The Last of the Mohicans

… which is one of my favorite movies along with The Shawshank Redemption…. but I digress.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Is Starting Pitching Really Overvalued?  I’ll answer that question with one word:  HELL YES!

When Jim Bowden penned a blog on ESPN Insider this week about starting pitching being overvalued, it has created a firestorm among Dodger fans that is extremely polarizing.  In particular, a quote by Andrew Friedman outraged many fans:

“Starting pitching has become the most overvalued in the industry because, outside of the aces, they are pitching less innings, with less starts as more depth is needed,” Friedman said. “We have a tremendous amount of depth on the prospect side and at the major league end by design. Quantity is just as important as quality in today’s baseball.”

Now, Jim Bowden is not my favorite guy.  I live near Cincinnati and am fully aware of the damage he did to that organization.  However, we all need to realize that he was a MLB GM for quite a few years, which is a whole lot more than any of us.  When he took the GM position, he was the youngest general manager in the history of Major League Baseball. Bowden was named Major League Executive of the Year in 1999 by The Sporting News after leading one of the lowest payroll teams in baseball to 96 wins. He’s a bright out-of-the-box thinking guy.  Look him up – he was responsible for signing or trading for some amazing players, however he screwed up at the end of his career.

You can dislike what he said.  You can even disagree with what he said. You do have a right to believe what you want, but if you don’t believe it you are exercising your right to be wrong! Maybe borderline delusional.  Baseball is changing.  The methodology behind starting pitching is changing… for better or worse, but it is changing.  Here are the facts, like them or not, as presented by Jim Bowden:

  • Five years ago, most teams had 11-man staffs to start the season, with a few going down to 10. Today no teams opened the year with a 10-man staff, but on Opening Day six National League teams (Reds, Marlins, Rockies, Dodgers, Brewers and Padres) carried 13 with eight-man bullpens, and not a single National League team carried less than seven initially.

  • GMs used to build their starting rotations with the knowledge that they needed a five-man rotation at the major league level, and they’d prepare for one or two injuries and make sure that they were seven deep. Now GMs try to have 10 or more starters ready to take the ball throughout the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West while using 15 different starters. The Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds used 15 as well, but the Atlanta Braves led the majors with 16.

  • The medical field also recommends not more than 120 pitches in any start, but many clubs like fewer than that. The average number of pitches per start has dropped from 96 pitches per start 20 years ago to 93 last year.

  • There is also simply too much data out there that says the third time through the order is when most starters get hit and give up the most runs. Twenty years ago, the spread in OPS between a first at-bat vs. a third was almost 60 points; last year that spread had expanded to almost 70 points. Therefore, general managers are building deeper bullpens, not just in quantity to get innings but also quality. Relievers collectively handle more innings than ever before, but they need to be good if teams are going to effectively “win” those games in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings with shutdown relief.

  • Another big change is that relievers are going maximum effort all the time because most face no more than three hitters. But this approach to bullpen usage brings more health risk. Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic doctor, always preached that pitchers should only go max effort in certain situations where it’s called for but pitch at a comfort zone of around 95 percent to give them a better chance to stay healthy. Accepting that risk for bullpen breakdowns means — you guessed it — a demand for GMs to acquire and develop more depth for their bullpens.

It’s funny, because I was listening to MLB Radio the last couple of days and this is a theme that is carrying true throughout all of baseball. Manager after manager and GM after GM is saying the same thing.  The Dodgers may have been at the forefront of this, but everyone is on board… like it or not! It’s easy to see that too.  Look at the contracts starting pitchers have:

