Saturday, June 7, 2014

Taking a look at the starting 5

As Zack Greinke gets ready to take on the evils of Coors Field looking for his NL-leading ninth win, a place where Hyun-Jin Ryu conquered last night in a 6-2 victory, let's take a look at how the rotation as a whole has been performing.  It's not often I get to say everyone's healthy, so let's hope it lasts longer than like a week or two.

Clayton Kershaw: 4-2, 43 1/3 IP, 3.32 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 55 K, 7 BB
Keep in mind the reigning Cy Young Award winner was on the shelf for six weeks with a back injury, so his innings will obviously be down.  Also keep in mind that he's built such a high standard for himself, anytime he gets even somewhat touched up, it's a surprise.

With all of that said, he's still trying to find his groove after making only seven starts.  Last year through seven starts he had a 1.66 ERA, and in 2012 it was 2.56.  The major difference is that an injury this year completely disrupted his rhythm.  He did pitch eight innings of two-run ball his last start, and if his curveball can be thrown with more snap, and he locates his fastball better, he'll be back to dominant.  If there's anyone you can trust to figure things out, it's Clayton Kershaw.

Zack Greinke: 8-2, 72 IP, 2.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 83 K, 16 BB
The guy who stepped up in Kershaw's absence was undoubtedly Greinke, although that's no surprise at all.  He's a #1 on just about every other staff in baseball.  He recently snapped his 20+ straight start streak of two or less earned runs, and has actually given up seven runs in his last two starts.

Still, if that's the worst thing that's happened, then it's hard to be picky about his results.  To go that many starts in a row without giving up even three runs is just amazing.  It was also very quietly done, as the Dodgers get headlines for all sorts of other reasons, good and bad.  If there's one area he can make a slight improvement in, it's that his K/BB ratio in his last six starts (37/10) has been a little worse than his first six starts (46/6).  Yes, it's hardly worth mentioning, but when this guy's control is on, 99% of the time he gets a win.

Hyun-Jin Ryu: 7-2, 64 1/3 IP, 3.08 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 53 K, 14 BB
Another guy who spent some time on the DL was Ryu, as he was gone for nearly a month with shoulder inflammation.  He actually has some pretty crazy splits, as he has a 6.15 ERA at home, but a minuscule 0.95 ERA on the road.  If the Dodgers get back into the postseason, you can bet Don Mattingly won't be afraid to have him pitch on the road.

His numbers are nearly identical to last year's, with slightly better K/BB ration, but a few more hits allowed as well.  However, you know his home ERA will only get better, so it's hard to find a better #3 starter in baseball.  Last year his home ERA was 2.32, so get ready to see more great starts out of him in the middle of the rotation.

Josh Beckett: 3-3, 66 2/3 IP, 2.57 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 63 K, 23 BB
You already know how great of a season Beckett's been having based on his no-hitter on the Sunday before Memorial Day in Philly.  Who in the world would've ever guessed he'd be the one to throw the season's first (and so far, only) no-hitter?  I doubt he even would've thought that.

There's no denying just how big of a season he's been having.  He's eighth in the NL in ERA.  Of his 11 starts, only three times has he given up more than two runs.  Oh ya, did I mention he no-hit the Phillies?  All of this has resulted in a more crafty, intelligent pitcher who's using his changing speeds and control to get the job done.  I would expect his ERA to be somewhere in the 3s when it's all said and done, but even if it does, that means he's still having a great season.

Dan Haren: 5-4, 74 2/3 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 52 K, 12 BB
On the surface, the #5 starter with a 3.50 ERA is something any manager would gladly take.    He came out of five April starts at 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA.  Plus, he only got better down the stretch in Washington last year, so things were definitely looking up.

Well, life hasn't been so good since then.  He certainly hasn't been getting bombed, as the most runs he's given up has been four on two different occasions.  The biggest problem has been the long ball, as he's surrendered seven in his last four starts.  I don't think anyone expected him to pitch like a Cy Young contender, but with his ERA going up in six of his last seven starts, there's definite concern about how he'll hold up over the summer.  Chad Billingsley could be right around the corner ready to take his spot.  We shall see.

Overall Impressions:
I don't care how poorly the offense has performed, anytime you see the names Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu at the top of the rotation, you like your chances to win.  The encouraging thing is that Kershaw and Ryu are only getting stronger the more starts they get after injuries, and Greinke looks like an ace 9 times out of 10. 

As I mentioned before, I think it will be real interesting to see where Billingsley fits into all of this once he's declared good to go.  He has stated his desire to be a starter, and who can blame him?  Save for a few bullpen appearances when he was younger, he's been starting games his whole big league career.  Right now it looks like Haren is the one would should be most nervous since his numbers have gotten a little worse and worse.  Do the Dodgers put both Haren and Paul Maholm in the bullpen as long relievers and see what they have in Billingsley starting games?  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to have three long relievers (Jamey Wright is the other one), so something has to give.

We'll wait and see how that all plays out.  In the meantime, if the Dodgers can ever get guys like Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp on track, then this rotation will rack up more wins as the summer months heat up.

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