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Dodgers: What’s With All Those Curveballs, Joe Kelly?



While we’ve all been basking in the glow of the incident in Houston, Joe Kelly has been having a quietly weird year for the Dodgers. And for Joe Kelly to do anything quietly is a testament to how strange this season is.

Kelly has made 11 appearances this season. In his 10 relief outings, the righty flamethrower is perfect. No runs allowed in 8 innings pitched. As a starter/opener on Wednesday — his first start since 2016 — he quickly put the Dodgers behind 3-0 on a walk and 2 hits in his lone inning.

While the start wasn’t odd in and of itself as LA has been playing with house money a bit of late in search of “optionality” for the postseason, the pitch mix — or lack thereof — once again proved to be a headscratcher for fans and even the broadcast team.

The first 7 pitches he threw on Wednesday were curveballs. Moreover, 16 of the 22 pitches Kelly threw in the inning were curves, continuing a trend he’s been on since returning from the Injured List and subsequent suspension stay.

For a guy that has 99mph in the tank on a fastball, it’s quite puzzling. So Dave Roberts was asked about why Kelly is opting to throw the curve 60% of the time.

[His curveball] is an elite pitch when it’s right, but when a major league hitter knows it’s coming … the margin gets a little bit smaller. You gotta continue to sequence … and it’s probably something he’s working on, but as we kinda close out this season, it’ll be a little bit of a different percentage.

Back to the strange year, it’s been just that for Kelly. After a slow ramp up during summer camp, he ended up missing more than a month on the IL with shoulder inflammation with only 7 appearances in between. All that perhaps adds up to a pitcher that’s essentially going through a sort of spring training on the fly once again.

For the greater part, Joe has seemed to be dotting his fastball on the rare occasions he throws it since his return, so a focus on the feel of the breaking ball does make sense. All this to say maybe we give him time and the benefit of the doubt as the Dodgers play out the string before heading into October.

NEXT: Rob Manfred Wants Expanded Playoffs to Be Permanent, But With a Twist

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

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  1. Kelly has been erratic before and to start him in a game, I don’t think that was the right move. And also the pitchers are usually told what to pitch to whomever. They don’t always shake off a pitch and pitch what they want. I don’t think Kelly would pitch so many curve balls if they’re not working. I don’t blame everything on him.

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