Prime Time Sports Talk Exclusive: Ross Stripling

Prime Time Sports Talk Exclusive: Ross Stripling

by June 3, 2020 0 comments

Ross Stripling is a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a former All-Star. He was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer a few questions from PTST’s own Marcus Guy.

Guy:
Thank you for joining us here today, Ross.

Stripling:

My pleasure.

Guy:
You had one of the more memorable MLB debuts in recent history, as you carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning. What was that like?

Stripling:
People ask me about my no-hitter and that really intrigues me. I just don’t remember much because I was so nervous and there was so much adrenaline. I remember getting up and eating breakfast with my family, and up until I got pulled by Dave Roberts, it was all a blur. I’ve watched the highlights enough where I can regurgitate what happened, but I don’t necessarily remember it with my own eyes.
There was just such a combination of feelings, between achieving your childhood dream and trying to do well and getting off to a good start because of how cutthroat it is, and how you’re trying to take advantage of this opportunity.
So to come out of the gate and have success like that right off the bat, with so many friends and family there for me, that was a really cool feeling.
The two things I remember most are Dave Roberts pulling me, and being done with that first outing and seeing my friends and family when I got out of the locker room.

Guy:
Who did you grow up emulating as a kid?

Stripling:
I don’t really have much of an answer to that because I didn’t pitch until I was 18-years old.
Now I’d certainly watched baseball and collected baseball cards, and I loved Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez when he was a Ranger, but I never really had that with a pitcher that I really really liked. There’s a lot of people who say I am like Mike Mussina [who like Stripling, also has a degree in economics], but I never really watched Mike Mussina pitch.
If anything, I loved Dirk Nowitzki on the Mavericks and tried to play like him on the basketball court.

Guy:
On that note regarding Mussina, I do see the comparison. You’re not what people would consider a power pitcher, as your fastball is about two MPH less than the league average, and you throw it around 40% of the time compared to the league average of 52%. What do you think makes you such an effective pitcher?

Stripling:
You touched on it a bit that I don’t have a powerful fastball, but it’s a fastball league so you’ve got to be able to use it and locate it at the right time in the right situation in any count. So what I do well is I can throw four pitches in any count and kind of have similar usage with all of them. I also kind of have the ability to adjust and adapt as I’ve come up to the big leagues. I used to throw a lot of cutters for lefties, but now I throw more change ups as they adapted to me and started looking for that cutter.
So I changed it up for now, and am doing it vice versa. They started looking for the change up so I just started throwing the cutters again.
I think I kind of specialize in the chess match which is pitchers versus hitters, and the ability to keep them off balance and kind of mix it up in any count, in any situation, that way they never really know what’s coming.

Guy:
Talking about “knowing what’s coming”, you were part of the 2017 playoff run, where the Dodgers lost to the Astros in the World Series. The Astros were later found to be cheating.
What was your reaction when the news broke about the cheating?

Stripling:
Well you know, to be honest with you we knew they were doing it in 2017, so we were battling in real-time, trying to change the signs and all that. But they always seemed to have a way to be able to still relay signs.
We kind of knew it was there, and then Fiers [blows the whistle] on it a couple of months ago and kind of brings those wounds and memories back to the surface.
We were really able to say, ‘we’ll beat them on the field’, ‘we’re going to move on’, ‘we’re excited about our 2020 team’ etc., and then Correa and Bellinger have a little bit of a back and forth, and Bregman and Altuve give apologies that don’t necessarily look all that sincere and it kind of fires us up again.
Justin Turner gave an awesome interview that kind of touched on what the Commissioner said and what the Astros said, and from then on we could kind of be like, ‘Hey, what Justin Turner said? That’s how we feel.’ You could go look at that interview if you want, it’s on YouTube everywhere. That’s how we feel, and now we’re ready to move on to 2020.

Guy:
Who is the toughest player to pitch to not named Mike Trout?

Stripling:
Nice caveat there, because it would definitely be Mike Trout. My numbers against him are not too great.
For me, it is Javier Baez. I live around the zone. Everything I throw is basically almost in the zone. You know, I don’t throw a lot of short curve balls and expanded sliders and stuff like that, and Javy can hit anything and everything. There’s almost no rhyme or reason to it, he is hard to scout. He’ll take a ball down the middle and then he’ll hit a fastball at his neck the opposite way for a triple.
Like I said, I don’t expand a lot, and with a guy like him, you really have to expand because he’s like a Vladimir Gurrero in that he can hit a ball on the plate 400 feet.
So he’s definitely been a tough matchup for me.