  • David Price got 6 Years/$217 Million from the Red Sox and proceeded to put up a 3.99 ERA in his first year in Boston and is currently on the shelf with elbow issues.  On the table is Tommy John or other unconventional rehab.  The Red Sox clearly overvalued this guy.  He is on the downhill side of his career.
  • The D-Bags signed Zack Greinke for 6 Years/$207 Million and got a guy in clear decline because they overvalued starting pitching.  Zack’s fastball velocity has dropped dramatically and while he is a very smart pitcher, Arizona is saddled with a contract they will not be able to move  – a contract they already regret.  Look at him last night – he’s no longer a dominant pitcher. He’s the same guy he was last year:  a smart middle-of-the-rotation guy.
  • Then look at what the Red Sox paid for Chris Sale.  Sale is 28 and is guaranteed just $37 million the next three years, so the Sox traded two MLB TOP 5 or 10 Prospects (Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech)  and another (Luis Basabe) who is currently #8 for the White Sox for Sale. Moncada and Kopech both are “star material” and Basabe is a very good prospect.  Clearly the Red Sox overvalued starting pitching based upon what they gave up.  I think Sale will be very good for 2-3 more years, but the Sox gave up a lot.  The big question is whether Sale can continue to be healthy.
  • Maybe the biggest exception to overvaluing starting pitcher is none other than our Clayton Kershaw who was signed for 6 Years/$211 Million, but that started when he was 27 and goes until age 32 with an opt out after 2018. I think it is quite possible he will not opt out of his deal in 2018, as GM’s will realize that starting pitching is overvalued and will likely quit giving out stupid, dumbass contracts.  It’s quite likely Clayton will be a Dodger for life.  He is a different breed.  That said, he is still susceptible to injury and missing 1-1/2 seasons.

That’s why you build a team with starting pitching depth just like Friedman did with the Dodgers last year.  They are even deeped this year with Jurrjens and Masterson in the mix at 12 or 13.  It’s not likely that the Dodgers will need 15 starting pitchers again this year as overall health is better and the youngsters are more experienced.  There are fewer and fewer pitchers like Kershaw, Sale, Bumgarner and guys of that ilk.  Jake Arrietta, Greinke, Price, King Felix and others are declining  and/or experiencing injury.  You may not like it, but you better get used to it because it’s here to stay.  In fact, I see baseball expanding to 26 or 27 men rosters, which means even more pitchers.  Instead of having 1 guy pitch 9 innings, you will see 3 guys pitch 3 innings each.  Clayton is one of the last of the Mohicans.

From Doug Padilla/ESPN:

  • Dodgers manager Dave Roberts continues to say that LHP Julio Urias could join the Dodgers at the end of April. Urias is scheduled to pitch for AAA Oklahoma City this weekend, where he is expected to go five innings and throw 75 pitches.  I think we will see him the week of the 24th.
  • Dodgers LHP Scott Kazmir (left hip strain) rehabbed Friday with four innings and 75 pitches as he attempts to return from the disabled list. Manager Dave Roberts said Kazmir’s velocity was between 84-88 mph. The starter’s potential return date remains unknown. For a guy who hit 94-95 last year, this is devastating! 
  • Dodgers LHP Rich Hill will return to the rotation Sunday against the D’backs when his 10-day stint on the DL is complete. So, when Rich Hill returns who goes down?  I think Ryu will be DL’ed as a precaution.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Rants & Raves

  • The offense was patient and hit what Greinke gave them.  He really isn’t nearly the pitcher he once was.  All of those bombastic FAZ-Bashers who proclaimed that Greinke is a pitcher who will age well were so full of it that if you gave them an enema, you could bury them in a shoebox.  In retrospect, even Ray Charles can see it was the right move to walk away from Greinke.
  • I like Padilla’s Headline:  Kershaw Sizzles, Greinke Fizzles!
  • If you have not listed to this interview with Andrew Friedman with Mason and Ireland, you are dumber for it!
  • Andrew Toles is tied for the team lead in HR with Yasiel Puig!
  • Corey Seager is back to over .300 and like Nomar said last night:  “He’s a SS.” Stop this moving to 3B talk already.

