I'm in a bit of a writing malaise right now, so updates are going to be sporadic for a bit.
The thing that seems to have the media hyped about the Dodgers offseason is the improvements made to the starting rotation. The main argument for this position is that last year at this time, the Dodgers starting rotation featured Brett Tomko, Odalis Perez and Jae Seo and they've been replaced by Jason Schmidt, Chad Billingsley, and Randy Wolf. This is a perfectly true statement, but the improvement isn't as big as it seems. Here's how the Dodgers starting pitchers performed last year:
While losing 45 terrible starts from Tomko, Perez, Hendrickson and Seo will certainly help the Dodgers, this type of analysis ignores the 34 great starts that the Dodgers got from Aaron Sele, Greg Maddux, Hong Chih Kuo, and Eric Stults. Sele somehow managed to accumulate a strong 4.18 ERA in almost half a seasons worth of starts. Greg Maddux put up ace type numbers after we acquired him, and Kuo and Stults were lights out in September. Combined these pitchers threw 197.7 innings of 3.60 ERA ball. Effectively, this mishmash of starters gave the Dodgers another number one starter, and we'd be very lucky if Jason Schmidt could equal this contribution.
To better compare the 2006 Dodger pitching staff with the 2007 Dodger staff, I've broken the 2006 Dodgers into five starters: Lowe, Penny, the good spot starters (Sele, Maddux, Kuo and Stults) and the bad spot starters (Hendrickson, Tomko, Seo and Perez). I've also added Billingsley to the bad starters for the sake of balance, rather than having the bad starters combine for 45 starts.
|2006 Dodgers||2007 Dodgers (ZIPS)|
|Good Spot Starters||3.60||Derek Lowe||3.83|
|Derek Lowe||3.63||Jason Schmidt||3.94|
|Brad Penny||4.33||Brad Penny||3.95|
|Bad Spot Starters||5.26||Chad Billingsley||4.38|
|Bad Spot Starters||5.26||Randy Wolf||4.89|
All together, Dodger starters put up a 4.29 ERA last year. If you simply take the average ERA of the Dodgers pitchers in 2007, you get 4.20. This isn't a perfect way to measure the strength of the rotation, better pitchers will pitch more innings, but it also doesn't account for the likely drop in production the Dodgers will get during the inevitable Tomko and Hendrickson starts. The 2007 Dodger starting rotation certainly is better, but not nearly as much as it would seem.
Once thing that seems to be forgotten about the 2006 Dodgers is how many players like Sele, Lofton, Saito, and others came out of nowhere to give the Dodgers very good results. While Aaron Sele is a very replaceable pitcher, the runs he saved the Dodgers in 2006 aren't.