Dodgers Dugout: How has the Dodgers’ reliance on once-injured pitchers worked out for them?

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell. This morning I woke up with a sore arm, so I am hoping Andrew Friedman will sign me to a big contract.

Sore-armed crew

As longtime readers of this newsletter know, I have not been the biggest fan of Andrew Friedman. I keep hearing about how he has maintained a strong major-league roster while keeping the farm system intact, but most of the top players were there when he got here, so I’m not sure how much credit he gets for that. He holds on to prospects like a man stranded in the desert holds on to his canteen of water, and when he does trade some prospects, we get guys like Mat Latos, Jim Johnson, Josh Reddick and Rich Hill in return. (I’d like to point out that you have made as many appearances for the Dodgers as Hill, and the team didn’t have to give up a thing to acquire you.) 

One of the things Friedman has done is to build the starting rotation with a bunch of guys coming off arm injuries or other pitchers who can be signed or acquired relatively cheaply. Instead of giving people like Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto $150 million-$200 million (or more), he has been content with spreading out that money to guys like Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir. Has this strategy been successful? Let’s take a look at the Dodgers career for some of these pitchers:

Brandon McCarthy: 5-2, 4.53 ERA in 12 career starts with Dodgers. In second year of four-year, $48-million deal. On the disabled list.

Kenta Maeda: 11-7, 3.31 ERA in 23 starts. In first year of an eight-year, $26-million deal that has heavy incentives. Success or failure?

Scott Kazmir: 9-6, 4.44 ERA in 23 starts. In first year of a three-year, $48-million deal with an opt-out close after this season. 

Alex Wood: 6-10, 4.19 ERA in 22 starts. On the 60-day DL. In second season with Dodgers and under team control until 2020. Gave up no players of consequence to acquire him.

Bud Norris: 3-2, 4.34 ERA in six starts. On the 15-day DL. Gave up no players of consequence to acquire him on June 30. Is a free agent after the season.

Brett Anderson: 10-10, 3.92 ERA in 10 starts. Was on disabled list for all of 2016 until making his first start Sunday. Is a free agent after the season. Making $15.8 million this season.

Rich Hill: Has not played for the Dodgers. On the disabled list with blister. Acquired for three prospects who project to be mid-rotation starters or bullpen arms.

Mat Latos: 0-3, 6.66 ERA in five starts in 2015. Released during season.

And that doesn’t include pitchers signed for low money who didn’t work out, such as Scott Baker, Joe Wieland and Brandon Beachy.

Maeda has been a really good signing. Kazmir got off to a shaky start but has been pretty decent since then. The big question is, will he opt out after the season? I’d say no if it ended today, but let’s hope he rolls off a string of victories and leaves. Anderson was a great signing last season, but has been a disaster this season. Alex Wood has great long-term potential, but long-term potential does no good unless he fulfills it. Latos was a disaster. I’m not convinced Rich Hill actually exists. I think Friedman will end up on an episode of “Punk’d” with the A’s tricking him into trading for a player they invented. So, the strategy of signing a bunch of high-risk guys and hoping three or four pan out hasn’t been a big success.

The Dodgers talk a lot about how their “depth” has paid off this season, but I’m not sure you get to brag about depth when you knew you were relying on a bunch of injury-prone pitchers. If depth is due to “let’s get a bunch of pitchers who get hurt a lot. When one goes down, the next man can fill in till he gets hurt,” you can’t really jump up and down and get excited about it. If I hire a construction crew to build a new house, and they build 10 houses because eight of them are going to collapse after I move in, I don’t think they get to brag about the depth of the houses either.

But what is the alternative to the above? Let’s say it’s Greinke and Cueto. I get a lot of emails saying a rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, Cueto, Maeda and Kazmir would be nice. Except, if the Dodgers had re-signed Greinke and signed Cueto, they would not have signed Maeda or Kazmir. So, it would be a rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, Cueto and…. who? Remember, if you sign Greinke and Cueto, you can’t sign a bunch of borderline guys hoping a couple of them stick. Dodgers ownership did not want payroll staying above $300 million forever. You have to pick two or three and hope they work out.

If I were the GM, I would have let Greinke go because the years and asking price would have made it too much of an albatross for the last three seasons. I would have signed at least one of the other big names, like Cueto. But would the Dodgers really have been better off? Cueto would replace Maeda. Maybe it gives the Dodgers three more wins and puts them in first place. Or maybe Cueto gets injured in his second start. The problem with playing Fantasy GM is that in the mind of the person playing, all their decisions turn out great.

Friedman took a different course, one I would not have taken. Many fans thought Friedman’s course would land the Dodgers in fourth or fifth this season. They are in second place. Friedman’s performance will ultimately be judged on how the Dodgers do in the playoffs, if they make it there. They will need Kershaw back and another starter to step up big to reach the World Series. They will also need a couple of people on offense to get hot and stay hot throughout the playoffs.