Guy:
You were going to be part of that deal that would send Joc Pederson to the Los Angeles Angels. When the Mookie Betts trade originally fell through, the Angels ended up pulling out of that deal. What was your first reaction to hearing about the trade?

Stripling:
You know, it was funny because the trade basically went down the day before my name was ever put into it, and it seemed like a done deal. It’s Joc to the Angels. Then all of a sudden—I think it was around midnight that night—someone said a starting pitcher is expected to also be going to the Angels with Joc Pederson.
That’s when it was like, that’s me. How could it not be me, right? It’s not any of our big-time pitchers, it’s not any of our young prospects. So it was almost certainly me, or maybe one other guy. So then we were on pins and needles waiting. I woke up the next day, and there was still nothing, so I went to go work out. Finally, at around noon, they said Ross Stripling.
My original thought was dang, I love the Dodgers. They’re the ones that brought me up and invested in me and got me to the big leagues. I love all the guys in the locker room and the coaches and all that. And then you think, well you know, the Angels are right down the road, I would almost certainly get an opportunity to be in the rotation rather than fighting for my life for any innings I can get with the Dodgers.
So originally it kind of seemed to be the perfect scenario, like I love being a Dodger and being in LA, I love the team and I love competing for a World Series every year, but I was going to be an Angel and have an opportunity to really spread my wings in the rotation and have a chance to maybe go 200 innings, which I haven’t really had the chance to do in a Dodger uniform.

Guy:
You were an All-Star in 2018. What was your favorite part of the All-Star Game experience?

Stripling:
My favorite part was just seeing how the best of the best go about their business and getting to be around them for the first time. I mean, obviously, I’m around Kershaw and [Turner], but now I got a chance to be around guys on other teams and guys in my division that are normally the enemy.
I got to spend 48 hours with them and get to know them a little bit, and that was fun. I mean, I sat in at lunch with Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Bryce Harper and that was a pretty cool experience. You get to watch the Home Run Derby. So just the whole thing of seeing these elite players and getting to know their personalities and see how they get ready for the game.

Guy:
As a National League pitcher, you get opportunities to hit, as the NL does not yet have a D.H. What are your thoughts on the National League adopting the designated hitter?

Stripling:
I’ve always loved the distinction between the two leagues. I think the National League is cool because I think managers have to do way more strategizing.
I think it creates more strategy within a game and I love that that’s different from the American League. I do like the idea of guys on my team like Kike Hernandez or Chris Taylor getting more chances in promoting their careers and having success, but I also like pitching to the pitcher. Like when there’s a guy on third with one out and the pitcher’s up I get a chance to get out of that situation much easier than if I’m facing a David Ortiz and the DH spot.
I’m kind of fine either way. There have certainly been pitchers that have gotten hurt hitting, Jimmy Nelson and Adam Wainwright come to mind. So there are things you can point to and be like, you know, is it really worth it?
People aren’t buying tickets to watch pitchers hit. But that’s the way it’s been for a very long time, and I like the disparity it creates between the leagues and the difference it makes. So I’m fine either way. But if I had to choose, I would keep it the way it is.

Guy:
Who is the Dodgers clubhouse prankster?

Stripling:
I would say it used to be Yasiel Puig and a little bit of Kike [Hernandez], and now, it’s definitely Kike Hernandez. He did a really funny one when we traded for Ryan Madson in 2018. Kike, who speaks perfect English basically spoke only Spanish to Ryan Madson.
After we beat the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 7 of the NLCS, Kike started talking English to Ryan Madson, and [Madson] didn’t have a clue. So that was really fun and certainly played the long game with that prank.

Guy:
What is so special about Cody Bellinger as a player? What stands out to you?

Stripling:
The first thing that comes to mind is athleticism and versatility, and I think he just kind of “out-athletes” other people in baseball. His ability to play every position in the outfield, play a Gold Glove-caliber first base, and the ability to manipulate his swing. I mean, you’ll see him make the most pretty swing you’ve ever seen, and then sometimes you’ll see him make an adjustment with two outs, and slap it the other way. He’s just very athletic, he threw a lot of guys out from the outfield last year and has the ability to hit for power and the speed to steal bases. He’s just the perfect five-tool player.

Guy:
When was the first time you were “star-struck” as an MLB player?

