Starting Something

My wife and I walked into the restaurant on Valentines Day at precisely 5 PM for our reservation. I was stopped by the valet who pointed out to me the sign that said “Coat and Tie Required.” I went back to the car and rummaged around only to find a jacket that was stuffed behind the spare tire. I shook the dust off of the wrinkled corduroy jacket and tried to brush out the wrinkles as I put it on. As I got back to the valet, he said “Well you are half there – but you still need a tie.”

So, somewhat exasperated, I went back and looked all over the car for a tie, but since I rarely wear one anymore, I could not find one. Suddenly, I had an idea as a spotted a pair of jumper cables. I buttoned my collar and in the rear-view mirror, I tied the jumper cables into a perfect Windsor Knot. As I walked back by the valet, he raised his eyebrows and said “Well, that’s a jacket and I guess that’s a tie… but don’t you go starting anything!

Which brings me to why the Dodgers have the best starting pitching in baseball. Part of it has to do with depth. Well, actually… a lot of it has to do with depth. It is pretty much agreed that this is the Depth Chart for the Dodgers’ Rotation:

1. Clayton Kershaw

2. Striker Buehler

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu

4. Rich Hill

5. Kenta Maeda

6. Ross Stripling

7. Julio Urias

Now, I am pretty sure that the TOP SEVEN can’t be matched by any other team. All have had MLB starting experience and all have had periods of exceptional performance. I’m not talking about just being league average or pitching a few innings. All have had periods where they were exceptional. Of course, in some cases, it was months and others it was years. Now, if you want to compare TOP 3 Starters for the playoffs, much will depend upon how well they pitch this season.

What if they needed more? Well, there are more. In my book, Tony Gonsolin is the Number Eight. In case you have forgotten, Tony has a 100 MPH fastball, a hammer curve, a high quality slider and a decent change-up. Last year in A and AA he went 10-2 with a 2.60 ERA with 128 IP. He struck out 155 batters and only walked 42. He should start the season in OKC, but he could be ready very soon. His skill set has been polished monthly the past two seasons. I think he’s close to really close to the show.

Of course, then there is also Michael Grove, Mitchell White and Dustin May… all of whom still project as starters. I also am not including Caleb Ferguson and Dennis Santana, whom I think will be elite relievers, not starters. Brock Stewart will never make it as a starter, and unless he is lights out this Spring, you can say goodbye to him.

The Big Seven

Clayton Kershaw– We start here. The Dodgers just signed him for three more years, some of which is out of respect for what he used to be and some in hope he will come back. He’s young enough and while I cannot predict how he will do, I do know this:

  1. He has changed his off-season training program;
  2. He is highly motivated; and
  3. He knows this is is legacy

I have to be realistic about Clayton. He could get it back and win the Cy Young (again), he could miss the entire season or he could be back and forth from the DL all season. None of the three would surprise me, but the thing is: The Dodgers are prepared for and can handle all three outcomes. There was quite the argument on MLB.RADIO a few days ago when they ranked the TOP 10 Starters and most had Kershaw outside of it. However Jodie McDonald had his #2 and believes he will be back and as good as ever. I hope he’s right, but we can’t predict that.

Striker Buehler– You all know I can’t call him “Walker”. That is a horrible name for a pitcher. All I can say is he is capable of winning the Cy Young… maybe in 2019. What else is there to say?

Hyun-Jin Ryu– Most fans remember him missing almost two full seasons, but before that he was pretty dang good. In his first two years in MLB he won 14 games each season and had an ERA in the low 3.00’s. Then he missed two years with shoulder surgery and the next year he built back up and had a 3.77 ERA. Last year, he was arguably the Dodgers best pitcher as he went 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA before he tore a groin muscle. The Dodgers gave him the qualifying offer knowing that he would probably take it (which immediately made Alex Wood expendable). If he can stay healthy, he is a force to be reckoned with.

Rich Hill– His breaking stuff is among the best in baseball and in his first season in LA he pitched much deeper into games until the blisters slowed him up. That seems to be in the past, and in the last year of his contract, I would pitch him like a rented mule. He’s capable of pitching much deepen into games. In 2016, he went 12-5 with a 2.16 ERA and followed that up with a 12-8 record in 2017 to go with a 3.32 ERA. He has not pitched over 135 innings for 12 years, but I would not be surprised to see 150 and that is just fine.

Kenta Maeda– In his rookie year, he pitched 175 innings with a 3.48 ERA while his next two years were not as successful. The Dodgers are saying he is a starter, and if he gets ahead in the counts, he is death on hitters. If he doesn’t, hitters are the death of him. He will start the season in the rotation but don’t be surprised if he goes to the pen or is traded…. especially as Julio Urias shows he can pitch deeper into games.

Ross Stripling– This guy would be a starter on most teams. He was 8-6 with a 3.02 ERA last season with 122 IP before getting injured and then tipping his pitches. In April, he had a 2.76 ERA, May was 1.20 and June was 2.48. He doesn’t walk many and when on, he has the stuff of a solid #3. I think he could be in the rotation sooner than later.

