With pitchers and catchers scheduled to have their first workout today, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally begin the pursuit of their first World Series title in over 25 years. The rotation, which was among the best in baseball last season, appears to again be stout despite the Dodgers missing out on Masahiro Tanaka. While the Dodgers may not yet be done in terms of additions, the pitchers currently in camp are strong, and there may even be some competition for the role of fifth starter. Here is a look at the starting rotation as it stands today:
1. Clayton Kershaw: Last year, Kershaw was the undisputed best pitcher in all of baseball. He was one vote away from unanimously winning his second Cy Young in three years while still only 25 years old. He just signed a contract worth $215 million over seven years, and given Kershaw’s skill set, it seems like a tremendous value. He posted a 1.83 ERA to go with an FIP of 2.39, all while posting a K/BB ratio of 4.46. Overall, Kershaw was worth 6.5 WAR, and is the undisputed ace of the Dodgers staff.
2. Zack Greinke: If Kershaw is number one, Greinke is a very close 1A. Though his season was initially derailed by a broken collarbone sustained during a brawl with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin, Greinke showed he was worth the free-agent contract he signed with the Dodgers in the offseason. Greinke finished eighth in the Cy Young balloting and also handled the bat well enough to earn a Silver Slugger award. Greinke’s ERA of 2.63 was the best it has been since his Cy Young winning season of 2009 with the Kansas City Royals. With Kershaw and Greinke, the Dodgers have a strong argument for best front of the rotation in all of baseball.
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu: Ryu was a bit of an unknown coming into the season, but agent Scott Boras was not exaggerating during the offseason when he projected Ryu to fit in the middle of the rotation immediately at the big league level. In his debut season, Ryu posted a 3.00 ERA and an FIP of 3.24. Ryu is heading into his age-27 season this year, and while a sophomore slump seems like a possibility, it is unlikely given Ryu’s professional experience and his reported commitment to showing up to training camp in shape this year.
4. Dan Haren: Signed as a free agent during the offseason, Haren’s 2013 was a tale of two pitchers. He was largely ineffective over the first half, shelved on the disabled list with an injury he himself acknowledged was a phantom one, then returned to being an effective pitcher down the stretch. If Haren pitches the way he did during the second half, the contract the Dodgers signed him to is an absolute steal. During 76.2 second half innings, Haren posted a 3.52 ERA while putting up a K/BB ratio of 5/1. His WHIP during that time was an impressive 1.017, great numbers for an expected number four pitcher in the rotation.
5. Josh Beckett/Zach Lee: Beckett is likely the frontrunner for this fifth starter’s position despite returning from season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The only way Lee earns the fifth spot in the rotation is if he blows away the Dodgers staff during Spring Training to the point where they have no other real choice. It seems more likely that they will give Beckett the opportunity in the early going, and if he should falter, Chad Billingsley will have a shot when he returns from Tommy John surgery in mid-June.
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