Dodgers Dugout: Guess who has the best rotation in the NL West? (Spoiler alert: They wear blue)
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I'm wondering why Kobe Bryant gets a farewell that lasts all season, while most Dodgers fans can’t even watch Vin Scully in his final season.
Rating the starting pitchers
Continuing our rankings of the NL West teams at various positions, I turn to the starting rotation. If you want to see the infield comparison, go here; outfield, go here. If you see a stat you don't recognize, such as WAR, WHIP, FIP or BABIP, just click on it and you will be taken to the explainer. Stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
I am going by what the teams have listed on their depth chart, and what others have written about it. There will be some changes, especially in the No. 5 spot of a team’s rotation, but as of right now, this is how the rotation breaks down.
No. 1 starters
1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Only Clayton Kershaw can go 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA like last season and have it considered disappointing to some. He is the best pitcher in baseball, and the second-greatest Dodgers pitcher of all time, behind Sandy Koufax.
2. Zack Greinke, Arizona
Last three seasons: 51-15/2.30/2.97/1.027/17.5
Greinke has taken over the Greg Maddux role as the smartest pitcher in the game. He had a BABIP of .229 last season, so look for his ERA to go up in 2016, but he should more than earn his money.
3. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 49-28/2.90/2.99/1.044/12.7
Only in the NL West would a pitcher the quality of Bumgarner be considered the third-best ace. He set career highs in several categories last season and is only 26 years old.
4. Tyson Ross, San Diego
Last three seasons: 26-34/3.07/3.13/1.233/6.7
Most people have never heard of Ross, but of the 137 pitchers with at least 40 starts over the last three seasons, he is 17th in ERA. He is helped by playing in Petco Park, but his ERA on the road is only 3.49.
5. Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado
Last three seasons: 39-24/3.92/4.10/1.321/9.5
Don’t let the high ERA fool you. Last season, his ERA was 5.40 at Coors Field but 3.26 on the road. It’s no shame finishing last among this group, but somebody had to.
No. 2 starters
1. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 36-24/2.81/3.45/1.042/11.8
He was great in Cincinnati last season, then fell apart when he was traded to Kansas City. The Giants have to be hoping that was an anomaly and they will be getting the guy who went 20-9 in 2014. Considering his FIP (4.03) was much better than his ERA (4.76) with the Royals, here’s guessing that he will rebound and be a solid No. 2 man.
2. Shelby Miller, Arizona
Last three seasons: 31-35/3.27/3.87/1.243/8.6
Do you wonder why some say don’t give too much credence to a pitcher’s win-loss record? Here’s why: Last season, Miller went 6-17 despite improving in almost every conceivable category from the previous two seasons, when he went 25-18. That’s what happens when your team barely scores over two runs a game when you start.
3. Scott Kazmir, Dodgers
Last three seasons: 32-29/3.54/3.61/1.225/6.1
Kazmir has completely reinvented himself after pitching himself out of baseball in 2011 after a dreadful two seasons with the Angels. He came back in 2013. Three strong seasons later, and the Dodgers may have gotten a bargain, since he can opt out after 2016, right about the time Julio Urias will be ready to join the rotation.
4. James Shields, San Diego
Last three seasons: 40-24/3.41/3.81/1.248/9.2
He gave up 33 homers last season despite pitching half his games in one of the toughest home run parks around. His walk rate also spiked, so the Padres could be in for a long season with a guy they owe $21 million to and who can opt out at the end of 2016.
5. Chad Bettis, Colorado
Last three seasons: 9-11/5.22/4.33/1.568/0.9
After two poor seasons, he took a big step forward last season. But can he do it again?
No. 3 starter
1. Patrick Corbin, Arizona
Last three seasons: 20-13/3.47/3.41/1.197/4.0
He spent about 18 months on the disabled list after Tommy John surgery and returned last season to go 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts. The big question for Arizona is how much they can stretch him out this season, after averaging only a little over five innings a start in 2015.
2. Kenta Maeda, Dodgers
Last three seasons: 41-24/2.26 ERA/1.025 WHIP
Maeda has spent his whole career in Japan, so FIP and WAR are unavailable for him. He won the equivalent of the Cy Young Award last season, but anyone who says they can predict how he will do in the majors is fooling you. There are big question marks with every No. 3 starter in the NL West. I’m ranking Maeda second, but he could easily end up No. 1, or No. 5.
