Was Orel Hershiser the Dodgers Ace in 1988?

Every baseball fanatic knows about Orel Hershiser‘s dynamic end to the 1988 regular season. In his last 9 starts the Los Angeles Dodgers won 7 while Orel tossed 8 straight complete games. In his final start of the season LA lost to San Diego 2-1 in 16 innings, Hershiser pitched 10 shutout innings before being pulled for Jesse Orosco.  The Padres Andy Hawkins essentially prevented Orel from tossing 9 straight complete games as Hawkins held the Dodgers scoreless in 10 innings of his own.

Here is an average start that Hershiser produced during 9 outings from Aug 19-Sep 28, 1988:

9.11 Innings Pitched

6.3 K

1.7 BB

0 HR Allowed

0.44 Runs Allowed

0.47 Win Probability Added (Orel accounted for half of the Dodgers win/start)

2.3 Dodgers Runs Scored

What people don’t know is that the eventual World Series champion Dodgers had another sterling starting pitcher in 1988.  Compare the full season numbers of their top two pitchers.

Rk

Age

GS

SHO

IP

H

R

HR

BB

SO

1

29

34

8

267.0

208

73

18

73

178

2

29

34

6

228.2

201

87

13

56

180

The Rk #2 line above belongs to a former 2nd overall pick of the New York Mets.  He had a 20-31 career record coming into 1988 before this former UCLA standout broke-out at age 29 with LA.  He had a tremendous 9 start run of his own during which time the Dodgers won 7 games and cemented their NL West title before Orel went bonkers.  LA was 4.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros by the time Hershiser kicked into his Hall-of-Fame worthy stint.

Here is an average start of their “other Ace” during his 9 start run in the middle of the summer:

8.1 Innings Pitched

6.4 K

1.4 BB

0.22 HR Allowed

1.67 Runs Allowed

0.28 Win Probability Added

3.44 Dodgers Runs Scored

Obviously both of these streaks are super and the full season value of each starter was nearly identical.  So why do you know about Orel’s streak and not the awesome performance of the World Series champs “other ace”?

I believe there are three reasons:

  1. The Dodgers played in lower scoring, tighter games during Hershiser’s streak thus giving him more of a chance to shine and appear clutch.
  2. The timing of games.  Orel’s ended the season and literally put the Dodgers in the playoffs.  The other streak was during the dog days of summer.
  3. The performance of each pitcher after 1988.  Orel won 121 more games after ’88 compared to just 41 for the other ace.

Astute Dodgers fans probably know who the other ace is but one last hint for the rest of you, he shares a name with 1960’s counter-culture icon and LSD advocate.

Tommy Lasorda had a 1 and 1A in 1988.  You can decide which slot Orel fits in and which slot is for Tim Leary.

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Posted on December 26, 2012, in 1980s stars, pitching rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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