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:
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Rich Hill
5. Kenta Maeda
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:
- He has changed his off-season training program;
- He is highly motivated; and
- 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