The Dodgers are known for having excellent pitching. Throughout their rich history, the Dodgers have prided themselves with putting pitching at the forefront. This tradition continues to be an integral part of the Dodgers organization to this day, and the Guggenheim era has certainly invested in some prime pitching talent. Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw were big investments for the post-McCourt Dodgers, but this pitching stash should be the backbone of a championship team with the possibility of a longer Dodger dynasty.
The Dodgers pitching corps is arguably the tops in the league. As of now (I’m not considering Masahiro Tanaka in this assessment), the Dodgers have a incredibly strong rotation and bullpen. The pitching staff is set to be one of the best Dodger arm collections which we have ever seen. Pitching is what brought the Dodgers to the door step of the World Series last season, and 2014 pitching may just win a championship for them.
Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp are still sought to be successful sluggers in the Dodgers lineup next season, but the pitching is what the Dodgers will rely on. Last season we saw what great pitching can overcome. Injuries hampered the Dodgers lineup, but somehow a season filled with at-bats by utility guys like Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker ended up bringing them all the way to the NLCS. Some timely hitting helps too of course, but the Dodgers led by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke consistently were solid on the mound.
The bullpen will be even more stacked in 2014. With the entire bullpen essentially locked up for next year, this Spring Training won’t be much of a tryout for minor league hopefuls and NRI relievers. In fact, the Dodgers have extra relief pitching, and players like Chris Withrow may not even make the Opening Day roster. Extra pitching is always useful, and I’m sure Withrow will be with the club at some point this season. The Dodgers will also have Chad Billingsley and Scott Elbert back mid-season.
Billingsley, who is working back from Tommy John surgery, shouldn’t be overlooked. Even though all eyes are on Masahiro Tanaka right now, the Dodgers will still have Josh Beckett on the books and a rehabbing Chad Billingsley. A healthy Billingsley is certainly an extra dose of pitching which could be a big boost to the Dodgers later in the season.
Kenley Jansen‘s dominance has been a huge part of the Dodgers success. The converted catcher has become one of the best closers in the league, and once the Dodgers solidified his role in the bullpen, the rest of the pen sorted itself out. Kenley’s heart condition stuttered his Dodger career for a moment, but he feels great now and it shows.
Brian Wilson will pitch in late innings for the Dodgers, and the eccentric reliever adds energy and talent to the Dodgers bullpen for 2014. Wilson and Jansen will be a two-headed closer, and the Dodgers could be unhittable once the eighth and ninth inning roll around next season.
The bullpen will also have Chris Perez who could add even more depth to this multi-faceted pen. The Dodgers moved on from the Ronald Belisario soap opera, and Perez looks to be a potentially potent relief arm. The Dodgers will also have a dedicated long-reliever in Jamey Wright. Ned Colletti stressed the importance of a long reliever in the postseason at Blogger Night last year, and Wright will fill that role well. Don Mattingly also did use Wright in other situations during his first stint in Los Angeles, so look for him to be utilized as more than just a mop-up man.
The Dodgers also will have two strong left-handers to start the year off right. Paco Rodriguez, although tired at the end of last season, was phenomenal during most of the season in his first full year in the Majors. Hopefully Mattingly will use him a little less than last season to keep him sharp. J.P. Howell will also be returning, and the southpaw was really getting stronger as the season progressed and into the playoffs.
The multi-dimensional bullpen is a thing of beauty. The Dodgers have put together a perfect blend of left-handers, long-men, late inning guys, and strong middle relief. I’m really excited about this bullpen this year. Even Brandon League will get a mention,
and I hope the bewildered reliever can regain his form next season. I’m less worried about League this time around since the Dodgers have so many other choices to go with this next season. League will get some innings, but hopefully they won’t be any important ones.
The starting rotation is so strong for the Dodgers, that the bullpen may not even be used a considerable amount. When you have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching every five days, you feel confident that they will consistently go deep into games. Hyun-jin Ryu, who is working out early this offseason in order to start off strong in 2014, was consistent and a joy to watch pitch last season. Ryu’s sophomore season will be important not only for the Korean lefty but also for the Dodgers who will look for him to prove that he will be a steady force in the Majors. Ryu is already a superstar in Korea, but I see him becoming even brighter here in the U.S. Dan Haren was a great pickup by Colletti this offseason, and the veteran will be a nice backend starter for the Dodgers next season. You’re as strong as your weakest link, and if Haren is the fifth starter then the Dodgers rotation will be rock-solid.
Even if the Dodgers don’t get Tanaka, they will still have a impressive rotation. Like I said before, the Dodgers don’t need Tanaka. Sure, I’d love to have him, but Zach Lee could potentially be a very real choice for that fifth spot. Lee, Stripling, Magill, and Fife are also on hand to try to win that spot this Spring, and that group of pitchers are all viable options to start for the Dodgers next year.
The legacy goes on, and the Dodgers could even go bigger by signing Tanaka. This dream rotation with Tanaka could potentially be the most diverse and talented Dodgers rotation we have ever seen. As of right now, the Dodgers pitching staff is already golden. Remember, the Dodgers also have one of the best pitching coaches in the game with Rick Honeycutt. Honeycutt has really helped shape this contemporary Dodgers pitching dynasty over his past eight years as pitching coach.
The Dodgers’ pitching greats like Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe are still a part of the organization, and are there to lend expertise and mentoring to young pitchers and even veteran pitchers which also adds an extra tool for the team which other teams may not have at their arsenal. Having Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw together in a room is pure magic, and watching Sandy throw out the first pitch last season really encapsulated the Dodgers pitching legacy in that moment.
There’s sure to be a lot of strikeouts and sliders this upcoming season for the Dodgers. With a little help from the lineup the pitching staff could really take them far.