Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m beginning to think that Matt Kemp might just make the roster.
We looked at the position players in Part 1, so this time let’s take a look at pitchers who are candidates to be on the opening-day roster.
Before we get to the rotation, let’s explain a couple of the stats.
ERA+ compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average and adjusts for the pitcher’s home ballpark, considering whether it is a pitcher’s park or a hitter’s park. A league average pitcher has an ERA+ of 100. A pitcher with an ERA+ of 110 is 10% better than a league average pitcher, one with an ERA+ of 90 is 10% worse.
FIP: FIP focuses solely on the events a pitcher has the most control over — strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. It entirely removes results on balls hit into the field of play. If a pitcher’s ERA is higher than his FIP, he probably had some bad luck and is a good candidate to have a lower ERA this season. And if it is lower than his FIP, then he will probably be a little worse this season.
WHIP is walks plus hits per inning pitched. Anything below 1.30 is considered good to outstanding.
Rich Hill (3.32 ERA/126 ERA+/3.72 FIP/1.091 WHIP). You watch Hill pitch and you wonder how he gets anyone out. But he’s great at it. He gave up only 99 hits in 135.2 innings and will probably do more of the same this year. He also had a higher strikeout rate than Clayton Kershaw last season. The big drawback is that the Dodgers don’t like him to face a batter three times in one game, so he only pitches five or six innings per start. Last season he averaged 5.4 innings per start, and many fans blame Dave Roberts’ removal of Hill after four good innings of Game 2 of the World Series as the first domino that set everything in motion for the Game 7 loss.
Clayton Kershaw (2.31 ERA/180 ERA+/3.07 FIP/0.949 WHIP). Not much is known about this guy. Apparently he is a left-hander and should be pretty good.
Kenta Maeda (4.22 ERA/99 ERA+/4.07 FIP/1.154 WHIP). I understand why the Dodgers have him in the rotation, but after watching him dominate while coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs last season has part of me wanting him to replace Brandon Morrow as setup man. If he can channel the aggressive attitude he showed as a reliever into his starts, then look out.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.77 ERA/111 ERA+/4.74 FIP/1.366 WHIP). Full disclosure: Ryu is one of my favorite Dodgers. Ryu is one of those guys who pitches a gem or gets hit hard and early. He is entering the final year of his contract, so he may have extra incentive to pitch well. He will probably come down with “hamstring tightness” or “general soreness” a couple of times during the season so the Dodgers can put him on the 10-day disabled list and give him some extra rest, but otherwise expect the same roller-coaster ride we always get when he starts.
Julio Urias (5.40 ERA/78 ERA+/4.70 FIP/1.586 WHIP). As I am sure you know, the left-hander underwent shoulder surgery last season. He won’t be on the opening-day roster, but he could be back after the All-Star break. The Dodgers certainly aren’t going to rush him back, so I wouldn’t expect much of anything out of him this season. But it’s good thing they spent all that time conserving his innings to protect his arm, right?
Alex Wood (2.72 ERA/154 ERA+/3.32 FIP/1.057 WHIP). Who is the real Wood, the one who had a 1.67 ERA before the All-Star break or the one who had a 3.89 ERA after? The one who gave up two home runs before or the one who gave up 13 after? The one who struck out 11 batters per nine innings before or the one who struck out seven per nine innings after? The answer will go a long way toward determining how easy it will be for the Dodgers to win their sixth consecutive National League West title.
Walker Buehler: (7.71/56 ERA+/5.94 FIP/2.036 WHIP). The Dodgers hoped they could find an October surprise by bringing up Buehler as a reliever at the end of last season. But it didn’t quite work out as they hoped. He will probably begin the season as a starter in the minors, but could fill in for the big club anywhere and still has a very bright future.
Brock Stewart (3.41 ERA/124 ERA+/4.28 FIP/1.369 WHIP). Stewart had a 5.27 ERA in four starts and a 2.18 ERA in 13 relief appearances. But he has solid stuff and will more than likely fill a swing role again this season, getting spot starts here and there to give everyone and extra day off. He may get more than four starts, because the Dodgers need someone to replace the 16 starts Brandon McCarthy gave them last season.
Ross Stripling (3.75 ERA/112 ERA+/3.68 FIP/1.184 WHIP). Check out these monthly ERAs for Stripling. April: 3.86. May: 1.65. June: 9.39. July: 0.90. August: 2.93. Sept.: 6.55. He’ll be a key member of the bullpen again and will pick up a start or two. But he’s already 28, so the time is ticking if he wants to reach the level many predicted of him.
For relievers we are going to add a stat: IRS%, which is the percentage of runners scored who were on base when the pitcher came into the game. If a reliever comes into a game with the bases loaded and two of those runners score, his IRS% is 67%. If none score, it is 0%. This is key for relievers because ERA can be wildly misleading for them. Say for example that Player A comes into the game with two out and the bases loaded and gives up a triple, driving in three runners. Then he gets the final out. His ERA is 0.00 for the game, but his IRS% is 100%. Now say Player B comes into the game with the bases loaded and no one out and strikes out the side. His ERA for the game is also 0.00. Who was the better pitcher? Player B, and you can tell by his IRS% of 0%.
Scott Alexander (2.48 ERA/181 ERA+/3.23 FIP/1.304 WHIP/22.22 IRS%). Alexander was acquired in the offseason and will fill the Tony Watson/Luis Avilan role in the bullpen. He isn’t just a one-out left-hander, he can get right-handers out too and had virtually no platoon split last season.
Pedro Baez (2.95 ERA/142 ERA+/4.44 FIP/1.328 WHIP/10% IRS%). I really thought he had finally figured it out. In the first half last season, he had a 1.43 ERA and looked as if he was going to settle in as the setup man the Dodgers imagined. Then he fell apart, with a 5.13 ERA in the second half, including a gaudy 10.38 ERA in September. He didn’t pitch in the postseason, and we were all happy about that. But here he is, back again, hoping to win fans back so he can break our hearts again.
Tony Cingrani (2.79 ERA/152 ERA+/1.86 FIP/1.086 WHIP/28.57% IRS%). Joining the Dodgers in a trade seemed to revitalize Cingrani, who became an important part of the bullpen in September and the playoffs. He was so good, it was easier to let Watson go to free agency and to trade Avilan.
Josh Fields (2.84 ERA/148 ERA+/4.18 FIP/0.965 WHIP/43.48%/IRS%). He’ll be back to pitch the sixth or seventh inning again, doing what he does best: Strike out hitters and give up a lot of long home runs. He gave up 10 home runs in 57 innings. The Dodgers excel in having a bullpen full of pitchers you are never quite comfortable watching pitch, even though they get the job done more often than not.
Yimi Garcia: He didn’t pitch last season and in only 8 1/3 innings in 2016 because of elbow ligament-replacement surgery. The Dodgers say they expect him to be back. We’ll see if that’s the case.
Kenley Jansen (1.32 ERA/318 ERA+/1.31 FIP/0.746 WHIP/20% IRS%). The best closer in baseball, and there’s no reason to think that will end this season.
Adam Liberatore: The left-hander pitched in only four games last season before he was shut down for elbow surgery. He is apparently 100% healthy, and if he is, he will be an important addition to the bullpen.
Others who could be in the bullpen: J.T. Chargois, Wilmer Font, Tom Koehler, Eddie Paredes.
Ask Ross Porter
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be back this season to answer select reader questions. To send a question to Ross, email me and I will pass it on to him. Please include “Ask Ross Porter” in the subject line.
How Farhan Zaidi built a dynasty … in fantasy football. Read more about it here.