Dodgers Have an Underrated Rotation

January 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm 3 comments

Chad Billingsley

The Los Angeles Dodgers finished last year at 80-82 with a -25 run differential and a pitching staff that allowed 692 runs, 8th most in the NL.  Not bad but not great. 

The Dodgers, in an effort to get better on the mound, went out and re-signed Hiroki Kuroda, and signed free agents Ted Lilly and Jon Garland to add to two of the best young starters in the game:  Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.

No. 1 starter:  Kershaw, who will be 23 on opening day, is an ace.  In 2009 he posted a 2.79 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 9.74 K/9, 0.37 HR/9, 2.03 K/BB, and 4.2 fWAR in 171 innings pitched at the age of 21.  In 2010 he posted a 2.91 ERA, 3.12 FIP, 9.34 K/9, 0.57 HR/9, 2.62 K/BB, and 4.8 fWAR in 204.1 innings at the age of 22.  Over 483 innings in Kershaw’s 3 seasons his Fastball, Slider, and curveball have been worth 73.6 runs above average.

No. 2 starter:  Billingsley has been a slightly underrated pitcher in his young career.  Only 26 years old on opening day, Billingsley has pitched 825.2 career innings to the tune of 3.55 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 8.19 K/9, 0.66 HR/9, 46.8 GB%, and 2.10 K/BB, worth 14.8 fWAR.  The best of these seasons was his 2010 when he posted career bests in FIP (3.07), BB/9 (3.24), HR/9 (0.38), fWAR (4.8), and GB% (49.8%).  He attributes a lot of his success to his cutter and curveball, which have combined to be worth 55.4 runs above average in his career.  Billingsley could be one of the best #2 starters in the league and could be a lot team’s #1.

No.3 starter:  Kuroda has flown under my radar a bit.  When he signed for $12M I had to take a look at his stats.  Since he debuted in the United States in 2008 he has improved his K/9 and FIP in each season.  His 2010 season was his best, posting career bests 3.39 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 7.29 K/9, and 4.2 fWAR in an also career best 196.1 innings pitched.  He has never posted a FIP higher than 3.59, ERA higher than 3.76, BB/9 higher than 2.20, and has a career 50.8% GB rate.  Kuroda lives off of his fastball and slider, throwing them just over 87% of the time in his career, which is fine because they have been worth 51.9 runs above average.  His split-finger is his third most used pitch at 11.7% and has been worth more than 7 runs above average. 

No. 4 starter:  Veteran Ted Lilly just keeps on producing posting his two best ERAs over the past two seasons and his best FIP in 2009.  After being traded to the Dodgers, Lilly posted a ridiculous 9.04 K/9 and 5.13 K/BB in 76.2 innings.  Lilly does have problems keeping the ball in park and Dodger Stadium should help him a bit.  His GB rate of 29.5% in 2010 was dead last among qualified starters.  Lilly could be a 3 fWAR #3 starter.

No.5 starter:  Garland is an innings eater.  Over the past 9 seasons since becoming a full-time starter, he has averaged over 204 innings per season.  Garland gets by with his fastball and fastball alone.  If it sinks then he’s successful.  It has been worth 57.9 runs above average in his career.  His cutter is his second most successful pitch at 2.1 runs above average.  He constantly relies on his defenders and posted lower ERAs than FIP yearly.  He gets by by locating his fastball and keeping it down and throwing a few offspeed pitches in there to mix it up.  He’s not as good as some people think but a great piece to have as a #5 starter than can help keep a bullpen rested.  Call me optimistic but I can see Garland posting a 2.0 fWAR.

Getting the rotation set is critical in large thanks to bad offensive moves made this offseason.  With low OBP guys in LF, C, 2B, and a weak bench, the Dodgers need this rotation to exceed expectations, and I think they can.

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