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2011 Los Angeles Dodgers Pitching Preview

Clayton Kershaw celebrates after a strikeout of Brendan Ryan in the 2009 NLDS game against the St. Louis Cardinals. AP Photo/Matt Sayles
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By David Moran/Special to LAist
STARTING ROTATION

Clayton Kershaw: Let’s not forestall the simple truth: Clayton Kershaw is the best reason to watch the Dodgers. He’s what the old baseball heads call the Real Deal - that rare combination of age, passion, and, above all, ability. His arsenal: a whip-like, stinging fastball; a biting slider that’s gotten better every year; a billowing, sweeping curve; and a changeup that may see a little more action this year. If he can improve his control this year (as he has for the past two), walk fewer batters and limit his number of pitches, there’s nothing stopping him from being one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball. He was already fourth in strikeouts-per-nine-innings in the National League last year, held batters to a .211 batting average, and finished with an ERA under 3.00 for the second straight season. Oh, and he’s 22 years old. Clayton Kershaw is the best player on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Chad Billingsley: Despite all the shortcomings, the divorce proceedings, the underachievements, and the distractions, the Dodgers have an almost unrivaled 1-2 punch of young pitchers at the top of their rotation. Kershaw is younger and probably more talented, but Chad Billingsley is only 26 and he’s no slouch. After two stellar campaigns in 2007 and 2008, he struggled in 2009, and the perception of his talent may have gotten buried beneath that season and last year’s quiet quality. 2010 was, in fact, a good season for Billingsley, though: his walks and HR allowed were down, he induced more ground balls, and he wound up with a respectable 3.57 ERA. With his ability to throw five different pitches, Billingsley has the potential to be a crafty, diverse pitcher. He still gives up more hits than is ideal, but on the whole, having a 26-year old with Billingsley’s talent as your number two starter ought to be sweet music to any Dodger fan’s ears.