I’m still not a big fan of Friedman. I think he relies on numbers to the exclusion of everything else, and that’s not the best way to run a team. I think he sometimes has a small-market mentality and treats players like they are numbers instead of people. And I think he got lucky that ownership pushed him to hire Dave Roberts instead of someone else. But his starting pitcher strategy has not been a colossal failure. It is just a strange strategy to use when you have the resources the Dodgers have. Of course, if the Dodgers collapse and fail to make the playoffs, then we can totally blame him.

Speaking of Hill

Hill was acquired at the trade deadline to bolster the rotation. He was on the disabled list because of blisters and was scheduled to start Aug. 7 against Boston. But a new blister pushed him back to Friday against Pittsburgh. Then the Dodgers decided he would pitch this coming Friday against Cincinnati. On Sunday, the Dodgers said no, Hill will face hitters at the Dodgers’ training camp in Arizona on Wednesday or Thursday, which means the earliest Hill will start is Aug. 22 in Cincinnati. Except the air is damp in Cincinnati, and that’s not the best conditions for a pitcher with blisters, so maybe he will start Aug. 23 against San Francisco. I believe they mean Aug. 23 of this season, but at this point I’m not quite sure. Meanwhile, for $3 they could have bought a jar of pickles and stuck Hill’s hand in it. Pickle juice is great for blisters, or so my mom always told me. 

Good news and bad news

The Dodgers got some good news Sunday with the return of Brett Anderson. Then they got some bad news when he actually had to pitch.

Bud’s almost back

Bud Norris is expected to come off the disabled list this week. Who will be removed from the rotation? Apparently no one, as Dave Roberts said they might go with a six-man rotation.

The rest of the schedule

It looks like the Giants and Dodgers will fight for the NL West the rest of the season. So when do they play each other the rest of the season?

Aug. 23-25, at Dodger Stadium

Sept. 19-21, at Dodger Stadium

Sept. 20-Oct. 2, at San Francisco

You just know the season will come down to those final three games.

The magic number

Each week I will look at a uniform number a Dodger is wearing and go through the history of that number with the Dodgers. When I was a kid and went to games, I was always curious who wore the number of my favorite players. Then again, I was a strange kid. For “best Dodgers to wear the number,” only the stats a player compiles while he was with the team and wearing that number count.

Next up is: No. 35 (Brett Anderson)

Best Dodgers to wear No. 35: Sal Maglie (1956-57), Bob Welch (1978-87), Jim Gott (1990-94).

Others to wear No. 35: Rosy Ryan (1933), Goody Rosen (1944-46), Cal McLish (1946), Marv Rackley (1947-49), Johnny Hopp (1949), Mal Mallette (1950), Pete Wojey (1954), Larry Sherry (1958), Johnny Klippstein (1958-59), Doug Camilli (1960-64), Jim Hickman (1967), John Purdin (1965, 1968-69), Fred Norman (1970), Bobby Darwin (1971), Dennis Lewallyn (1975-78), William Brennan (1988), Dave Clark (1996), Wayne Kirby (1997), Greg McMichael (1998), Brett Tomko (2006-07), Esteban Loaiza (2007), Jack Taschner (2010), Ramon Ortiz (2010), John Lindsey (2010), Jamie Hoffmann (2011), Chris Capuano (2012-13), Jamie Romak (2014), Kevin Correia (2014).

What Vin Scully means to me

I asked you to tell me your best Vin Scully memory, and I got a lot of responses. I will publish selected ones in each newsletter. And keep emailing them to me.

Deborah Goldman: About 15 years ago, my then-11-year-old son and I went to the Stadium Club to cool off after a game.  It was a particularly hot summer day, during which we had sweated a lot and poured cold water over our heads to cool off.  In other words, I was no longer wearing any makeup and my hair was unkempt. 

As we left the Stadium Club, we saw Vinny in the hallway outside the press box.  My son was an autograph hound, so I told him to run and get Vinny’s autograph.  When I caught up to them, Vinny was signing the brim of my son’s cap with a Sharpie. Unable to keep from making a fool of myself, I said, “I just want you to know I’ve been listening to you since the Dodgers moved to L.A.”  Barely looking up, Vinnie said, “You don’t look old enough to have been born when the Dodgers moved to L.A.”  I said, “Unfortunately, I am.”  Without skipping a beat, Vinny said, “No, fortunately you look the way you do!”  My heart melts every time I think of this story.

The TV situation

If you would like to complain about the Dodgers’ TV situation, you have three options: The Dodgers, Time Warner Cable and whatever local cable or satellite provider you have that doesn’t carry the Dodgers. Here’s who to contact:

For the Dodgers, click here or call (866) DODGERS ([866] 363-4377). (I hope you like form letters.)

For Time Warner, click here.

For DirecTV, call (800) 531-5000 or click here.

For your local cable or satellite provider, consult your bill for the customer service number and for the website.

And finally

Vin Scully opens a Dodgers broadcast discussing Tony Gwynn, who had died that day. Watch and listen to it here

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston

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