2019 Preview of Dodger Rotation Pieces

The Dodgers will start the year with two of their five starting pitchers on the injured list. One of those on the injured list is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time all-star. The other is Rich Hill, and for most teams that would mean using journeyman pitchers or prospects too soon, for the Dodgers it just means they will plug in a 2018 All-Star and one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Just in case you missed this from my Spring Training post on the pitchers:

The rotation pieces Ryu/Stripling/Kenta Maeda/Julio Urias ended the spring with eight walks and fifty-five strikeouts. If you want to add Rich Hill that reads eight walks and sixty-six strikeouts.

Last year the Dodgers had six starters throw between 120 and 165 innings. This year I expect they will have seven that throw between 100 and 150 innings. I didn’t do the math to back this statement up.

Let’s do this by the Dodger rotation to start the year:

Starter OneHyun-Jin Ryu gets the opening day start with Clayton Kershaw unable to make it.   This was the first spring in years that Ryu came in without any question marks and he pitched fantastic.  I thought it was a done deal that Ryu would be gone as a free agent but he accepted the Dodgers qualifying offer and is back for at least one more season. In 2018 Ryu posted a sub 2.00 ERA and was lights out when he was able to take the mound. Ryu joined the Dodgers in 2013 but has only pitched over 150 innings twice in those six years.  I expect he will do it for the third time in 2019 and receive another qualifying offer at the end of the season.

Starter Two – 2018 All-Star Ross Stripling will get the ball for game two. Ross is really the sixth starter for the Dodgers but until Kershaw/Hill are back he’s in the rotation. Ross was brilliant last year when he stepped into the rotation on April 30th, and continued that brilliance all the way through the All-Star game break. He only had one good start after the break and due to injuries and the return of injured pitchers didn’t make another start after August 9th. Ross has his supporters, the most vocal being Paul Sporer of Fangraphs. As a starting pitcher, he walked only sixteen hitters against 117 strikeouts making his SO/BB rate the best on the team and just about the best in baseball.

You can see how that ranks with some of the best pitchers in baseball last year. As you can see the big issue with Ross is that when they make contact they make good contact as he has the second highest OPS+ against on the list. He needs to limit his walks and he did so when he started.

Player              SO    IP SO/W  ERA  FIP    K%  BB% ERA+ OPS+
Justin Verlander   290 214.0 7.84 2.52 2.78 34.8% 4.4%  159   65
Robbie Erlin        88 109.0 7.33 4.21 3.31 20.1% 2.7%   91   96
Chris Sale         237 158.0 6.97 2.11 1.98 38.4% 5.5%  207   43
Corey Kluber       222 215.0 6.53 2.89 3.12 26.4% 4.0%  151   66
Ross Stripling     136 122.0 6.18 3.02 3.42 27.0% 4.4%  128  100
Max Scherzer       300 220.2 5.88 2.53 2.65 34.6% 5.9%  168   56
Jacob deGrom       269 217.0 5.85 1.70 1.99 32.2% 5.5%  216   52
Carlos Carrasco    231 192.0 5.37 3.38 2.94 29.5% 5.5%  129   79
Clayton Kershaw    155 161.1 5.34 2.73 3.19 23.9% 4.5%  142   74
Patrick Corbin     246 200.0 5.13 3.15 2.47 30.8% 6.0%  137   63
Shane Bieber       118 114.2 5.13 4.55 3.23 24.3% 4.7%   96  109
Nathan Eovaldi     101 111.0 5.05 3.81 3.60 22.2% 4.4%  112   85
Miles Mikolas      146 200.2 5.03 2.83 3.28 18.1% 3.6%  137   75

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/27/2019.

Ross may never make another All-Star but for most teams, he’d be a big part of their rotation, for the Dodgers he’s simply insurance.

Starter Three – Kenta Maeda has seen his innings drop from 175 to 134 to 125 during his three seasons as a Dodger. He hasn’t made a postseason start since 2016 which tells you where he falls in the Dodger rotation pecking order. His stats say that when he starts he’s been very good. Kenta isn’t exciting but he’s better than most starters while being a good bet to not be part of the rotation when the season ends.

