Sunday, June 5, 2011

What about the pitching?: 2011 Dodger pitchers so far

The Dodgers' starting rotation is one of the best in the NL but, with little run support, they appear worse than what they actually are. This team isn't the 2010 Seattle Mariners but they have done a good impression of them at times. The bullpen has let a lot of games go by as well and I will touch on the collapse of what looked like an enviable pen before the start of the season. First, however, the starters.

Clayton Kershaw is becoming the ace the scouts believe he has the ability to be. Right now, Kersh has a better xFIP than Felix Hernandez, Jared Weaver and C.C. Sabathia. He currently leads all pitchers in strikeouts with 96. It's appointment television whenever he gets the start. Aside from a few too many home runs, he is in the discussion with the elite starters at age 23.

Chad Billingsley's admirable first two much has been masked by poor run support. He has the usual amount of strikeouts, he has stayed rather consistent and all the peripheral numbers suggest that his numbers aren't real. We're at the point where it can be said that CBillz is a solid starting pitcher. He's probably not going to be a star but he has silenced most of his critics who have questioned his pitching.

Ted Lilly has been reliable as well. The book has been written about him and he hasn't diverted from the pitcher he is. He pitches to contact, gives up some HR's and he doesn't walk people. A fan hopes for more from a pitcher that will be around for another two and a half seasons at the salary he was given but if he can fight back regression, he will have value.

Hiroki Kuroda has been slightly less effective than he has been in the past. He has given up more HR's than he is accustomed to giving up and he has been more hitable than before. Still, he hasn't failed to step up to the mound so far. MSTI suggests he will be traded and, if the Dodgers are out of it when the Yankees or some other team come calling, I will be alright with him going elsewhere. He's about the only player that the Dodgers have coming off of the books next year that has displayed value so far.

Now, let's switch gears and talk about the bullpen. How much time to you have? There's so much to cover. Jonathan Broxton is not the sole target for blame but he has the least amount of value of any Dodger pitcher this season (-0.3 WAR; tied with Lance Cormier). Brox should be out of commission until he is truly healthy. There is no reason to rush him back. As far as Hong-Chih Kuo goes, who knows what should be done with him? He has anxiety issues and when you add that to his lengthy injury history, it's really quite a miracle when Kuo takes the mound.

Vicente Padilla had the closer job at one point. He was out with injury to start the year and is out again but when he was the closer, he was......meh. Not a lot to speak of but, when he gets healthy he may be the best bet to be the closer until Brox returns. Matt Guerrier has been himself which is not much to get excited. The league caught up with Kenley Jansen and he seemed to have readjusted before landing on the DL Mike MacDougal has had too important a role because of the injuries.

What has been exciting is the arrival of prospects Rubby De La Rosa, Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom. Rubby De La Rosa has looked impressive, Guerra has been better than half of the Opening Day Dodgers bullpen and Lindblom, well, we'll see. De La Rosa gets his first start on Tuesday in Philadelphia. With the other two, at least they are getting a chance. If they avoid giving up leads, they will be well above par for this year's bullpen.


So where does this team go from here. The Dodgers have the Phillies, the Rockies and inter-league opponents in their future, so if they don't get pummeled in the upcoming month, they might be able to compete for the division. The Dodgers are a better team than the Arizona Diamondbacks. I don't see the Dodgers slipping past Colorado or even San Francisco. I don't think the Dodgers are all that good this year. I would rather they improve their future chances to win the World Series. The Dodgers could still go on a tear but in order for the Dodgers to be buyers at the trade deadline, the team is going to have to step it up. By that I mean Juan Uribe and Casey Blake have to get healthy and stay healthy, respectively.