The Dodgers have the best record in Baseball right now, and they are off to their best start in 30 years. Of course good pitching will help you do that. A big reason for the great start is the solid pitching they have been getting since the start of the season. I wanted to take an inside look at the Dodger pitching staff. I will take a look at what has been going right and what they need to improve upon.
Of course a staff what includes Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, all-star Chad Billingsley, and strikeout machine Kenley Jansen should not have many problems. We might have one little problem with the Dodger pitching staff though. Far too many Walkapaloozas. Now I know I may be nitpicking a little too much, what with the Dodgers in first place and all, but I think by looking at the numbers and watching some of the walkapaloozas over the first two plus weeks of the season is making me think the Dodger pitchers are issuing way too many walks.
Most people who know the game well know that walks will kill you. The Dodgers are third worst in the NL in allowing walks. The Dodgers have allowed 62 walks so far, only two other NL teams have issued more. Some people call the NL West the Wild Wild West. With the Dodgers, that nickname fits. The Dodger pitchers are issuing walks at a frightening pace. Seven dodger pitchers have walk per nine rates above 4.00, and five hurlers are over 5.00 free passes per nine. Many pitchers who aren’t known for giving up free passes are walking guys at crazy rates. For example, Ted Lilly, in his last start at Houston, despite pitching well and getting the win, walked six men. Lilly’s normal average per game is just over two walks per start. There was a game in San Diego in the first week where the Dodgers walked ten men. Yes ten! Last night Chris Capuano won despite walking four men. Cappy’s walk per nine rate is at four per start now. His walk rate is not normally this high. (Lilly’s walk per nine rate was 2.4 last year, Cappy’s was 2.6)
Despite all of the walkapaloozas the Dodger pitching staff is fifth in the NL in ERA, tied for first in whiffs, and second in Batting average against overall. They have kept opponents to three runs or less in nine of their 13 wins this season. The Dodger pitching staff is doing a great job of stranding runners in scoring position. With RISP, the Dodger pitching staff is holding opposing hitters to a .205 average, and .682 OPS. What’s the catch? If you guessed walks, you would be correct. The Dodgers have allowed 28 walks with runners in scoring position, second highest in the NL.
The Dodgers have a power pitching staff, but you know that saying live by the sword, die by the sword. Normally power pitchers can have trouble with locating their pitches. The Dodgers may be striking out a lot of hitters, but they are allowing way too many free passes.
Here is an interesting stat about the Dodger pitching staff. Remember how much I hate Don Mattingly’s bases loaded pitching changes? Read on to find out why. The Dodgers rank thirteenth when pitching with the bases loaded. Opposing batters are hitting .333 with the bases juiced off of Dodger pitching. The Dodgers are also the only team to have allowed two grand slam home runs. One coming in that horror show on Sunday. The Dodgers lead the league with 20 earned runs allowed with the bases loaded. Which comes out to a 1.188 OPS against. This is why Don Mattingly needs to STOP making pitching changes with the bases loaded.
The Dodger pitching staff has generally been very good through the first six innings of games, but less effective over the last three innings. During the first six innings, hitters are batting just .202, and the Dodgers are fourth with a 2.91 ERA, and second with 94 whiffs. How are the Dodgers from the seventh inning on? Well you be the judge. They are ranked tenth with a 3.53 ERA, and 22 walks. From the ninth inning on, they are holding batters to a .132 average, and have a 2.65 ERA. That is thanks to Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, and Josh Lindblom of course.
What about the Dodger splits? Well taking a look, you will see lefties can give us trouble. The Dodgers are ranked tenth in ERA vs. lefties (4.07), but they hold batters to a .228 average against. The 32 walks could play a big part in some of the struggles against left handed bats. However a .685 OPS against is nothing to scoff at. Now against right handed bats, the Dodgers are very good. A fourth league ranking with a 2.85 ERA, a .203 opponents average against and 92 whiffs. The Dodgers are again killed by walks. Their 40 allowed to righties, is among the top three in the league.
When the Dodgers are ahead, the pitching staff falters a bit to a 3.14 ERA, 39 walks, but a .209 BAA. Now when the Dodgers are behind is when the staff struggles, although that blow out game on Sunday more than likely made this stat even worse. When behind the Dodger staff is dead last in the NL with an ERA of 6.14, and a BAA of .281. However the Dodgers haven’t been behind much this year.
When the game is late or close though, the Dodger staff is ranked third. A 1.85 ERA, .158 BAA, and 25 whiffs. The starters have been very good. The Dodger starting pitchers rank fifth, with a 2.92 ERA, .219 BAA, and 93 whiffs.
At home the Dodger pitchers are at their best. The Dodger staff is ranked fourth with a 7-0 record, a 2.43 ERA, .212 BAA, and 64 whiffs in 63 innings of work. On the road, they are good too. Ranked sixth, 3.60 ERA, .212 BAA, 87 whiffs, in 90 innings. For whatever reason though, they struggle during day games. The Dodger staff has a 4.33 ERA, and a .260 BAA. At night though, they are almost un-hittable. A second place league ranking, 2.50 ERA, .182 BAA, and 103 whiffs in 101 innings pitched.
For whatever reason, Sunday is their worst day, posting an ERA of 6.48 on that day. Saturdays are the best days for the Dodgers, they are holding opposing hitters to a .108 average, and posted an ERA of 1.86. Another reason all of these walks aren’t hurting them more than you would think they have, is because of their top ranked defense, which is one of the best in the National League thus far.
The Dodger pitching has been very good, but there are some minor tweaks that can be made to improve the staff. What have we learned about the Dodger pitching staff so far? Ronald Belisario should give the team a boost in the bullpen once he comes back off of suspension. Josh Lindblom HAS to remain with the team. Cappy, and Harang, are good, but have trouble going past six innings before tiring out. Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, and Mike MacDougal all need more work to stay sharp. They pitch better at home, and during night games, and they could use another lefty in the bullpen.
The Dodgers have a good pitching staff. It is good enough to win with. However they still need to work on a few things. With a solid young pitching staff like this one, I believe they will continue to learn, and get better. They need to stop the walkapaloozas, and work on improving their control. Mattingly needs to stop the bases loaded pitching changes, better bullpen management. After all Elbert hadn’t pitched in a week, and I was beginning to worry if he had been kidnapped. Last but not least, beware of the dreaded Sundays.