Grading the Dodgers’ Starting Pitching Thus Far

If the Dodgers have had a clear strength in the 2018 season, it has most definitely been starting pitching. Although the starting rotation has been in flux all season with constant additions and subtractions due to injury and role adjustments, starters have done their part. A combination of Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, and Ross Stripling have predominantly carried the team. This article will be dedicated to grading the starting rotation as a collective group and individually.

Team Starting Pitching

May 31, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) pitches during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

As a group, the starters have done a remarkable job posting a sparkling 3.48 collective ERA. Each has done their part as it is truly difficult to look at any individual starter this season and find dramatic failure. Additionally, there is no member of the Dodger rotation who has not taken at least one trip to the DL this season. What is staggering is that no Dodger starter this season currently owns an ERA above 4.00. The Dodgers currently place among the best across all of MLB in starting pitching. See the list below for validation.

  • ERA: 3rd
  • Quality Starts: 3rd
  • Strikeouts: 4th
  • Walks Allowed: 4th
  • Batting Average Against: 4th

What is staggering is that a starting pitching rotation that ranks so highly in peripheral categories could rank so low, respectively, in total wins and loses. See below:

  • Wins: 14th
  • Loses: 14th

The blame for such a huge disparity between performance and end results can be placed mostly on Dodger hitting and most appropriately, on Dodger relievers. While the object of this article is not to beat an obviously dead horse, it is worth noting that the bullpen has struggled in many ways this season.

Although the bullpen has struggled, it has also received a strong shot in the arm with the return of Kenley Jansen from the DL. Look for the Dodger bullpen to shape up the rest of the way. Regardless, the starting pitching rotation has gotten it done this season and provides Dodger fans everywhere with significant hope the rest of the way.

Overall Grade: A

Starting Rotation

The starters have been impressive both collectively and individually. Each of the starters has posted a winning record besides Maeda, positive WARs, and sub-4 ERAs. Not many starting pitching rotations in MLB can say that. The grades given below are exclusively related to each starter’s performance when healthy and do not take into account values like, fielding, batting, or any other categories that can be used to measure a pitcher’s value to a team.

The following statistical categories are defined as follows:

  • WHIP: Walks + hits allowed per innings pitched.
  • Quality Starts: At least 6 innings pitched and no more than 3 earned runs.
  • * = Not currently in the starting rotation

Alex Wood

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 23 12 7-6 3.51 1.153 1.6
Apr 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Alex Wood (57) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Wood has been the most consistent of the starters this season with 23 games started and a sub-4 ERA. In fact, Wood has received perhaps the worst luck among the starters along with Kershaw, with his 7-6 record although he has posted a 1.153 WHIP. Wood has spent the least amount of time on the DL among the starters this season which automatically increases his value amidst a very injury prone rotation. All in all, Wood has posted respectable numbers over 23 starts including 12 quality starts, the second most behind Kershaw.

Overall Grade: B

Kenta Maeda*

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 20 5 7-8 3.85 1.291 0.9

Although not currently a member of the starting rotation, Maeda has amassed 20 starts this season, making him the second-most started pitcher on the Dodgers. Maeda tends to look better visually than he does on paper as his stats paint a picture of mediocre to good performance. Maeda owns the lowest WAR on the starting pitcher lineup for the Dodger which is a stat that measures the overall value of a player. Furthermore, Maeda is the only starter with a losing record. Technically, Maeda has been the least effective starter this season. Now, we need to cut him some slack as he has posted respectable numbers overall with an above average ERA and WHIP. However, a move to the bullpen has only increased Maeda’s effectiveness and was most likely the best move for Kenta.

Overall Grade: C

Clayton Kershaw

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 19 14 6-5 2.40 1.006 3.4

Now, let’s be frank, Kershaw is the best starter on the Dodgers. He has been widely considered the GOAT already by many across baseball when it comes to regular season starting pitching. He is phenomenal in pretty much every aspect. That being said, this year is a “down year” for Kershaw if such a thing is even fair to say. He has posted an elite ERA, WHIP, and WAR thus far that are right there reflecting his career 2.36 ERA, 1.002 WHIP, and 5.6 WAR. However, respectively, this season has not been as exceptional as former seasons in which we have seen the “greatest in the game” type performances. That is as picky as I can be when it comes to evaluating Kershaw’s downside this season and is the only reason he doesn’t receive a plus (+) on his excellent grade.

Overall Grade: A

Ross Stripling*

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 17 9 8-3 2.62 1.127 3.0
Aug 31, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Ross Stripling (68) delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Ross Stripling should be considered for the non-existent, “most unexpected excellent performance” award right there with Max Muncy. Not a soul in the universe expected Stripling to post the best ERA, WHIP, and WAR for a good chunk of the season until a few poor starts down the stretch. Stripling recently moved to the bullpen because of fatigue and a need for long-relievers in the bullpen. But let’s not forget how exceptional Stripling was as a starter this season. He has posted a team pitcher best, 3.0 WAR behind Kershaw. He has most definitely earned his tip-top grade.

Overall Grade: A

Rich Hill

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 17 7 5-4 3.73 1.265 1.0

Rich Hill came off a superb 2017 season in which he posted a 3.32 ERA, 1.091 WHIP, and 2.2 WAR stat line. Expectations were high coming into 2018. And while Hill has not been terrible by any means, he has simply struggled to find his 2017 form. Hill has been good when it comes to generic starting pitching. However, he has fared less effective in executing the strikeout pitch this season by recording a good 9.6 K/9 after posting a great 11.0 K/9 last season. Realistically, this is the only significant change in his peripheral stats from last year. It has cost him a few points on his WHIP and ERA but has not hurt him too badly. Hill has not been terrible but has also not been excellent.

Overall Grade: B-

Walker Buehler

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 15 7 6-4 3.19 1.042 1.8

Buehler has been the clear bright spot of the 2018 season. He has proven that he can handle the starting role this year by recording a 1.042 WHIP which points to the fact that Buehler does not walk batters and is allowing a very few hits. He has quietly recorded 7 quality starts this season which is roughly half of his starts. The only reason this number is not higher is because Buehler often goes 5, 5.1, or 5.2 innings deep into a game. With a little more improved control, Buehler will begin to lengthen his outings and earn ace status alongside or in potential future replacement of Kershaw. (A horrible thought I know)

Overall Grade: A-

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Season Games Started Quality Starts Record ERA WHIP WAR
2018 7 4 3-0 1.77 0.813 1.5
Aug 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ryu has been the most effective pitcher in 2018 for the Dodgers. There, I said it. Ryu has not been the most valuable pitcher for the Dodgers however due to his relatively small impact having started only 7 games this year. The fact is simple, Ryu is excellent when healthy. Unfortunately, Ryu has been on the DL more than he has been on the active roster in his 6-year tenure with the Dodgers. Yes, you read that right. Until he is healthy, he is not worth that much to the Dodgers. Yes, he receives the best grade of the starting rotation thus far, but only because the grades given in this article are according to sheer performance and not season-long value.

Overall Grade: A+


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Eric Morse

Born and raised in Southern Oregon, Eric has always had a love for baseball. Growing up visiting LA often to watch the Dodgers, Eric comes from a long line of Dodger fanatics. He spends his time ministering to youth and following the Dodgers.

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