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Baseball Season Preview: Will Dodgers Pitching Come Through?
With the moves the Dodgers have made this offseason, on paper it seemed their pitching would bail them out of their offensive schizophrenia. After all with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley leading the rotation along with Ted Lilly, the re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and the return of Jon Garland, that’s a formidable quintet.
“I think our biggest strength will be our pitching,” manager Don Mattingly assessed. “Day in, day out we have a chance to win every game. We have a pitching staff that can keep you in the game.”
But if these final days of spring training is anything to go by things might not be so striking on the pitching mound.
While both Kershaw and Billingsley were good during their spring outings, the rest of the rotation and bullpen sank the team: 19th in team ERA with 4.85; 23rd in hits and runs given up with 330 hits and 182 runs; 28th in walks with 120. Some of the more advanced stats such as WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) are a bit more favorable but merely elevate them to the middle of the pack at best.
Granted this includes stats from pitchers like Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Vasquez who don’t have a chance of being on the 25-man roster, but some stats are alarming. Take Kuroda’s 17 runs given up in six starts and 26 innings pitched. Ted Lilly’s 11 runs given up in four starts and 16 innings pitched. How about closer Jonathan Broxton’s six runs (four earned) in nine appearances?
But that doesn’t bother Mattingly any.
“I’m definitely not looking at the numbers in spring training,” he said. He related his own experiences during the period where games don’t really matter.
“If I was able to do all my work and be ready - if I don’t get that many hits during spring training I don’t want it to be that way, I’d like to hit better - but I know I’m healthy and I’m ready to go.”
One area Mattingly isn’t too optimistic about is the Dodgers getting on the bases.
“I think our Achilles’ heel more than anything is kind of on-base. We don’t really have that grind-out offense that wears pitchers out. We’re going to have to put hits together and make sure our plan is good up there.”
Having said that Mattingly is happy with where the team is at despite others saying otherwise.
“What people think makes no difference to me,” he said. “I want that day-to-day grind.
“We’ll be okay. I’m happy with camp. I’m happy with how spring has gone. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
With that resounding vote of confidence, here are my predictions for this season. As always I’m almost guaranteed to be wrong.
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Cleveland Indians
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
AL Wild Card: Minnesota Twins
NL Wild Card: Colorado Rockies
New York Yankees defeat Minnesota Twins
Oakland Athletics defeat Chicago White Sox
Oakland Athletics defeat New York Yankees
Atlanta Braves defeat Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants defeat Milwaukee Brewers
Atlanta Braves defeat San Francisco Giants
Atlanta Braves defeat Oakland Athletics
Of course I will be completely wrong, especially since last season I chose the Detroit Tigers to finish both first and third in the AL Central. Make of it what you will.