Zach Greinke’s return to the rotation on Wednesday coming off the heels of Clayton Kershaw’s 132-pitch masterpiece provided me with the thinking that, “this could work out!” This team has holes, we know that, but Hyun-Jin Ryu has shown to be a reliable thus far and with elite starters in Kershaw and Greinke the playoffs may hinge on the ability of the Dodgers fourth and fifth starters (Ted Lilly, Josh Beckett, Matt Magill, Chris Capuano, Jonathan Sanchez?!) to be mediocre.
Given what we have seen so far, mediocre is hopeful. The Lilly-Beckett-Magill-Capuano-Stephen Fife-Chad Billingsley six-pack have combined for 19 starts in 2013. The team is a dreadful 4-15 (21% win percentage) in those games. And, while the offense has obviously struggled, the results would hardly be different if they weren’t. The back-end of the rotation (anyone other than Kershaw/Ryu/Greinke) have collectively pitched 92 2/3 IP (4.87 innings per start), 5.73 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 11.1 H/9.
Meanwhile, Kershaw-Ryu-Greinke have been every bit as good as their fellow starters have been bad. The Dodgers have won 13 of the 20 games (65% win percentage) they have started, with a combined 131 IP (6.55 innings per start), 2.20 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.7 H/9. To put that into perspective, in Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young award winning 2011 season he posted numbers of 7.1 innings per start, 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 6.7 H/9. Pretty good. They have held their opponents to two or less runs in 75% of their starts. And only twice have they given up more than three runs, both Ryu starts (4/20 @ Baltimore & 5/5 @ San Francisco).
What does that mean for the rest of the season? Let’s have some fun with numbers and make a few assumptions.
1) The Kershaw-Ryu-Greinke trio make the rest of their starts
2) The team regresses a bit in starts by the front line winning 62% of those games.
3) To get that last playoff spot a team needs to win 87 games. Going back over the last five seasons, the second NL wild card would have qualified with 87 wins four times and 88 wins once.
With 123 games remaining and Kershaw-Ryu-Greinke scheduled to start 60% of those, that means 74 starts from the front line of the rotation and 46 more wins. That leaves the fourth and fifth starters with 49 more starts, the team would need to go 24-25 in those games to reach 87 wins. If winning the NL West is the goal, and we assume that it will take 91 wins for that to happen, the team will need to go 28-21 in those remaining starts.