Stripling:
Well, not in the baseball world, but certainly when Kobe Bryant and/or Magic Johnson were in the locker room it was a pretty awestruck moment. The other one would be David Ortiz. In my rookie year, I got to pitch to him and watch his swagger and how he goes about his business, walking up to the plate with all his confidence. And then he basically soaks up the entire batter’s box and was still a monster in there and looked like he wasn’t fooled by anything I was throwing up all day, while I did get him out twice, they were both lasers.
So I’d say watching David Ortiz in my rookie year would be the baseball version of being awestruck.

Guy:
In your career, your opponents bat .250 against you with a .294 OBP and a .708 OPS.
With runners in scoring position, your opponents hit .207 with the .590 OPS.
Is there any reason why you think you excel with runners on?

Stripling:
You know what, I never thought about that. Maybe it’s because every pitcher buckles down in those scenarios. Pitches from the stretch are the pitches that matter the most.
Greg Maddux would throw 90% of his warmup pitches from the stretch because those were the ones that matter the most, i.e. when people are on base. So working out of the stretch in practice is very important, and being able to buckle down when there’s guys on and/or in scoring position is a big deal.
You know, I may need to take a deeper dive into my usages when I have runners in scoring position because maybe I get some of my best sequences then.

Guy:
Who do you think is the best pitcher in baseball?

Stripling:
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I would say that there are five that are all “Number One”. Like 1A, 1B, 1C, etc.
So I would say, Cole, deGrom, Scherzer, Strasburg, and Kershaw, those are my five.
I’m really impressed by Kershaw because as he’s kind of lost his power he is still basically a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, while the deGrom’s, the Cole’s, and the Buehler’s of the world are still around 97 mph after 100-plus pitches.
I’m not saying those guys don’t pitch. You watch them and they mix speeds, they throw off-speed in a hitters count—they’re definitely pitchers. But Kershaw, who is now throwing 88-90 (MPH) and has had similar success, is more “pitching” than a guy who’s got 100 MPH in his back pocket for any time he needs it.

Guy:
In today’s game, we have seen premiere fielders like Matt Chapman and Nolan Arenado.
Who do you think is the best defensive infielder in baseball?

Stripling:
I’m going to say Andrelton Simmons. From what I hear from Corey Seager and other shortstops that I know, his defense is just a tier higher than everyone else. There’s him, and then there’s a pretty big gap until the next guys. We only play them a couple of times a year so I don’t get to see him a ton, certainly just in those games that I’ve watched, I’ve been extremely impressed by him.

Guy:
Who do you think is the brightest of all the young stars we currently have in baseball?

Stripling:
I’d say Ronald Acuna Jr…. or Juan Soto. What Soto did in the World Series and taking Gerrit Cole [deep] off of the train tracks at Minute Maid was one of the more impressive things I’ve ever seen. Their future is so bright, and they are already this good at such a young age. If you had to tell me to pick one I don’t even know which one I would take. I’ve pitched to both of them and they’re both elite players.

Guy:
Blake Treinen was signed by the Dodgers this offseason. He was great a couple of years ago with the Athletics. Do you see him becoming the closer or the setup man for the Dodgers?

Stripling:
Well, I tell you what, I was really impressed with Kenley’s spring training. I know that people weren’t necessarily happy with Kenley’s year last year, but he was still good. He just wasn’t “Kenley Jansen”-good. Kudos to him, he worked his tail off, revamped some stuff, and really looked good in spring training. So that’s going to be Kenley’s job unless something drastic happens, in my opinion.
So now, you can put a healthy revitalized Blake Treinen in that setup spot as like an eight-nine (inning) combo that almost goes back to like that Royals team that won the World Series. I mean, how unbelievable was that duo.
You also have Joe Kelly in there too, and we’ve seen glimpses of what he can do. So I guess you can make the argument that there might be some closing-by-committee every now and then, but I think it’s Kenley’s job as a whole.

Guy:
What do you think about steroid users going to the Hall of Fame?

Stripling:
I think that enough people were doing it in that era where those guys were still the elite of the elite. If you take steroids out of that era, those were still the guys that were the best players of that era.
Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, they were Hall of Famers, no doubt in my opinion, and the best of an era. I understand you kind of open that door to those guys, and where does that door shut.
But those guys were the best players, basically, of a generation of baseball. And it’s a shame that that’s (PEDs) kind of what they’ll be remembered for.

Guy:

Well, thank you for taking the time to join us, Ross!

Stripling:

Thank you for having me!

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