MINOR LEAGUE REPORT

  • OKC BOX – Won 3-2   Jair Jurrjens  went b6 with 5 hits, 5 K’s and 1 ER.  His ERA is 1.50  What do they do with him?  Dickson is still raking(1.362 OPS) and Bellinger is at 1.057 OPS.  Verdugo was 0-4 but is still OPS’ing 1.007.  Calhoun is a little overmatched right now.
  • TULSA BOX  – Won 3-0   Locastro was 2-4 (.400 BA. 1.103 OPS). Shibuya went 5 and allowed 2 hits, no runs.  Cash pitched 2 shutout innings and Broussard got his second save.
  • RC BOX – Won 5-4  Estevez was 3-5 ands is heating up after a slow start.  Peters was 3-4 and Santana pitched 4 strong innings allowing no ER.  Istler got his first save.
  • GL BOX – Lost 2-0  Davis was 2-3 and is batting .409/1.276 OPS. Rincon is right there too. Smeltzer pitched 5 shutout innings with 1 hit and 5 K’s.

UPDATE

Tonight’s Lineup

  1. Forsythe  2B
  2. Seager  SS
  3. Turner  3B
  4. Puig  RF
  5. Gonzalez  1B
  6. Thompson CF
  7. Hernandez  LF
  8. Barnes  C

GAME  NOTES

TODAY’S MUSIC

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don’t do game recaps or such things — lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don’t think they are the “end-all-be-all.”. This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We’d like to hear your voice.

This article has 58 Comments

  1. Yes, even a cursory examination of the MLB situation shows that the importance of “starters” is going down. The 300 innings per season starter has gone the way of the dinosaur. 200 inning starters next? Increasing the roster to 27 or 28 players might just do it.
    .
    The 2016 Dodgers are a text book example of “not putting all your eggs in one basket” when it comes to starting pitching. We may not like it, yeah, I would rather have 5 Kershaws, but risking the whole season when a Kershaw goes down, by not having enough depth, is foolish.
    .
    When you add in “facts” like the decreased starter production the third time through the order, the writing is on the wall. Goodbye Mohicans.

  2. In my pre caffeine haze, I thought the picture was of Zach Greinke being chased by the Dodger hitters last night

  3. Nice post today! I do think rosters should be expanded by a couple of spots as teams have a short bench, especially in the NL. The Dodgers have great depth in starting pitching and performance will as it should determine who gets the starts this year.

    Kershaw was himself and looked on a mission against his old teamate! Baez looked good too. I liked the lineup last night, it was long with Grandal, Joc and Puig hitting 6-7-8 and Roberts should try it against a leftie. There were some clutch at bats that were grinding type.

    I believe when Hill is activated Wood goes back to the bullpen and Ryu gets a couple more starts to stretch out. Hatcher should go down but is out of options so it could be Avilan who was up and down multiple times last year and has an option left. Dayton and Wood still gives them 2 LHP in the pen.

  4. I think Ryu is trying to “push” through fatigue and 10 days on the DL would give him a needed rest that might save injury later.

    Remember, he has hardly pitched for two years.

    McCarthy at least logged some innings last year.

    1. I agree with you, send Ryu down for some rest and maybe a couple AAA starts. Hatcher looks good and at a minimum is building his trade value.

      Ryu if handled well could be big for us in October.

  5. I would hope the League would allow teams to use the 10 day DL to ease pitchers like Ryu back onto the active roster. Ryu would not technically be injured and I assume doesn’t have options.
    .
    I am not sure I want to expand the 25 to the 26 or the 27. If a team needs more pitchers then they won’t have the players to platoon. That makes teams like the Dodgers to have more of a set lineup and use bench players mostly as pinch hitters and defensive replacements for injured players.

  6. I liked what I saw from Baez last night. Granted we’ve seen this before, and then we’ve seen a 95mph fastball right in the wheelhouse too.

    I’m really intrigued by Wood/Strip handling the 7th and 8th and being interchangeable.

  7. I understand the evolution of pitching. So why all this fuss over protecting young arms? Finding an ace is like finding a needle in a haystack. Should anyone even bother? Let ’em pitch and see what happens. So I guess the thought is there will be a never ending search for that ace, which few will successful at. So how do you find an ace? By letting him pitch. The sooner the better so that if he isn’t one, you can trot out another ace-in-waiting. I think the Bowden philosophy is classic dumbing down. The bell curve turned upside down. The C student that now gets an A. The starting pitcher who really is a reliever for the first 3 innings of a game. Sad, but probably true. Our suits are the leaders in overpaying these guys. How can you defend them when they violate there own philosophy. Or are they learning on the job? I always felts these guys are guessers, with no accountability. Tomorrow they may say that starting pitching is the most important part of the game. Sounds like Washington D.C.

