Even though the Dodgers lost Ted Lilly in the early start of the 2012 season, they lost Chad Billingsley with a torn elbow ligament during the second half of the season, Nathan Eovaldi was traded away to Miami, Chris Capuano‘s amazing start faded away after the All-Star Break, and their ace Clayton Kershaw battled a bout with the flu on Opening Day, a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, and a scary hip impingement, the Dodgers’ starting rotation was still second in the National League behind Washington with a collective 3.34 ERA.
The Dodger starters had a record of 56-56, and like individual pitching, Win-Loss records for cumulative pitching efforts can be deceiving. Run support was low hence the .500 record. Dodger starters were fifth in the NL in innings pitched with 987 2/3. That was due in part to the innings eater backend starter Aaron Harang who admirably pitched almost 180 innings this season. The Dodger starters ranked third in HR/9 with .80. They were towards the bottom in walks per 9 innings with 2.99 and in 12th place. They sat in 6th place in strikeouts per 9 innings with 7.51.
The Dodger starters allowed 374 earned runs this season and 88 homeruns. They cumulatively allowed 328 walks while striking out 824. They threw 9,946 strikes and 5,661 balls.
Clayton Kershaw had another Cy Young worthy season despite a less than stellar looking record of 14-9. Kershaw led the National League in ERA, WHIP, and hits per 9 innings. Since the Dodger ace missed a couple starts due to the hip problem, his strikeouts were down from the previous season from 248-229. He still was only one whiff behind R.A. Dickey for the most Ks. Nevertheless, Kersh pitched two complete games and two shutouts this season, and he only allowed one more homerun than the previous season (16). Locking up Kershaw to a long-term deal is most likely on the horizon for the Dodgers. Kershaw, who is still young, is only going to get better as long as he’s healthy.
Chad Billingsley is the big question mark this winter, and the Dodgers will most likely need to sign
another top tier starter for insurance in case Bills succumbs to surgery. The right-hander had finally turned his season around and was impressing before he had to end his year with a tragic torn ligament in his elbow. Currently Bills is trying to rehab by undergoing plasma rich injections in his elbow in hopes that his elbow can heal on its own. If not, Chad will need Tommy John surgery which will sideline him the entirety of next season. Bills finished with a 10-9 record and 3.55 ERA in 25 games started. He only pitched 149 2/3 innings, the least amount since 2007.
Chris Capuano started off brilliantly in 2012, but he couldn’t keep the momentum through the second half. Cappy, who has undergone two Tommy John surgeries himself, was healthy most of the season until his last start when he bruised his shoulder with a batting donut. The crafty lefty finished his first season with the Dodgers with a 12-12 record and a 3.72 ERA in 33 games started. He pitched 198 1/3 innings, which was the most for him since 2006 with Milwaukee. Capuano will be an integral part of the Dodger rotation going into 2013, and hopefully he can pace himself during the long grueling season.
Aaron Harang got the job done this season. Other than his record breaking 9 consecutive strikeout game, Harang was pretty mediocre yet sturdy. In his 179 2/3 innings pitched, he went 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts. He did walk 85 batters which was well more than he has ever walked in his career. Harang will be looked to next season to do what he did this season by eating innings and being reliable. Actually Harang pitched better than I expected him to this season, and there was many times he pitched himself out of jams quite nicely.
Ted Lilly’s extreme rustiness landed him on the disabled list early this season. Lilly underwent shoulder surgery last month, and he is expected to begin throwing in about another two weeks to a month. In Lilly’s mere 8 starts this season, he actually flashed moments of brilliance. It was a shame that he succumbed to rustiness since the Dodgers were faring very well in the beginning of the season when Lilly was still around. The crafty lefty was 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 48 2/3 innings pitched. Will Lilly be healthy for next year? That is not certain, but he does have one more year left on his contract.
Nathan Eovaldi was the hard luck young right-hander who never would get a real shot with the Dodgers before being traded off to Miami in exchange for Hanley Ramirez. He was 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 starts with the Dodgers. He only pitched 56 1/3 innings for Los Angeles in 2012 before being carted off to the Marlins. With the Marlins he ended up with a 3-7 record and a 4.43 ERA in 12 games started. Eovaldi has talent, and we wish him nothing but luck in his career.
Josh Beckettwas added to the team in the mega deal with Boston, and I must say that I was happy
with his showing so far for the Dodgers. He became increasingly more important after Billingsley was hurt and Kershaw missed some starts in the latter part of the season. He went 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA for the Dodgers in 7 games started. The Dodgers hope that Beckett’s fresh start in L.A. can help him return to 2007 form when he won 20 games with Boston.
Then there was Joe Blanton. The Dodgers were seemingly desperate to pick up a starter after they traded away Eovaldi. They did not want to rely on Stephen Fife or John Ely, so they claimed Blanton off the waiver wire from Philadelphia in exchange for a minor leaguer Ryan O’Sullivan. Blanton made 10 starts for the Dodgers, and he finished with a 2-4 record and a 4.99 ERA. Blanton was merely a fill-in since the Dodgers sacrificed some of their rotation strength at that point in the season in order to add some depth to the lineup. Blanton will not be back for the Dodgers next season thankfully, and so I will be spared in having to watch his cringe worthy starts again.
Then there were Stephen Fife, a minor leaguer who had a few spot starts this season. Stephen Fife made his Major League debut with the Dodgers on July 17th, and he went 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 5 games started. Fife was actually commendable in his appearances, and he struck out 20, walked 12, allowed 2 homeruns and 8 earned runs in his 26 2/3 innings pitched. The goggle wearing righty will likely start 2013 in AAA for the Isotopes, but we probably will see him at some point during the season.
Even with injuries and low run support, the Dodger starting rotation kept the team in most games and was one of the top rotations in the league this season. Things got a bit hairy once Joe Blanton came on the scene, but we got through it. Clayton Kershaw never gave up, and he showed us what a warrior he truly is. Billingsley’s up and down season came to an abrupt end with the elbow tear, and we are hoping and praying he will not need surgery. Josh Beckett was a nice addition to the squad, and I think he will forge a new path as a Dodger. Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano both pitched commendably, and although they cannot ever fill the hole completely from the departure of Hiroki Kuroda, they are now Dodgers and I respect that.
The Dodgers continue to generate great pitching which has always been a mainstay of their legacy and history. This winter will most likely lead to the signing of another pitcher which will bolster the five-man rotation and serve as insurance since Billingsley and Lilly are still questionable. Overall the season was full of excellent pitching.
Season Grade- Starting Rotation- A-