Stacie and I have decided to work on a new series of posts. We will be reviewing all of the different areas of the 25 man roster for 2012. We already covered the Dodger Bench. Today we will be covering the starting rotation. The Dodgers made two additions to the rotation, and lost a very important piece. Let’s bunker down and take a look at the Dodgers starting rotation for 2012 and projections for each starter.
The pitching staff was generally solid for the Dodgers in 2011, and the rotation was a team strength for most of the season led by Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw.
1.Clayton Kershaw-Cy Young
2011-21-5 2.28 ERA 54/248 BB/K BB/9 2.1 SO/9 9.6 233.1 IP
2012-17-8 2.72 ERA 66/229 BB/k BB/9 2.7 SO/9 9.5 218 IP
2011 National League Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw will once again anchor the rotation as staff ace. In 2010, Kershaw had a breakout year. In 2011 Kershaw blossomed into an amazing display of complete and utter domination over all opponents, leading the way to winning the Cy Young award. He has taken the first step towards his destiny as the rightful descendant of Sandy Koufax.
Kershaw is “the one,” meaning he is the Dodger Ace destined to win many Cy Young awards and lead the Dodgers staff to greatness while overpowering all batters. Honestly looking at Kershaw’s stats from last year, no one hit him. No one hit Kershaw. Not anywhere, not anytime, and not anyplace. Kershaw is a power pitcher that doesn’t walk many batters. He had a 9.6 strikeout rate last year, and his walk rate was 2.1. He led the league in just about everything. Wins, ERA, strikeouts, Opponents batting average against, and WHIP.
It is very possible that if the Dodgers can find a way to score more runs in 2012, Kershaw may not lose a single game next year. You think he was great last year? Just wait until 2012. Last year his starts every fifth day were a refreshing reprieve from the losing. Kershaw also does everything else well. He has a great pick-off move, fields his position (he won a gold glove), was a leader in sacrifice bunts, and he even swings the bat well too. Kershaw’s magnificent pitching arm is a gift from the Baseball heavens. Without Kershaw we would be completely lost. Clayton Kershaw is the greatest pitcher in the National League.
2011-11-11 4.21 ERA 86/152 BB/K BB/9 4.0 SO/9 7.3 188 IP
2012-9-10 3.67 ERA 73/158 BB/k BB/9 3.7 SO/9 8.1 174 IP
With the sad departure of Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley is forced up into the number two spot in the Dodgers rotation. Bills is a strange case study. I still can’t figure him out. He is either very good or very bad. Like a Jekyll and Hyde pitcher. Or perhaps as Vinny would say, “the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead.” Anyways Bills was very good in 2007 and 2008, and after an all-star first half of 2009, he struggled. In 2010 Bills rebounded to have a nice year, but still struggled with his consistency. During the last few years, we’ve seen a disturbing trend from Bills, his walks have gone up, and his strikeouts have gone down. With the exception of 2010 when his walk rate was lower than the year before. Just check out his walk rate each year. In 2008 it was 3.6, it rose to 3.9 in 2009, then he dropped it to 3.2 in 2010. Then in 2011 it rose all the way up to 4.0. That’s not good. His strikeouts have decreased each year too, from 201 in 2008 down to 152 last year. This is a troubling trend. Bills does do one thing very well, which is keeping the ball in the park. Unlike the home run machines I’ll be covering after Bills, his HR/9 rate is exceptional. He has never allowed more than 17 home runs in a single season. In 2010 he only allowed 8 the whole year and only 14 last year. That gives him a career HR rate of 0.7.
Bills is still a power pitcher. He throws a fastball, cutter, slider and change. Fan Graphs projects him for a 3.67 ERA, 73 walks and 158 whiffs. That’s a solid season I would be fine with from Billingsley. Which Bills will show up in 2012 is anybody’s guess.
3. Ted Lilly
2011-12-14 3.97 ERA 51/158 BB/K BB/9 2.4 SO/9 7.4 192.2 IP
2012-12-11 3.47 ERA 50/168 BB/K BB/9 2.2 SO/9 7.5 200 IP
Ted Lilly’s 2012 projections are very similar to his numbers from the 2011 season, although slightly better. The veteran lefty is entering his second season of a three year deal.