    1. Oh, I don’t know… maybe someone who comments on a blog is more informed and closer to the situation than the guys who get paid millions a year and east, sleep and breathe baseball…. oh and by the way, they have other brilliant people who work for them who analyze all of this.

      But, maybe you go to the Doctor and diagnose yourself and prescribe the cure?

      See, I run a company all week and baseball is just my hobby, but I have learned a little in 54 years of being a fan… still, I don’t know jack shit! The guys who make it their careers know so much more and I defer to them, which is why I chuckle when many things are criticized.

  8. I think a lot of starting pitchers get overpaid because they hit free agency after they’ve pitched at their peak and put a lot of wear/mileage on their arms. Their bloated contracts reflect the bidding among clubs hoping they will sustain their performance but these days it’s nearly impossible to sustain such a high level of performance over the lifetime of these contracts (6-7 years! in some cases). Kershaw is indeed a rare case. As many of you, I fear his opt-out, but I am hoping the FO values his “intangibles.” I don’t know how many articles I’ve read where young Dodgers pitchers speak in amazement about the uncompromising dedication Kershaw has for hard work, preparation and attention to detail.

  9. I see your point about Ryu, Mark and Box, the team has a lot more info than I do on where he is right now. Wood is not really stretched out either and is great out of the bullpen. Maeda could probably use some rest here and there too, they were giving him extra days between starts last year. It gets more complicated when Urias is activated too. Hatcher has pitched well and Avilan too, nice problems to have! Let’s see how Maeda pitches today and if Hill has good command tomorrow. Corbin is a tough leftie and pitched 6 shutout innings against Cleveland in his last start. It will be a stiff test and Toles and Joc probably sit and maybe Grandal who had some bad at bats last night.

    1. Vegas

      I think your right, Grandal should sit to night.

      I think they should give Barnes more chances, especially against, lefties.

      And it isn’t that I don’t like Grandal, I just think it keeps Grandal rested, and we can see what Barnes can do, with his bat.

      I hope Maeda can do a good job tonight, because the Dbacks hit him pretty well last year, but Dodger stadium, especially with this colder weather, will help a lot, I hope.

      1. Why would you sit someone after they are showing signs of coming out of a slump and had two hits the last game? That makes no sense… It made no sense when they sat Joc after his big Opening Day.

        1. Mark

          I wasn’t sure that he had two hits last night, but I thought I heard that.

          But after Vegas said that, I wasn’t sure.

          I was just thinking about how we can do better, against lefties.

          And it is always good to give Grandal a rest, to keep him healthy.

          He is actually hitting well, against righties, his over all average is down, because of what he has done, against lefties.

          And I think Barnes needs more at bats, and he might do better against lefties.

          Puig still doesn’t have a hit against a leftie.

          1. Better against lefties is the key phrase.

            An interesting part of the Friedman podcast/interview was how he’s almost resigned to the team not being great against lefties.

            Citing the left-handed spine of the team (Pederson, Seager, Grandal) and the paucity of LHSP it seems like the goal is to be not horrible.

  10. Baez hit 98 mph and 45 seconds between pitches. Maybe they could show baseball bloopers between pitches.

  11. I didn’t see the whole game but saw Grandal take 2 bad swings on a strikeout off Greinke on breaking balls in the dirt. I would like to see the same lineup go tonight as went last night, just don’t think it will happen. Grandal being a switch hitter seems like he could get just one day off a week. Puig is playing every day and Joc should too for his defense alone. I do like Barnes though, he’s a scrapper.

