What goes around, comes around, so that is why a team’s starting pitchers are called “a rotation?”
Get it… Rotation? I say… Rotation… Son, Rotation?
OK – I’ll stop.
In 2016, the Dodgers used 109 different starting pitchers… well, that may be only a slight exaggeration, but they used a lot. At one point last year, the Dodgers had seven (count ’em 7) starting pitchers on the disabled list at one time. That is usually a pretty good sign that the team is going to finish somewhere near last. This is especially true when one of those pitchers is your Ace who also happens to be the best pitcher in baseball. The seven pitchers on the Disabled List at the same time were Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Rich Hill and Alex Wood. Maybe that will help you understand why Dave Roberts was truly Manager of the Year.
Brett Anderson is presumably gone, but was a nice pitcher for the Dodgers in 2015. Bud Norris is also gone. The other starter who was on the DL at one time or another in 2016 was Carlos Frias. The Dodgers used 31 different pitchers last season and one can only wonder, will they have to use as many in 2017? I think the answer is “NO” but I would not be surprised if they used in excess of 25. That, of course, brings us to The Rotation. What is it going to look like? I am going to start by saying that I cannot and will not predict what the rotation will look like this year, but here are the candidates:
- Clayton Kershaw – Of this, I am certain: The Dodgers have spent considerable time in determining the health of this guy and I am certain that he is on a training regimen that is focused on strengthening his core. One can never predict health, but Claytony is one of the hardest workers in baseball and if anyone can overcome back issues, it is one Clayton Kershaw. I see another Cy Young in 2017.
- Rich Hill – Throw out the book on Rich Hill. He hadn’t been a starter for about 10 years, so couple the fact that he spins the curveball more than anyone in baseball with the fact that he wasn’t used to throwing a lot of innings and the blisters should not be surprising. What will be surprising is if they continue. I heard Guggenheim bought a pickle brine company. Rich Hill wanted to be a Dodger after working beside Clayton Kershaw and I respect him along with Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner for that. Look at it this way: he doesn’t have a lot of innings on his arm. His arm is like… 31. I see him with an ERA in the mid to high 2.00’s and 170+ innings.
- Kenta Maeda – He obviously ran out of gas at the end of 2016, but he won 16 games while pitching 175 innings with a 3.48 ERA. He will start the season as the #3, but I think Julio Urias will have that spot by the All-Star Break. He is smallish, so health is always a question, but the Dodgers have plenty of depth.
- Julio Urias – I am not sure many fans understand how great Urias is going to be. He could be the equal of Clayton Kershaw. He’s different, but Clayton put up a 4.26 ERA as 20 year-old rookie, while Julio put up a 3.39 ERA as a 19 year-old rookie. This kid is a stud. He will be in the TOP 10 in Cy Young balloting in 2017.
- Scott Kazmir – Would you rather have Scott Kazmir for 2 more years for $35 million or Jeff Samardzija for 4 more years and $79 Million or Mike Leake for 5 years at $68 million. They are all the same guy. Yes, Kazmir was injured last year, so that means he will always be injured? Of course not!
- Brandon McCarthy – He has always had good stuff but is injury-prone, and he re-invented himself with the Yankees in 2014, much like Rich Hill. I can see him pitching out of the pen, maybe as a set-up guy, but he’s also an option in the rotation. You can argue that he is injury-prone and I will argue that he is due for a healthy season. We will find out.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu – The fact is that most pitchers with labrum surgery do not make it back. Will he be different? We can only hope and wait! He was once very good. Maybe he will be again… or not! I have no expectations… only hope!
- Jose De Leon – He is in the mix, unless he is traded. I am not convinced that he will be a great starter (although I am not saying he won’t). I do think he can be an Andrew Miller type arm out of the pen.
- Brock Stewart – I really like this guy as a back-of-the-rotation guy. He can be solid “innings eater” and he has good stuff. His ceiling is that of a #3, but I see him excelling as a #4 or #5. He’s ready if given the opportunity.
- Ross Stripling – He had a nice rookie year, one year removed from TJ. He will be better in 2017 and will likely pitch out of the pen or as a swingman. With injuries, he could start if needed. He is great depth.
- Alex Wood – I see him in the pen, but he will be given a shot at the rotation. His delivery is better suited for the pen, but he has had success as a starter. Don’t discount him. He is 25 and has had two seasons where he has pitched over 170 innings.
- Walker Buehler – A year removed from TJ, he is throwing 98 MPH and has absolutely filthy stuff. I could see him in the rotation after the All-Star Break…. or in the bullpen.
12 starters deep! Not all will pan out. There will be injuries and setbacks, but I love our depth. The Dodgers do not need another starter, They are set. I don’t think Carlos Frias, Chase De Jong, Trevor Oaks or Jordon Sheffield will be factors in 2017, but they are certainly “depth.”
BTW, If you haven’t read this, you should:
In anticipation of Spring Training, I am going to post Spring Training Pics until pitchers and catchers report.