Starter Four – Walker Buehler was the bulldog in the postseason that the Dodgers had been seeking winning key game five in the NLCS and starting the only game the Dodgers won in the World Series. Walker didn’t make his first start in 2018 until April 23rd and was never allowed to throw over 100 pitches for his first eleven starts. On his twelve start, he threw 105 pitches and lost 1 – 0 to the Brewers. The gloves were off and he would throw over 100 pitches five times in his last eleven starts of the regular season.  His ERA was 3.92 on July 25th after his eleventh start. He would drop his ERA to 2.62 and put the league on notice that the Dodgers had another ace in the making.

His rookie season earned 3.4 bWAR which was good for 8th among Dodger rookie pitchers but he did that with only 137 innings pitched.

Player                          WAR    IP ERA+ Year Age GS  ERA    K%   BB% OPS+
Fernando Valenzuela (RoY-1st)   4.8 192.1  135 1981  20 25 2.48 23.8%  8.1%   62
Hideo Nomo (RoY-1st)            4.7 191.1  149 1995  26 28 2.54 30.3% 10.0%   56
Orel Hershiser (RoY-3rd)        4.3 189.2  133 1984  25 20 2.66 19.5%  6.5%   69
Ismael Valdez (RoY-7th)         3.7 197.2  124 1995  21 27 3.05 18.7%  6.3%   74
Rick Sutcliffe (RoY-1st)        3.5 242.0  105 1979  23 30 3.46 11.5%  9.6%   83
Bill Singer                     3.5 204.1  117 1967  23 29 2.64 19.8%  7.1%   84
Don Sutton                      3.5 225.2  110 1966  21 35 2.99 22.8%  5.7%   79
Walker Buehler (RoY-3rd)        3.4 137.1  148 2018  23 23 2.62 27.9%  6.8%   56
Hyun-Jin Ryu (RoY-4th)          3.4 192.0  119 2013  26 30 3.00 19.7%  6.3%   90
Bob Welch                       3.4 111.1  174 1978  21 13 2.02 15.0%  5.9%   71
Pedro Martinez (RoY-9th)        3.0 107.0  146 1993  21  2 2.61 26.8% 12.8%   70

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/27/2019.

Walker Buehler could be the new ace of the Dodgers. I can tell you right now if I had to name someone to start a game for the Dodgers his name would be Walker Buehler not Clayton Kershaw. This may not age well.

Starter Five – Julio Urias has just about arrived. It took longer than expected, the surgery detour putting a damper on the excitement we felt when he made his first start at the age of nineteen. They say he’s not ready for a full workload yet, but just like Walker Buehler in 2018, I expect Julio Urias to be pitching meaningful games in September and being a boss about it when he does. Julio Urias is the guy who I expect to open the most eyes this year and by the end of 2019, it will be open to debate as to who is the best young pitcher on the Dodgers, Julio or Walker.

Starter Six – Rich Hill should make it back sooner than Clayton Kershaw so he gets listed sixth. Rich is fun to watch and for the most part very good. He’s become a bit of a twitter hero as Dick Mountain and unlike Brandon McCarthy/Scott Kazmir proved to be an excellent free agent signing. This should be the last season Rich Hill is a Dodger, I hope he makes it a special one. Rich is 39 and has had two of the best five seasons by a Dodger starter aged 37 and up. That is cool and all but I’d kind of prefer Julio Urias in 2019 and I think the Dodgers will eventually feel the same way.

Player          WAR    IP ERA+ Year Age OPS+
Kevin Brown     4.5 211.0  169 2003  38   67
Rich Hill       2.2 135.2  125 2017  37   74
Tom Candiotti   2.0 135.0  108 1997  39  103
Rich Hill       1.5 132.2  106 2018  38   91
Tom Candiotti   1.3 190.1  108 1995  37   96

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/27/2019.

Starter Seven: Just your run of the mill three-time Cy Young Award winner.  Clayton has a lot to prove in 2019 and it got off to an auspicious start when he had to shut himself down very early in spring training. As Dodger nation held their collective breath, he was able to get in mound work without any pain (so he says) and is now on a normal path that should see him get back in the rotation sometime in April.  I can’t doubt Clayton Kershaw until he gives me a reason to doubt him. Noted MLB writer Mike Petriello doesn’t think Clayton is in the conversation anymore as a top pitcher and he might be right. I wouldn’t bet on him being right, I’d bet on Clayton. I won’t post any Clayton stats, he owns all of the second decade of the 21st century, and most of the 21st century as well. He may not be the “greatest” pitcher but he is certainly the greatest lefty of the 21st century so far, and one of the greatest of all time.

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