Julio Urias– His arrival was set back by his shoulder surgery but the Doctors assured us there was no structural damage and said he would be good as new. They were right. He can still dial it up to 97, but typically works at 93-95 MPH. To me, he projects as our #2 by the end of the season. He just has to build arm strength. I would not be surprised to see him in the bullpen as the long man at the start of the season.

There will likely be injuries, but the Dodgers are more equipped to handle them than any year. They have the depth to weather a storm of injuries. Barring catastrophe, this is the best starting staff in baseball.

I saw theArticle on the Dodgers Starters by Rowan Kavner on Dodger Insider… after I wrote this. There is a lot of other info on this page, including and interview with AF, an update on Corey Seager and proof Kike is in great shape.

More great photos here in the2/14 PHOTOBLOG

This article has 24 Comments

  1. Best rotation in baseball, you’d better believe it! I can’t wait for your article tomorrow about the the Dodgers best bullpen in baseball. Not as far off as you might think. Pitching and defense, it all starts here. Sprinkle in aggressive base running, timely hitting and attention to fundamentals and you have the Dodger’s way to play baseball.

    Anyone else concerned that Corey Seager is 25 lbs. lighter? I didn’t think he had that much to spare.

    Clayton Kershaw has had back problems that sent him to the DL for three straight years. Does he all the sudden have it all figured out now? He changed his off season routine? Didn’t he do that the last 3 years?

    Julio Urias is going to look like Walker Bueller by the All Star break. Calling him a number 2 is almost insulting. I don’t think people really realize how great this kid is.

    The bullpen is going to be insanely good this year. 13 guys are on the depth chart and all of them have shown flashes of brilliance.

    1. Seager put on weight after the surgery due to inactivity so I think that is included in the 25 pounds.

  2. One way to keep pitch counts down and take advantage of depth would be to go to a 6 man rotation.

    Stewart will be lights out and make the team.

    Friedman mentioned that the team has a group of players that have played together for awhile. Off the top of my head I would include in that group Kerhsaw, Jansen, Stripling, Pederson, Hill, Hernandez, Maeda, Baez, with Seager, and Taylor in their 3rd year with the longer term group. There is some glue there and shared success. Pederson, Stripling, and Seager are three of the five that used to share a house still on the team.

    1. I mean, it’s OK to be confident but…
      “I should be in the lineup every single day,” Bellinger told The Athletic. “I don’t think there’s a question about that. Even when I’m not good, I’m still really good.”
      *
      What does that even mean?
      *
      Time to back-up your words, young man.

      1. Agree, he’s been good his first two years – better than good his first. At some point in time though, your play needs to make this a moot point

        1. That sounds more like something someone told Cody, not necessarily Cody’s own words.

          And we have heard the Dodgers say publicly more then once, that Cody would be an in the line up everyday this year, so maybe that is where Cody got that.

  3. “When I’m not as good as I should be I need to work hard to get better.” That’s what I would like to hear from a good, potentially great player. Especially a player with a good first year and not so good second year.
    If someone told him what to say, they should stop telling him and maybe he should stop listening. Maybe he could have a talk with Chase Utley. Get your head on straight young man.

    1. Bobo

      Cody needs to stop talking because this is not the first time I heard someone say something like this, about Cody.

      But when I watch Cody on the field, I don’t see any body language from Cody, that Cody thinks he is all that, like his words are coming across here.

      And I am not saying someone told him to say that, I just think he is repeating what he has been told, about himself.

      1. Cody has a ton of swagger, which is fine. He’s a young charismastic budding superstar playing for the best franchise in the sport. As long as his production on the field matches his ‘tude, I’m fine with it.

        1. I don’t think Cody is anything like Machado or Puig, when it comes to that stuff.

          Because believe me, I am not impressed with any player that thinks they are all that, especially if they are not all that.

          I think you prove that with actions, through production.

  4. I don’t think Cody is anything like Harper or Machado (or Puig) but then he hasn’t been in the show that long, and extra humility looks better than extra pride. Cody looks like a great kid, (at 68 most everyone seems like a kid to me) and potentially a great player.
    I was a bit critical when I said, ” get your head on straight…”
    What I should of said is “keep it on straight Cody ”
    I love the attitude and chemistry this team seems to have, I only want it to continue.

    1. Bobo

      I think we both expect the same from a player.

      I just think we miss understood one another.

      And your right, Cody is still a kid, because he only played a month in AAA, and last year was only his second year in the majors.

  5. Cody was asked about all that bulk he put on last year.

    And Cody feels that extra bulk he put on might have been to his detriment last year.

    I know Rick Monday has said on more then one occasion, that Cody has to have a lot of flexibility to swing like he does, so I think Cody is right about that.

  6. I don’t think the dodgers SP are the best. Neither is their bullpen. They will not win the world series this, the yankees, national, philles, red sox, braves and huston will be good if not better. Brewers Don’t sleep on them. Thanks dodgers barely beat the Brewers.

    1. The Brewers are a good candidate to not make the playoffs.

      I’ll be here in November. Come back and let’s see what you have to say.

      Drive by shootings are pointless!

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