The Dodgers Rotation: One Sexy Group

This post continues our Depth Chart Discussions. In an effort to suss out every team, we’ve divided them into four parts (infield, outfield, rotation, and bullpen) and will continue to break them down for you over the next few weeks. You can find the Depth Chart Discussion posts gathered here.

By our projections, the Dodgers have the second best starting pitching staff in baseball. That makes for quite an attractive rotation. Let’s discuss these lads, shall we?

Clayton Kershaw

There have been seasons where it has been arguable who the best pitcher in baseball was. That’s not the case anymore. Kershaw is it. If it’s not enough to marvel at his sustained ability to suppress hits on balls in play or homers on fly balls, then certainly his control improvement is something worth applauding. Since I like graphs and this site has the word graphs in its name, here’s a graph of Kershaw’s overall percentage of strikes thrown since his 2008 rookie campaign:

Kershaw Str

It’s just not fair.

Zack Greinke

I was asked by some why I was seemingly down on Greinke, as I had him ranked lower than everyone else. It’s really just regression to the mean in several aspects of his performance. He just posted the second best strikeout rate of his career. That’s unlikely to be maintained. He just posted LOB% rates of 80%-81% for two straight seasons. That’s unlikely to be repeated. He just posted the best walk rate of his career. That’s likely to rise. So I don’t dislike the dude, I like him just fine. Just apparently less, from a ratio standpoint at least, then the rest of the world and even the computer projection systems.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Ryu dealt with a shoulder injury on two separate occasions last season, as well as a glute issue that landed him on the DL. And now he’s suffering from back tightness. So from a health perspective, he’s looking like a bit of a risk. But from a performance standpoint, he has been super solid in his two years with the Dodgers. His skill set ticks all the boxes, combining an above average strikeout rate with ground balls and excellent control.

None of his pitches really stand out though, which has resulted in a mediocre SwStk%. But they are all decent enough, generally induce grounders and are thrown for strikes that together drives good results without the flash. The projections are remarkably consistent, all forecasting ERA marks between 3.26 and 3.29. Sure enough, my own projection calls for a 3.31 ERA, so there’s no disagreement here. The only question is that of health.

Brandon McCarthy

By now, we’re all familiar with McCarthy’s strange 2014. Seemingly victimized by terrible fortune with the D-Backs despite strong underlying skills, things turned around for him upon his move to the Yankees. His overall skills as judged by SIERA remained stable, but his ERA dropped a whopping 2.12 runs. His strikeout surge was likely fueled by a spike in fastball velocity, which jumped two miles per hour from previous seasons. Who knows if he is able to sustain the velocity increase this year, but it’s going to be key in maintaining that new strikeout rate.

If he does, that skill set should result in dramatically better results. Now in an excellent environment in front of a strong defense and a park that deflates offense, there’s no excuse to dramatically underperform his SIERA again. As usual, health is a question mark as he just reached the 200 innings mark for the first time in his career. If he could do it again, and lady luck doesn’t bat an evil eye again, he’s going to be an absolute bargain in fantasy leagues.

Brett Anderson

My perennial mancrush, Anderson lands in a fantastic situation with the Dodgers. Even a move last year to the Rockies didn’t motivate me to move along, so I’m genuinely interested once again. Anderson’s strikeout rate fell amid a decline in fastball velocity, but with all his injury woes, you have to figure health was behind his issues. He still possesses good control, the ability to punch out batters at an averagish clip and induce gobs of grounders like the worm hater he is.

Given that he’ll come dirt cheap no matter the format, there’s little risk taking the plunge. The upside is that he’ll provide good ratios for as long as he takes the mound. When he inevitably hits the DL, he takes a seat in your DL spot until you have better use of it.

When Anderson Hits the DL

Brandon Beachy

The Dodgers could place Anderson on the DL and simultaneously activate Beachy from it as he returns from a second Tommy John surgery. He’s not expected to be available until early June and we have to remember that a TJ returnee’s control is the last to come back. We also need to monitor his velocity as he was never a hard-thrower to begin with. If he comes back throwing 88-89 mph, he’s not going to be worth taking a chance on for a second half run. When he was healthy and good, he featured an excellent change-up and slider, so he once did have the stuff to be a quality fantasy option. I rarely advocate stashing a TJ returnee, and the fact that this is his second operation makes him all the more risky. He’s a complete crapshoot.

Joe Wieland

Wieland was acquired from the Padres as part of the Matt Kemp trade, but has thrown just 87.1 professional innings since 2012 after undergoing two elbow surgeries, including the TJ variety. He has just 39.0 Major League innings to his name, but has flashed a fantastic curve ball. Unfortunately, that’s the only pitch that has appeared any good. However, he has displayed excellent control in the minors and the projections call for a solid strikeout and walk rate pairing. That just makes him a candidate for NL-Only leaguers looking for a last pitcher that might not blow up their team’s ratios. There is seemingly limited upside though.

Zach Lee

Marc Hulet ranked Lee as the third best Dodgers prospect heading into 2014, describing his four-pitch repertoire as “more solid than overwhelming”. And that was certainly evident in Triple-A in 2014, as he posted a weak 14.5% strikeout rate and a below average rate of swinging strikes. His percentage of strikes thrown also sat below the league average, so his peripherals have been moving in the wrong direction. Nothing in his statistical profile suggests anything to get excited about, so he should only be considered in NL-Only leagues if/when he’s recalled.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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7 years ago

At one point last year, I had all 5 Dodger starters in my lineup.

7 years ago
Reply to  Patrick

You must have had a pretty bad offense and some crazy league settings going on to be able to put pitchers into your lineup. Although I have longed for the ability to plug Greinke into my lineups for the past couple seasons.

7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I had a good offense.
I took Kershaw in the 1st.
Greinke in the 5th
Ryu – 12th
Beckett and Haren I got off waivers.

7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

“You must have had a pretty bad offense and some crazy league settings going on to be able to put pitchers into your lineup.” … take it easy pal, you know what he meant

7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

LOL. Thanks for coming to by rescue . I didn’t notice it the 1st time I read it.

7 years ago
Reply to  Brian

@bmiltenberg, it was a joke. Relax.