Lilly has two major weaknesses, the home run ball and stolen bases. His career HR/9 rate is 1.3 and he allowed 28 home runs last year. Lilly is a fly ball pitcher with a high leg kick that prevents him from holding runners on. The thing is Lilly isn’t that bad, and at times can be very good. 2011 saw him finish with a 12-14 record and a 3.97 ERA. Lilly puts up very good strikeout to walk numbers. If he ever was able to keep the ball in the park, he would be a very solid pitcher. Last year around the end of August, Lilly discovered an improved grip on his slider, which allowed him to use it as an out pitch. It was very effective. Lilly did not allow a home run in any of his last seven starts of the season. Lilly won five of his last seven starts pitching very well in September. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come. He’s going to have to try and come up with some kind of slide step in order to hold runners on base better. Lilly is mostly smoke and mirrors. He mixes speeds, throws a lot of off-speed pitches, and moves from one side of the rubber to the other in order to keep hitters off balance. He eats a lot of innings, as he pitched in 192.2 last year and projects for 200 in 2012. He’s crafty, and he knows how to get batters out. He was much better against lefties, and I think if he continues to find success with his new slider grip, I think Lilly will have a better year in 2012.
11-12 4.55 ERA 53/168 BB/K BB/9 2.6 SO/9 8.1 186 IP
2012- 10-11 4.12 ERA 54/159 BB/K BB/9 2.5 SO/9 7.5 190 IP
Chris Capuano is much like Lilly and Harang. The lefty is a fly ball pitcher that puts up good strikeout to walk numbers but gives up too many home runs. The home runs are what really killed Capuano last year playing for the Mets. His HR/9 rate was just as bad as Lilly’s was. (1.31). Capuano allowed 27 home runs in 2011. Fan graphs projects him with almost identical strikeout to walk numbers, but projects his strikeout rate to come down a bit. Capuano does worry me because he pitched in Citi Field last year which is a big ballpark. Now Dodger stadium is a pitcher’s park too, and he only allowed 10 of those home runs at home. What really worries me are his splits, .224 against lefties, and .283 against righties. 21 of those 27 home runs were served up to right handed batters. Capuano will have to stay healthy, keep the balls in the park, especially to right handers.
5. Aaron Harang
2011-14-7 3.64 ERA 58/124 BB/9 3.1 SO/9 6.5 170.2 IP
2012 Projections-7-12 4.50 ERA 58/144 BB/9 2.9 SO/9 7.3 176 IP
Remember Aaron Harang? Sure we do. He actually pitched pretty well against the Dodgers in 2011, and nearly no-hit them during one outing last summer. Aaron Harang had a pretty good year while pitching in the mausoleum of Petco Park in San Diego. His numbers are almost identical to Lilly and Capuano. With Harang though, his strikeout numbers aren’t as good. His problem is the same, he allows too many home runs, but allowed less (20) than Lilly and Capuano. Harang has allowed as many as 35 home runs one season when he was pitching with the Reds. His 2012 projections has his strikeouts increase, his walk rate the same, but a much worse ERA. Actually Harang’s strikeouts have decreased each year since he whiffed 216 and 218 in 2006-2007 for the Reds. This actually could be a pretty decent pickup for the Dodgers if Harang can eat some innings and keep the home runs to a minimum.
All five starters are under contract for the next two seasons, so this will be our rotation for next year and 2013. The Dodgers ranked fifth in the National League in staff ERA in 2011. With the loss of Hiroki Kuroda, the rotation won’t be nearly as good as it was last year. Pitching has always been the name of the game for the Dodgers. Recapping, we basically have Kershaw and four middle to back end type pitchers. Although if Kershaw can put up another Cy Young season (he will), Bills can put together two good halves, Lilly can keep using his improved slider grip, and Capuano and Harang can keep the balls in the park, the Dodgers should still have a pretty solid rotation. Maybe not spectacular, but capable.
Go Blue in 2012!