    1. I like Barnes also, and in the probable last days of the 25 man roster, Barnes sure does add a lot of versatility. He has already pinch ran and played third base. Don’t see many second string catchers doing that effectively. Oh, and even though it seems like he hasn’t done anything with the bat, he has a .333 OBP.

    2. Vegas

      Like I said, I couldn’t remember for sure if he had two hits, and I watched, the whole game.

      But after seeing Grandals stats against lefties, it might be better to see if Barnes can hit lefties.

      Like I said, I like Grandal, and I just think catchers, should have more days off, then they do, because of the ware and tear.

      And it would be nice to give Barnes a couple games a week, to see what he can do, and that will keep Grandal fresh too.

      Because I think he wares down, in the season, and I think he would hit better throughout the season, if he gets timely, days off.

      But I know how Mark feels that it would be better to play Grandal, so he can build off the hits, he got last night.

      Because Mattingly use to upset me, when he would bench someone, right after they just started, hitting.

      And actually Grandal is hitting just under 300 against righties this year.

  12. MJ, Grandal “wears” down; not wares down. I wonder if you pitched a LH pitcher in innings 1-3 then a RH pitcher in the 4th to 6th inning whether this would force the opposition to start pinch hitting sooner. If so, this would impact the ability of the opponent to have enough hitters to account for situational pitching substitutions in the later part of a game. The pitching change forces the opposing manager to have to make more choices which potentially increases the risk of making bad decisions and, hopefully gives our team an advantage. I’m all for giving the other team the chance to screw up in a key situation and then taking advantage of the error. Also, I’m a big fan of a 27 man roster, and expansion to 32 teams. Let’s give another 120 players the opportunity to earn ML level pay and provide an opportunity for a multitude of players, coaches, MLB managers and executives, etc.

  13. This is something I have been preaching for some time now. The game is changing and change isn’t always bad. It is not just that we do not see 300 IP pitchers any longer, we don’t see 250 IP pitchers. Soon the 200 IP pitcher will be gone. I do not have to like the trend, but I do accept that is where the game is headed. The Dodgers organization is extremely deep in starting pitching. All will not make it, but with the number of current pitching prospects, there will be more than a handful that will. Ross Stripling and Alex Wood would be the #4 or #5 in most rotations in baseball, but they are not with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are very fortunate to have them both in the bullpen ready to start if need to, but more than capable of being a shutdown reliever in a high leverage situation. Hello Andrew Miller. I acknowledge Stripling/Woods/McCarthy/Maeda are not Aces. But the last time I checked, games where the #3, #4, and #5 pitchers started, those games counted just as much as the games #1 and #2 started.
    .
    I also acknowledge pitchers like Kazmir will end up being salary busts for the Dodgers. It is highly doubtful that even as well as McCarthy has started this year, that he can makeup for the two years that were lost. Probably the best he could do is to continue to excel, and allow the Dodgers to trade him. Baltimore has two years to win before their Cinderella Carriage turns into a pumpkin. They need starting pitching. I know some have, but I am not willing to give up on Rich Hill. He has a better chance of fulfilling his contract value than Greinke does. Kershaw and probably Scherzer seem to be the anomaly in the $200M 6-7 year contract starting pitcher. Lester at $155M, and for one year and three games, Cueto and his $130M seem to be decent investments. Greinke, Price, Verlander, Zimmerman, and Felix Hernandez, are not earning their Ace contract money. Strasburg is an unknown right now.
    .
    If Kazmir is still in the 84-85 MPH range, it is more than mechanics that is affecting his velocity. It sure seems like he is an extreme longshot to make the roster this year. 60 Day DL him, and hope the year off helps him, and he can somehow try to comeback next year. It serves no purpose to DFA him this year. 60 Day DL serves the same purpose. The same with Ethier.
    .
    Looking at the roster, I see no other choice for the Dodgers other than place Ryu on the DL when Hill comes back. Ryu has worked exceptionally hard to come this far back, but he is not back to being an effective pitcher. I think the bigger question is who is moved when Urias comes back. One of the relievers will undoubtedly have a meltdown and become the logical choice.

