Giants @ Dodgers, August 24, 2016: Prepare The Hottest Of Takes

Oh man, if there ever was a game for all of the hottest of takes to collide, this is shaping up to be The One. It’s the Giants/Dodgers rivalry, it’s Johnny Cueto on the hill (#ShouldOf signed), it’s Rich Hill on the … hill (#MisterBlister), it’s Josh Reddick back in the lineup (#FreeYasielPuig), and the race for the NL West is close as hell.

Peak mess potential here.

—–

Giants
Dodgers
7:10 PM PST
Los Angeles
3B
Nunez
2B
Utley
LF
Pagan
SS
Seager
C
Posey
3B
Turner
RF
Pence
1B
Gonzalez
SS
Crawford
C
Grandal
CF
Hernandez
RF
Reddick
1B
Belt CF Pederson
2B
Adrianza
LF
Kendrick
P
Cueto (R)
P
Hill (L)

Rich Hill.

With the Athletics this year (2.25 ERA/2.49 FIP/2.95 DRA) and with the Red Sox last year (1.55/2.24/2.35), there was no doubt that his performance while on the mound was elite. The question was always if that was his actual true talent level and if he would remain healthy enough for us to every find out. Well, when you’re in the company of Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, it’s difficult to fake that kind of talent. By all indications, Hill isn’t faking anything, he’s actually that good, as Mike Petriello pointed out.

How? It’s not velocity, because Hill’s fastball averages just over 91 mph, which isn’t terribly different from what he’s always had. It basically comes down to this formula:

1. Take your best pitch, in this case, the curveball
2. Throw it more, because it’s good
3. In the process, make your fastball look better.

Still, there are so many questions. Will Hill have his curve sharpness after over a month off and without a rehab start? Will the blister problems prop up again during his start? Will the threat of the blister cause him to be tentative on the mound, thus impacting performance?

As far as the blisters go, well, Eric Nusbaum has an article on that, and it’s not necessarily the most promising.

Why are certain players afflicted and others spared? It might be as simple as biology. They sweat more. They have more sensitive skin. Bad luck.

You might think that pitchers whose arsenals require them to place more pressure on the seams of the ball are more likely to get blisters. For example, guys who throw hard sliders or cutters. But when Baseball Prospectus ran the numbers a couple years ago, they found this wasn’t the case. The best predictors of future blisters, it turned out, were previous instances of blisters, and a heavy workload.

But one problem for Hill might be that he is—or at least was—going about this the wrong way. He told reporters after the trade that he was waiting for his fingers to develop calluses. That might seem logical: you want your skin to be tough and not break every time you throw a pitch. But calluses can be disruptive as well, by ever-so-slightly altering the way a pitcher releases the ball. And counterintuitively, they can make you even more prone to blisters. Ryan found that calluses made the scar tissue from his previous blisters more sensitive and likely to crack. That’s why he shaved his fingertips off before every start.

“The whole misnomer of growing a callus is bullshit,” Leiter said “You don’t want a callus, because the ball pushes up against the callus and you get a blister underneath. You’ve got layers of skin. It wasn’t the outside that would blister, so now you have the blister underneath the callus and that whole piece of skin would peel off, which is probably where Rich is now.”

This entire thing could go so well or so poorly that it’s hard to predict anything. Perhaps the biggest thing to guarantee is that Hill will likely be limited to five innings due to his lack of game shape, but if he’s rolling, one has to wonder if they let him ride considering his lack of a contract after this year.

—–

Then there’s the guy the Dodgers offense has to face in Johnny Cueto. Cueto is having another great season, sitting just below true #1 status but still a front-line guy with a 2.90 ERA and 3.11 FIP. However, there are signs he’s still more like the mid-3 ERA pitcher he was last year, as he’s carrying a 3.79 DRA (similar to 2015), so hopefully that emerges sooner than later.

Cueto velocity is down a tick at 91-92 mph, but that still matters less when he has a five-pitch mix (cut, change, curve, slider) and he varies not only his sequencing but also his delivery. Cueto, like Kenta Maeda, is a master of suppressing hard contact, except he has better stuff. That makes him a formidable opponent, but at least he’s right-handed, which means the Dodgers have their best lineup going against him.

—–

Speaking of the lineup, the Dodgers offense leads the majors in wRC+ at 132 over the last month, which actually drubs the second-place Cubs at 117.

Adrian Gonzalez is riding a 16-game hitting streak, Corey Seager is at 14 games with his own, and Justin Turner is still destroying the ball at a 148 wRC+ clip for the past month. Turner, by the way, is fifth on the team in that span, behind Seager (188) and A-Gon (176), but also trailing Yasmani Grandal (181) and Joc Pederson (172).

It’s a crazy run that can’t last forever, but hopefully it lasts at least until the rotation can find some semblance of normalcy.

—–

Remember Chase Utley‘s foot that he couldn’t stand to stand on yesterday? Well, he doesn’t feel pain so he’s back in the lineup already.

Rob Segedin was put on paternity leave, but will be back soon.

Andre Ethier is taking BP.

Brandon McCarthy is throwing.

So is Alex Wood.

Hyun Jin Ryu wants to come back … in 2016.

Louis Coleman is now in AAA.

Bud Norris will start Friday.

And here we go.

ThrowsRelieverSat 10/15Sun 10/16Mon 10/17Tue 10/18Wed 10/19Thur 10/20Fri 10/21
LAvilan--OFF-2421OFF
RBaez34-OFF-2727OFF
RBlanton28-OFF13-19OFF
LDayton3-OFF16-12OFF
RFields--OFF-910OFF
RJansen-18OFF21--OFF
RStripling10-OFF-2018OFF
LWood--OFF-32-OFF

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times