)
in between the martinez years, there was tom candiotti.  and some bad dodger teams.  the 1992 team is the worst in la dodger history, winning just 63 games.  candiotti was credited with 11 of them, more than anyone else on the staff.  he also led all starters (who made more than 11 starts) in era with a nice 3.00 mark.  1993 was a bit trickier.  the dodgers improved their record to an even .500, but candiotti was still on the wrong side of breaking even.  he was 8-10 despite a staff leading 3.12 era.  it's because of the era, and the fact that he led the staff in strikeouts that i let him retain his ace status.  i came very near to listing pedro martinez as the ace of the staff, but he made just 2 starts that season and i couldn't bring myself to do it.

hideo nomo (1995-1996)
there was no doubt about who the ace of the staff was in 1995, though.  isn't that a great card, by the way.  nice 2006 upper deck collector's choice featuring a 3-exposure, horizontal, dodger stadium shot.  me likey very much.  nomo was just 13-6 in 28 starts (ramon martinez won 17 games and pitched a no-hitter), but his era was 2.54 and he had a league leading 3 shutouts and 236 strikeouts.  he struck out 234 batters in 1996, and had a record of 16-11 although his era climbed to 3.19.  he also threw the first of two career no-hitters that year, and confused the heck out of bob dole.  it's worth noting as well that nomo finished 4th in the cy young voting each of those two years, which also marked the return of the dodgers to the postseason.

chan ho park (1997-1998, 2001)
nomo's era continued to climb, and so i picked chan ho park as the ace of the team in '97.  it could have just as easily been ismael valdes, but them's the breaks.  park was 14-8 with a 3.38 era and 166 strikeouts.  he also had 2 complete games (both wins) and a much better whip than nomo.  in 1998, park was filthy.  he led the staff in wins (15), innings pitched (220.1) and strikeouts (191).  after a down year in 1999 (era wise), park bounced back to win 18 games in 2000.  however, that team also had kevin brown who was simply a better pitcher than park, despite their records.  park did reclaim the ace title in 2001, however, when brown was injured and park again led the staff in wins (15), innings pitched (234) and strikeouts (218).

kevin brown (1999-2000, 2003)
brown joined the dodgers to be the ace, period.  he should have been the ace for several years given what the team was paying him (just a year after refusing to pay that much for piazza), but that didn't happen.  he did have a very good 1999 season, going 18-9 with a 3.00 era, 1.07 whip, 5 complete games and 221 strikeouts.  in 2000, he led the league with a 2.58 era and 0.99 whip.  his record was only 13-6, but that was more a function of the dodgers than brown.  as mentioned earlier, had brown stayed healthy, he may have held the title in 2001 and 2002, but he did not.  he did return to full strength in 2003 and was 14-9 with a 2.39 era in 32 starts.  he also had 185 k's and a whip of 1.14, numbers which must have made the yankees comfortable enough to trade for him after the season.  bwah-ha-ha!

odalis perez (2002)

despite the triumphant return of hideo nomo, it was odalis perez who earned the title of ace based on his 2002 performance.  odalis was acquired in the 'let's get rid of gary sheffield' trade with the braves, and promptly helped dodger fans forget that sheff was one of the greatest offensive players the team had ever seen.  perez was 15-10 in 2002, with a 3.00 era, a 0.99 whip and a staff-leading 222.1 innings pitched.  he also had the only complete games and shutouts on the staff with 4 and 2, respectively.

i'll finish up the evolution tomorrow.

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