  14. Mark, are my comments always going to require moderation before posting? Do I need to do something on my end?

    1. Sorry,

      I was working outside and did not check. Well, I hope that it does not stay that way.

      Make sure when you register, you use a valid e-mail address and use a name, but it looks like you have.

      I made a slight change, let me see what happens. Dodgerpatch has the same issues. Always Compete also had it but that was resolved. Let me know. It is nothing intentional.

      1. Knew it was not intended. Would like to speak to you about Indy. Can we arrange a timeframe for a call?

        1. I like almost everyone… almost.

          Your comments are appreciated.

          I am going to have my IT guy look at both yours and Dennys. I have no clue what is wrong.

          Don’t give up hope.

    1. This should be a telling game for both Thompson and Hernandez. LAD gets a righty tomorrow (Taijuan Walker), but have back to back lefties on Monday and Tuesday (Robbie Ray and Kyle Freeland). Wednesday would have been Jon Gray’s spot in the rotation, but he is on the DL with a toe injury. Note – Other pitchers other than Dodgers pitchers do go on the DL. One of three AAA pitchers will get a call and a probable start. It could be lefty Harrison Musgrave who will get the call against the Dodgers, and then option him back and bring up German Marquez or Jeff Hoffman, two prized righties. LA needs production (anything) from Thompson and Hernandez to give them a chance.

    1. Then, there is this:

      In 2006, Bowden traded Gary Majewski from the Nationals to the Reds along with Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, and Brendan Harris for Austin Kearns, Felipe López, and Ryan Wagner.[13] The trade caused some controversy, as the Reds front office was apparently unaware of cortisone shots that had been given to Majewski because of arm pain before the trade.[14] It was alleged that Majewski was known to be injured by Bowden and the trade was an attempt to dump him for some value to some unsuspecting team. In his time with the Nationals Majewski was an effective pitcher, with a 2.93 ERA in 2005 and a 3.58 ERA with Washington up until he was traded. With the Reds he had very little success, with a 7.28 ERA in parts of three seasons. He was not re-signed after the 2008 season and to date has not pitched in the major leagues again. A grievance was filed with MLB alleging misconduct by Jim Bowden and the Washington Nationals.[15] MLB has never revealed their findings and no punishment is on record.

      In February 2009, it was reported that Bowden along with former special assistant José Rijo were part of an FBI federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonus money from Latin American baseball players. He resigned from the Nationals on March 1, 2009.– Wikipedia

      1. When you find myself agreeing with the guy I question my intelligence. I like Casey Close on Sirius.

        1. Even stupid people are right some of the time, but I actually think Bowden is smart, just devoid of character! He’s a slimeball!

  15. Mark, I just discovered that you were back online. Boy have I missed your comments. You are spot on about how pitching is baseball is changing. I’ve been going to games since my dad took me to see the Dodgers in 1958. I live in Reno with my XM Radio and MLB package so I watch or listen to every game along with my wife, 4 kids, 14 grand kids and 2 great grand kids. You notice the XM and MLB package were listed first. Drives my wife nuts. But when you have the Dodgers in your Blue Blood, I can’t control the passion.
    Welcome back!!!!

  16. That’s the Kike Hernandez I know and love. His love for the game is back and he is a very unique player.

  17. I have so much confidence when Alex Wood comes into the game as a reliever. I hope he realizes that this may be his ticket to becoming big time. I trust him!

  18. Thompson should go back down to AAA. They sent him down for a reason and getting 10 or 11AB’s doesn’t accomplish their goal. He’s not a good enough defensive player to warrant finding his timing at the big league level. If there is still a spot on the 40-man, Dickson can’t be any worse defensively than Guetierrez these days.

      1. They risk losing him in a roster shuffle later but we all know he’s blocked by and endless number outfielders and Bellinger. Now should be his chance.

  19. What must Fields be thinking he needs to do to stay on the team in the bullpen? 3IP, 1H1BB, 6 K’s, .100 BA.

    1. “This will be so worth it if I get a ring.”

      Hopefully, that is what he is thinking!

Comments are closed.