3. Tyler Chatwood, Colorado
Last three seasons: 9-5/3.39/3.88/1.389/3.6
Chatwood missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, but the Rockies have him penciled in as their No. 3 man. If he pitches like he did in 2013 (8-5, 3.15 ERA), then the Rockies will be happy campers.
4. Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 26-39/4.09/3.73/1.234/4.9
His strikeout rate went way down last season and his ERA went way up, two signs of a pitcher who is a lot closer to the end of his career than the prime of his career.
5. Andrew Cashner, San Diego
Last three seasons: 21-32/3.43/3.48/1.248/3.3
He was terrible last season, going 6-16 with a 4.34 ERA. And he couldn’t get lefties out if they came up to the plate blindfolded.
No. 4 starters
1. Jake Peavy, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 27-24/3.83/4.01/1.199/4.9
Peavy, 34, just keeps rolling along, giving you six solid innings and keeping you in the game.
2. Brett Anderson, Dodgers
Last three seasons: 12-16/3.96/3.78/1.375/1.7
He pitched a full season without going on the DL for the first time since the Lincoln administration and will have a lot to pitch for this season, since he will be a free agent at the end of it. If you look up “No. 4 starter” in the dictionary, you will see his picture.
3. Rubby De La Rosa, Arizona
Last three seasons: 18-19/4.62/4.67/1.406/0.3
Another guy who can’t get left-handed hitters out (they slugged almost .600 against him last season). He made every start last season, but that’s not something worth bragging about when you finish with a 4.67 ERA.
4. Jordan Lyles, Colorado
Last three seasons: 16-18/5.02/4.31/1.450/0.1
You know you have troubles when the highlight of your season is going on the disabled list because of a strained big toe.
5. Brandon Maurer, San Diego
Last three seasons: 13-16/4.96/4.05/1.367/-0.9
The guy has a negative WAR over the last three seasons, which is worse than mine, and I haven’t even played.
No. 5 starter
1. Hyun-jin Ryu, Dodgers
Last three seasons: 28-15/3.17/2.97/1.198/5.2
If he’s healthy and pitches anything like he did in 2013 and 2014, then the Dodgers get a big lift. If he’s not healthy, then Alex Wood gets the No. 5 start, and considering he has a 7.1 WAR over the last three seasons, that may not be such a bad thing.
2. Robbie Ray, Arizona
Last three seasons: 6-16/4.38/3.84/1.433/0.9
Only 24, Ray can reach 96 on the radar and has been better than his record indicates. If he can put it together and start averaging more than five innings a start, he could move up to No. 3 status with the Diamondbacks.
3. Carlos Villanueva, San Diego
Last three seasons: 16-18/3.97/3.62/1.257/2.2
The Padres have four guys competing for the No. 5 spot, but Villanueva has the job as of right now. He’s better suited as a long man, but if he can handle the rigors of starting, he will be a decent No. 5 guy.
4. Jonathan Gray, Colorado
Last season: 0-2/5.53/3.63/1.623/0.3
Gray was selected third overall in the 2013 draft and has only nine starts in his major league career. He still has tons of potential.
5. Matt Cain, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 12-21/4.37/4.40/1.244/-0.1
He went from looking like a future ace to pitching a combined 150 innings over the last two seasons because of injuries. All his numbers are trending downward.
That’s it for the rotation. If we assign points based on where a pitcher ranks at each rotation spot, giving seven points for first place, five for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth, then the NL West stacks up like this:
- Dodgers, 27 points
- Arizona, 25
- San Francisco, 20
- Colorado and San Diego, 9
Incorporating the infield and outfield totals, the teams in the NL West grade out like this:
- Dodgers, 62 points
- San Francisco, 59
- Arizona, 50
- Colorado, 39
- San Diego, 24
Closer, bullpen and bench are still to come.
Just a reminder that Vin Scully is heading into his final season, and most of us still can’t watch the Dodgers on TV. I’m going to repeat this in every newsletter until someone important, either with Time Warner Cable, the cable/satellite providers or the Dodgers decide to do something, or at least act like they care. So far, none of them seem to. Sure, they will all say they care, but actions speak louder than words.
You can take a closer look at the Dodgers’ rotation in this article by Andy McCullough.
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