Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman took a shot at Brandon McCarthy during the 2014 offseason. So far, the veteran pitcher has not lived up to expectations. 2017 can help the 33-year-old re-establish himself as a reliable option in the rotation.
In 2014 the Dodgers inked McCarthy to a 4-year contract worth $48m. The deal came following the only season in McCarthy’s career where he pitched 200 innings. When this contract was signed, many fans hoped to have a reliable pitcher in the rotation for the next four seasons. Unfortunately for McCarthy, he never matched those expectations, finding himself on the DL often.
Even with the longevity and lucrativeness of the contract, many fans did not have faith in the injury-prone right-hander. The fans have been proven correct thus far as McCarthy has only made 13 starts in his first two years with the squad. Not only has he had to deal with the many physical injuries ranging from his shoulder to his elbow, but he also had to deal with mental blocks.
Often when players return from an injury, their bodies are stronger and healthier than ever, and this is because of many intense hours of rehab and workout sessions. But the one thing that affects all athletes returning from a significant injury is the mental side of the game. Lack of confidence is prevalent, not in their ability but their body. The players often are too worried about the same body part giving out again that they are unable to perform to the best of their ability.
In 2016, following his Tommy John surgery, the 6’7″ pitcher came up short of making the post-season roster. This was because of his mental blocks, or as many called them “the yips.” This caused him to have little to no command of his pitches. While watching him make his “audition” for the post-season roster, all one could do was feel bad for the 33-year-old as he just couldn’t find the strike zone.
His 2016 season could be summed up with one performance. This was his last chance to prove his value to the team. McCarthy came in to relieve against the rival Giants. McCarthy faced just six batters and was unable to retire any of them. He wasn’t close to the strike zone, and when he finally did find the strike zone, the ball found the Giants’ barrels. Nonetheless, this was a performance to forget for the 11-year veteran.
So with his rough ending to the 2016 season, McCarthy came to Spring Training with a new mindset and flushed out the memories from his previous two seasons with the Dodgers. He also had to earn himself a spot in the rotation on a team that may have the most MLB ready starting pitchers in their system.
McCarthy was able to do just that as he earned a spot in the rotation to start the 2017 season. He proved to make significant strides forward from his forgettable start to his tenure with the Dodgers. The first step McCarthy made was simply making it out of Spring Training healthy. Secondly, he looked over his case of “the yips.”
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McCarthy has proven to be a good option at the back-end of the rotation when healthy, and that is exactly what the Dodgers need. The Dodgers do not need him to be an ace as they have the “Ace of Aces” in Clayton Kershaw. If he can revert to what he was in New York, the Dodgers are in a great spot.
In his 2014 season, McCarthy had an ERA of 4.00 but was able to pitch 200 innings. McCarthy has never been a world beater on the mound. That’s reflected by his career 59-68 record and 4.13 ERA.
Another thing to look into is how reigning Manager of the Year Dave Roberts handles the rotation. Not just the rotation but this newly implemented 10-day DL. McCarthy does not need to force himself to pitch every fifth day.
Even if McCarthy just does not feel right, he can sit out a start and miss just one or two starts with this new rule change. The Dodgers and McCarthy can be extra cautious to get the most out of the 33-year-old. Also with all the MLB-ready arms the Dodgers have, the drop off between McCarthy and the spot starter would not be a large difference.
We can expect McCarthy to be a pitcher who uses his pitches to get weak contact. He is not going to blow guys away as his fastball sits at about 90 MPH. With that said his strikeout numbers won’t be very high, but with his sinker, we hope to see plenty of balls on the ground. McCarthy is best effective when he is in control of his location. If he is locating his fastball and complementary pitches, we can see his ERA be at around 3.45.
Ultimately there is no pressure on McCarthy to be something special, and this lack of pressure can lead to a special season for him. As proof from his first two starts of the season, McCarthy looks ready to prove his doubters wrong and make-up for all the time he has missed. McCarthy has started the season 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched. McCarthy has been solid to start the season; we hope this production continues as he enters the second half of his contract.