Part of the reason, according to Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi, is that pitchers are raised to give maximum effort in every inning. Youth baseball is a “radar-gun culture,” he said, just like the pros. Pitchers rarely pace themselves early to stick around late.

“There’s no notion of adding and subtracting, or not exerting yourself to the absolute fullest on every pitch,” Zaidi said. “But teams are also giving players the message: ‘Just go all out. We’ll take your five good innings over your seven mediocre innings.’”

The Dodgers, not surprisingly, are sending that message emphatically. Under Andrew Friedman, their president of baseball operations, the Dodgers have one of the most progressive front offices, unafraid — and perhaps eager — to challenge conventional wisdom.

By recording their most single-season victories since moving to Los Angeles, and making a dominant run through the National League playoffs, the Dodgers validated their approach. Internally, they were already convinced.

“It’s something that, from our front office to the coaches to the players, we believe in, so it’s not something we needed to be validated,” Manager Dave Roberts said.

The Dodgers did not use a six-man rotation last year, as the Los Angeles Angels and perhaps the Texas Rangers plan to do now, yet they managed to give their starter more than four days’ rest in 115 of 162 regular-season games. They shuffled pitchers in every way possible: on and off the 10-day disabled list, up and down from the minors, in and out of the bullpen. Minimized effort led to maximum performance.


The Dodgers seem determined to give Rich Hill, who turns 38 this month, a reasonable workload.

Matt York/Associated Press

“You have to build up a certain amount of organizational depth to be able to do that,” Zaidi said. “If you don’t have the depth, then I think bulk and being able to eat innings is more meaningful. But I think we’re at the point now where, in that quality/quantity trade-off, quality matters a little bit more — because if guys do need time off, we have a pretty high replacement level behind those guys.”

The Dodgers plan to use Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu behind Kershaw. They lost some of their depth when they traded Brandon McCarthy to Atlanta, and a veteran newcomer, Tom Koehler, has a shoulder injury. But they hope to get up to 150 innings, between the minors and the majors, from the top prospect Walker Buehler, and have their usual assortment of Class AAA depth.

Hill, who turns 38 this month, signed a three-year, $48 million contract before last season. The Dodgers were determined to give him a reasonable workload, and Hill — a master of the curveball — made the most of his 25 starts, with a 3.32 E.R.A. and 11 strikeouts per nine innings, a better rate than Kershaw’s.

Yet the Dodgers’ caution with Hill seemed to go to extremes in October. In two World Series starts, he never faced a Houston batter a third time through the order, leaving after four innings in Game 2 and four and two-thirds innings in Game 6 (after an intentional walk to George Springer, the Astros’ slugging leadoff man).

In those innings, he allowed two earned runs and seven hits and struck out 12. The Dodgers were content to get quality work in Hill’s starts without, perhaps, inviting trouble by giving the Astros a third chance to see him. Hill mentioned this week that he actually pitched well during the Series when facing hitters a third or fourth time in a game; he held them to a .163 average (16 for 98).

But he said he simply concentrated on executing pitches, not on how many he might be allowed to throw.

“I’ve told guys over and over again: You don’t have to agree with what the statistical analysis is, but you do have to understand it,” Hill said. “And in understanding it, you will start to see that, yeah, this is what’s most beneficial for the team. And that’s what it’s about, putting your personal stuff aside so the team can succeed. Because when the team succeeds, every individual succeeds.”

The Dodgers’ strategy worked. Their middle relievers gave a lead to their star closer, Kenley Jansen, in both of Hill’s starts. (Jansen blew the lead in Game 2 but saved Game 6.) In between, Wood twirled a masterpiece in Game 4, allowing no hits through his first 18 batters. Then Springer, facing him a third time, launched a low curveball into the left-field seats for a homer.

Just like that, with two outs in the sixth inning and only one hit allowed, Wood was removed from the game. But the bullpen again gave a lead to Jansen, who closed out a victory. Objectively, Wood said, he knew why he was pulled: The Astros had several dangerous right-handed hitters due up, and Roberts had stronger, fresher arms to face them.

“You want to trust what our staff and front office believes in and thinks, because at that point, the only thing that matters is winning,” Wood said. “That’s what they felt was the right decision for me, and it’s hard not to support that.”

At 27, Wood is part of the generation that is making 200 innings an exception, not a rule, for starting pitchers. Yet he is human — and as a professional athlete, he is extremely competitive. Even as the game changes, pitchers still hate to give up the ball.

“You never want to come out, whether it’s a spring training game or the World Series,” Wood said. “But like everything in life, I try to see both sides of everything, and I understand the early hook. It’s only getting more and more common around the league.”

Nobody gives the early hook as readily as the Dodgers. Nobody wins more, either.

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