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Breaking Down the Pitching Staff


This seems appropriate, given Ted Lilly‘s brilliant performance on the mound yesterday. Sarcasm, people. But I wanted to follow up on my piece breaking down the offense over the weekend, with this. I think the lineup will do some things in 2012, but will the pitching staff be strong enough to make their efforts worthwhile? Read on to find out:

We can start with the good. No, the great. No, the FANTASTIC. Clayton Kershaw, reigning Cy Young winner and Giants killer, will be the ace. Hands down. In fact, he would probably be the ace on at least 12 other National League teams. He’ll have a solid year, and I expect improvement in his performance from last year. Keep in mind, the kid is only 23 years old. He’s got a great future ahead of him.

So, Dodger fans. You know you’ll see Kershaw mowing down opponents every fifth day. He’ll be a leading candidate for the Cy yet again, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 20-win, mid 2-ERA’s season with an increase in strikeouts. What comes next though? Hiroki Kuroda is gone, bumping Chad Billingsley up to the two spot, Lilly to the three.

That leaves us with them, and the new guys. The Dodgers added Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano over the winter to fill out the back of the rotation. I know, it’s painful. But is all hope lost? I don’t think so.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything – the rotation will be a weak point this year. Even if Lilly has an decent season and Billingsley lives up to his potential, we’re still talking about one of the more vulnerable rotations in the league. I can’t reasonably expect more than 10-12 wins from Harang if he has a stellar season, and that would still be a high-3’s ERA and a ton of inconsistency. Sure, he’s had his moments. But for every good month he has, two awful ones follow.

Capuano has been a talent wasted so far. He’s also got some good stuff and a decent track record at certain points in his career. And pitching in the lower-pressure situation of the fifth spot and in such a pitcher-friendly ballpark will have to help. But if he hits 10 wins, Los Angeles should throw a parade. I’m willing to give the guy a chance, but why not just bring up one of the many young guns we have in the farm system and see how they handle the spotlight?

So the new additions come with some questions. Best case scenario, they combine for 20 wins and come up big down the stretch. Worst case, they combine for 20 losses in the first half and are traded away for spare parts. Could be worse.

Luckily, we have the top of the rotation to look forward to. Kershaw, as mentioned above, will be a stud. Billingsley has got me expecting 12 wins and a 4.00 ERA every season. He’s maddeningly  inconsistent and has so much freakin’ potential in that right arm that it hurts. But until he proves to me that he IS a legit flamethrower, I’m tabbing him for those same stats.

And I can’t imagine Lilly getting more than 12 or 13 wins if he goes above and beyond expectations. Unfortunately, the old lefty seems to be losing steam, if evidenced by the awful stats he put up in Spring Training against the Giants yesterday. If Lilly loses his touch, then he’s got nothing left, because let’s just say speed on the fastball has never been his forte.

To wrap up, I’m not necessarily excited for watching anybody but Kershaw pitch this year. I think the Dodgers will score plenty of runs in 2012, but if the rotation is giving up four or five runs a game, it will be a wasted effort. My prediction is the rotation will be good enough to keep the Dodgers in contention. But we might be looking at a mid-season call up or acquisition to spark a playoff run. Because unless Kershaw is pitching every playoff game, we won’t be going very far.