The Los Angeles Dodgers last year had one of the top starting rotations in all of Major League Baseball and this year is no exception. With the recent signing of Dan Haren (one-year, $10 million), the 2014 L A Dodgers have retooled an already great starting rotation and look poised to not only repeat as NL West champions, but also sparks the discussion of a World Series run. As the Dodgers, in Australia, open the season against the Diamondbacks Saturday, here is the projected five man starting rotation:
1. Clayton Kershaw
What is left to say about Clayton Kershaw that has not already been said? Kershaw is the “ace” of this staff and is one of- if not- the best pitchers in all of baseball. Kershaw has won two of the past three NL Cy Young awards (coming in second in 2012) and is coming off a season where he posted a remarkable 1.83 ERA. His consistency over his career is just another one of his major attributes. Kershaw has averaged at least 33 starts and roughly 230 innings pitched his past three seasons, all while compiling a 2.21 average ERA in that time. A few other key stats on Kershaw: he is fourth among active pitchers (NL) in strikeouts per nine innings pitched, first over the past three seasons (NL) in walks and hits per innings pitched, and second among active pitchers (NL) in adjusted ERA.
2. Zack Greinke
Zack Greinke is coming off one of his best seasons ever as a starting pitcher. If it was not for Clayton Kershaw being on the Los Angeles Dodgers, Greinke would easily be the number one pitcher on the team. Over the past three seasons, Greinke has put up an astounding win-loss percentage in games pitched by him (.755). His ERA dropped last season to the lowest it has been since the 2009 campaign (2.63). Other key stats: he is in the top ten among active pitchers (NL) when it comes to strikeouts/base on balls (3.482), was fourth last season (NL) in adjusted ERA, and over the past six seasons has averaged 31 starts per season.
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
Ryu bolsters this starting rotation from the third spot. Ryu is number three in this rotation, but for roughly half of the teams in the MLB, would be the number two- if not “ace”- of their staffs. In his debut season, Ryu posted a Major League fourteenth best ERA at 3.00 among qualified starters (eighth among NL starters). Other key stats: Ryu was in the top ten (NL) in wins, win-loss percentage, and shutouts. Look for Ryu to continue this trend upward during his second full season as a starting pitcher.
4. Dan Haren
Having a good back end of a starting pitching rotation is what can truly separate good teams with great teams. Haren can provide about a million- scratch that- ten million reasons why the L A Dodgers starting pitching rotation has sparked discussions about a World Series run. Haren signed a lucrative one-year $10 million contract this offseason and reinforces the back half of the starting rotation for the Dodgers. Haren has dealt with injuries over the past two seasons, but if he can remain healthy and the Dodgers are able to keep his innings pitched somewhat low, there is no reason why he could not out perform any number four starter a team will throw at him.
5. Josh Beckett
Beckett is another anomaly of a pitcher for this rotation. Beckett has been injury laden the past two seasons, totaling an average of 43 innings pitched. However, Beckett is still a two-time World Series Champion, and if he can remain healthy, could be a very valuable member of this L A Dodgers rotation not only because of his possible quality starts, but with the experience and veteran presence he can bring to the clubhouse. If Beckett cannot seem to stay healthy, the Dodgers still have talented spot starters in Stephen Fife and Paul Maholm.
Four of the five starting pitchers in this rotation were “aces” of their staffs no more than three seasons ago. The back half of the rotation for the Dodgers is questionable, but the fact of the matter is that even if those two (Haren and Beckett) cannot stay healthy, the depth of the starting pitching in Los Angeles is outstanding and more than ready to compete against any team’s number four and five pitcher’s. With the top three of the L A Dodgers pitching rotation being as strong as they are in Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu, there is valid reason to spark a conversation about the Dodgers making a World Series run.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles