Dodgers Roundtable: Pitching Staff Better or Worse?
The second question the Dodgers’ Way staff looked as was whether or not the Dodgers pitching staff is better or worse than they were in 2015.
I think the pitching staff as a whole will be improved from last year. The top-end will take a hit with the loss of Zack Greinke, but last years’ rotation was just killed by injuries. Getting Hyun-jin Ryu back, whenever he is back, will be a huge addition. Scott Kazmir has been very good for the last two years and should improve a bit moving to the NL into a spacious ballpark. Kenta Maeda is still an unknown, but if he can establish himself as a middle-of-the-rotation arm it will allow Brett Anderson to move back to the number five starter role, which is what he was brought in last year to be. He would have been a great number five last year, but injuries forced him to the three spot and into the playoff rotation. Not to mention Alex Wood, who pitched like a number two starter in Atlanta and Brandon McCarthy. There’s also that Clayton Kershaw kid. Obviously, injuries can mess this whole thing up, but there’s more talent and depth than there has been in recent years throughout the whole staff.
I am still mourning the loss of knowing Zack Greinke will no longer wear Dodger blue. His bat flips as well as his talent on the mound will be greatly missed. However, call me crazy, but I think the pitching staff is going to be better than last season. The Dodgers coming into 2016 have more options when it comes to their starting rotation and hopefully Hyun-jin Ryu will be ready to join the rotation as well. I still do not feel too confident in the bullpen, but after spring training when the roster begins to settle, I think I will feel better about it when I see how they preform during the spring. At the end of the day the Dodgers still have the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. If the other starters can add some depth and pitch well, then I think the Dodgers still have a great staff. There can only be one Ace and that is clearly Kershaw, but with Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-jin Ryu, Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger and Frankie Montas all as potential other starters I think the Dodgers will have much more depth and flexibility when it comes to starting pitching. Not to mention Brandon McCarthy coming back later into the season.
For me this is an unequivocal yes. Just the fact that there won’t be any starts by the likes of David Huff, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, Joe Weiland and so on is enough to replace the much of the production lost on Zack Greinke. Over the course over a 162 game season, I see no reason to suggest that the Dodgers rotation won’t again be top 3 and I believe most of the projections agree with me here. I mean it’s simple, last year the Dodgers had nothing after the Kershaw-Greinke tandem as Anderson was being forced out of his depth in the no.3 spot and there was nothing behind him. This year the Dodgers have pitching 1 through 7 – they could run a 7 man rotation and their no.7 (McCarthy probably) would out-pitch most team’s no.4. Whilst this rotation would be better with Greinke in it, I think it’s undoubtedly better than last years.
The one area where it does concern me is in the playoffs. I don’t think having a deep pitching staff is all that beneficial in October and I can see some of our starters getting out-matched head-to-head in the post season. At the same time, Jose De Leon and Julio Urias are both in the wings in AAA and look to be true impact arms, they will also have plenty of opportunity to make a move at the deadline which seems a little bit more feasible now that the Dodgers have 2015 deadline hero Alex Anthopolous in the front office.
Losing a guy like Zack Greinke hurts. There’s no debating that and it’s true the Dodgers didn’t replace him with another ace. The Dodgers took a “there’s strength in numbers” approach to filling the gaping hole in the rotation and boy did they fill it. Coming into spring training, there are no less than nine pitchers who could compete for a rotation spot.
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Obviously Clayton Kershaw is a lock, and it’s likely the rotation shakes out with Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu assuming he’s fully recovered. After those five, they have Alex Wood, Mike Bolsinger, and top prospects Julio Urias and Jose De Leon close to being ready in the minors. That sounds a little better than the Mat Latos, Joe Weiland, David Huff revolving door from last year right? Basically, the 2016 rotation should be able to withstand the inevitable injuries that happen to starting rotations.
I’m going to say the pitching staff is slightly worse than last season, just because losing a Cy Young caliber pitcher like Zack Greinke is going to be a huge blow for pretty much any rotation. That being said, with the depth the team has been able to acquire over the offseason, they just might be better than last year in aggregate. Last season, injuries forced the team to rely on starts from guys like Mike Bolsinger, Joe Wieland, and Carlos Frias. While Bolsinger was surprisingly good in short bursts, the current depth means that should the injury bug strike again, the guys that will be called on to fill in will not be fringe Major Leagers but bonafide quality pitchers. So, to summarize, the loss of Zack Greinke hurts but the pitching staff should still be close to as good as last year.
Heading into this year, I believe the Dodgers biggest concern will be their starting rotation. Last season we saw the rotation get carried by Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Brett Anderson. While replacing Greinke with Kazmir is not a bad consolation prize, it doesn’s necessarily leave the Dodgers in an ideal spot. Replacing one of the most historic seasons in baseball history will be a tough task, but the Dodgers hope to do so with the duo of Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. The Dodgers signing of Maeda can be beneficial as Maeda has had much success in Japan. My only concern is if Maeda’s game will translate as he was not known to miss many bats in Japan. If Maeda can keep his slider and changeup down in the zone, he can be an excellent ground ball pitcher. The fifth rotation spot should come down to a battle of Alex Wood and Hyun-jin Ryu. Wood struggled to adjust last year to his trade to the Dodgers while Ryu missed all of 2015 due to shoulder surgery. Although Kazmir and Maeda have the potential to thrive for the Dodgers this season, they are not Zack Greinke. I am not expecting a Top-5 finish in ERA this season for this staff.