Dodgers: Starting Rotation off to a Strong Start in 2018
Despite the rough start to the season, the Dodgers starting rotation has been stellar in their starts this season. This starting rotation has lived up to the hype thus far and I don’t expect them to slow down.
Entering the season, there were many different opinions on how the starting staff would perform this season. The problem many saw with this rotation was the lack of a second ace behind Kershaw. Others saw the depth of this rotation and knew they would be fine.
This staff does not have two “A” starters and a bunch of “C” starters to follow. This team has one “A+” starter, and the remainder of the staff are either a “B-, B or B+” when they are on like they currently are. Not a very flashy staff, but boy do they sure get the job done.
First, let’s start with discussing the best pitcher on the planet. Clayton Kershaw has had a solid start to the season despite what his record may show. He currently boasts a 1.89 ERA/1.11 WHIP/ 19 K’s in his 19 innings of work. An excellent start to a season for any pitcher but for Kershaw it is a bit underwhelming if we are honest.
The expectations for Kershaw will always be sky high from fans, and even higher from himself. Kershaw has been a victim of lack of run support from this offense, which is why he is 0-2 on the year. Clayton has pitched well, but he has also looked pedestrian at times and still has a small home run problem. Either way, I expect Kershaw to be even better as the season progresses and that is scary.
Now onto Alex Wood. Wood started his season with a masterful performance at home against the rival Giants. He threw eight innings of one hit baseball and had five strikeouts. This season in just two starts Wood has a 1.93 ERA/0.50 WHIP/10 K’s. Wood has looked good to start the season. He started strong last season but died off towards the end as fatigue and shoulder issues got the best of him.
He was an intriguing part of this rotation entering the 2018 campaign because he had a spectacular first half, below average second half and was outstanding in his postseason appearances. So it was interesting to see if last season was a fluke or if it was a stepping stone for his future as a starter.
Wood has made a minor change this season. He has decided to work solely out of the stretch to simplify things and help his control. His unorthodox motion is a blessing and a curse because it throws hitters off but can also throw him off. Hopefully working out of the stretch rids the latter as it has done in his first two starts.
Now to the elder statesman of the group Rich Hill. There isn’t much to say about Hill. This season he looks the same as he has since his career renaissance started. No real change to anything he is just sticking to what has worked for him, and it is working again this season so far. 2.70 ERA/ 1.50 WHIP/ 10 K’s in 10 innings of work.
He is still giving hitters a healthy diet of his nasty curveball and getting swings and misses on his 90 MPH fastball. His change of speeds is brilliant, and hitters make that fastball that sits 89-90 MPH look like a fastball thrown by Aroldis Chapman because they are sitting on a curveball.
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Kenta Maeda has made just one start, and he looked good. He had ten strikeouts in 5 innings of work and didn’t allow a single run to cross home plate. Due to scheduling, the Dodgers were able to work a four-man rotation, and Maeda was used out of the bullpen to add depth, and in his one appearance he struck out two and didn’t give up a run in 1 inning.
Maeda has 12 strikeouts in 6 innings of work, which shows how dominant he can be when on. The problem with Maeda has been innings. He has not been able to get deep into games very often in his career. Though that can be harmful, that is something the Dodgers can work with if he is giving them 5-6 dominant innings a start.
Now the fifth starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. After a forgettable start, He gave up three runs on five hits and was unable to complete four innings of work. But Tuesday night Ryu showed flashes of who he was back 2013. 6 innings of 1 hit baseball and eight strikeouts. Ryu had everything working.
He has always been known for that filthy changeup, but he has added a power curve to his repertoire thanks to being around two of the best curveballs in baseball with Hill and Kershaw. If he can command it like he did Tuesday night teams are in a heap of trouble if they are expecting a normal fifth starter.
Ryu could have a resurgence this year with that new pitch. Even in his first start his changeup looked nasty, just a few missed spots with his fastball got him into trouble, and he couldn’t get out of it, but Ryu as a number five starter could be the best in baseball.
Next: Maeda is the ultimate team player for the Dodgers
This rotation is off to a fast start. Kershaw could still get better, Wood looks like last season was not a fluke, Hill continues on his career renaissance, Maeda is the best Japanese pitcher in the bigs and Ryu could very well be the best fifth starter in baseball. I expect this staff to continue to build on this good start to the season.