It’s about pitching, stupid. About those arms that start every five days set the tone, lead the way.
That’s the long-held belief, anyway. If teams have demonstrated there is more than one way to earn a ring, the consistent stable typically gets back to pitching, particularly of the starting variety.
So I ask you: Is the Dodgers’ rotation better overall than it was a year ago?
That might seem chuckle-inducing, what with the Dodgers having lost ace Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks. And certainly if you look at the team’s rotation now (Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood/Hyun-Jin Ryu) compared to what it was projected to be a year ago (Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Anderson), it doesn’t stand up.
But if you’re talking about overall depth and what the Dodgers actually ended up starting all season, the case can be made the Dodgers are equal to last year’s group and potentially better.
That’s not the heresy it seems, and in absolutely no way slights Greinke, who was probably the best pitcher in the National League last season.
Last year’s projected rotation just never happened. Ryu was shut down and headed to surgery before making a start. McCarthy made four April starts and was lost for the rest of the year to Tommy John surgery.
So while the Dodgers had baseball’s best one-two in Kershaw and Greinke, things slid dramatically after that in the rotation. Anderson, signed to be the fifth starter, was thrust uncomfortably into the No.3 spot. And the rest of the rotation was in constant flux.
The Dodgers ended up using 16 different starting pitchers last season, tops in the majors. The guy that gave them their fourth most starts (21) was Mike Bolsinger, and he was bumped from the rotation when they tried to revive it at the trading deadline with the additions of Wood and Mat Latos (cut by mid-September).
Led by Kershaw and Greinke, it was still enough to win 92 games. Just not enough to beat the Mets and advance out of the division playoffs.
This year’s rotation has its question marks. No individual is going to replace Greinke and his 19 wins. Maeda is an unknown in this country and there is some question how his stuff will translate here. Ryu is rebounding from shoulder surgery. Kazmir will help but is not exactly a true No. 2.
But it figures to be a solid, consistent group. And perhaps more importantly, at they at least match up to the improved rotations of the Giants (Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain – all over 30 but Bumgarner) and Arizona (Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Shelby Miller, Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray).
Clearly better? No way, but certainly competitive. It figures to give the Dodgers a chance to win every day, which is starting pitching’s main objective.