Thursday, September 24, 2009

Everyone Pile On The Dodgers' Rotation

One day after Chad Billingsley lost his no-hitter in the sixth inning (off a three-run HR by Ryan Zimmerman, thanks in no small part to Charley Steiner going out and announcing the no-hitter mere moments before Zimmarman's blast), obscuring what was otherwise a gutty 87-pitch, 9 K performance that (in my mind at least) signals hope for a return of the Billingsley we had in the first half of the season, we get this. That's right, Jayson Stark of thinks that the Dodgers' starting rotation, among eight playoff teams, ranks eighth:

8. Dodgers

Prospective rotation: 1) Randy Wolf, 2) Clayton Kershaw (if healthy), 3) Hiroki Kuroda and 4) (pick one) Chad Billingsley, Jon Garland or Vicente Padilla.

Every time we asked one of our panelists about the Dodgers' rotation, we got a variation of the same response: "I don't even know what their rotation is," said one NL scout.

Uh, that's OK. Neither do they. Wolf, to even their surprise, has morphed into their Game 1 starter, thanks to a great year (11-6, with seven blown saves behind him and more quality starts -- 23 -- than any NL pitcher except Tim Lincecum or Dan Haren). And Kuroda (5-1, 2.34 the past two months) has finally righted his ship.

But the often-dominating Kershaw is still inching back from a separated non-pitching shoulder. And the big enigma is Billingsley, who started out 9-3, 2.72, and then unraveled so mightily, he pitched himself out of the rotation -- but then might have pitched his way back in with six one-hit innings Wednesday in Washington. "He had so much trouble commanding the strike zone last time I saw him," said one NL scout, "I thought something [physical] was going on. He's too good to become that ordinary."

Garland and Padilla will be around just in case. So the Dodgers have options. But they also have way too many questions to sit near the top of this list.

That's okay, this is exactly where I want the mainstream media to be, as of late September: hating the Dodgers, and thereby gift-wrapping for us the opportunity to prove them wrong. The Cardinals are #2 and the Phillies #3? We'll see about that.

(By the way, Stark's article is juxtaposed with Christina Kahrl's Baseball Prospectus article, which uses support-neutral winning percentage (which adjusts for lineup variations and VORPs) to rank the rotations, ranks the Dodgers second of eight, only to the Cardinals. Again, the statistics shouldn't lie, but make sure you check out the subjective conclusion reached at the end.)

Dodgers: Although Chad Billingsley (.502) and Hiroki Kuroda (.519) were the pitchers used here, swapping in Jon Garland (.502) and/or Vicente Padilla (.507) doesn't materially change their ranking. The Dodgers have depth, but their hopes truly rest on the left arms of Randy Wolf (.561) and Clayton Kershaw (.597). [...]

The takeaway? The Cardinals are the obvious class of the league, but the Phillies deserve to rank right with them when you consider that they'll get to start a series with Cliff Lee and could elect to start Happ instead of Martinez or Joe Blanton.


Kyle Baker said...

How good is that Yank-mes rotation after #1 and #2?

Kyle Baker said...

I love statistics. I really do. But in this case, it's easy to see how Stark go so bogged down in the esoteria of pitching stats that he was unable to back da fuck up and say, "Whatever Dodger pitching is doing, it's finding a way to win or keep the team in games as evidenced by their record."

Kyle Baker said...

BTW, re Yank-mes rotation, I hadn't read the length of the article yet so I was assuming they considered Sabathia and Burnett #s 1 and 2, but the article had Pettttittte in the 2 hole, roation-wise. Whatever. My point is the same.

NicJ said...

They said the same thing about our pitching last year. The cubs were supposed to flatten us because of their superior pitching, and see how well that worked. The Phils beat us with one great starting pitcher and a couple of other serviceable ones. I really think their lights out pen is what one it for them last year and we have that this year. We just need one guy on the starting staff to step up.

Anything can happen in the playoffs.