There are some weekends where you’re glad you’re too busy to watch any baseball. This was one of them. When losing streaks happen, people tend to look for a scapegoat about what’s wrong with the team, and this is no different. Our new target: starting pitching. Outside of Hiroki Kuroda’s 3.59 ERA, no Dodger starter has an ERA under 4.40 and arguably our two best starters coming into the season have ERA’s in the high fours. Did we overestimate our pitching coming in to the season? Is it time to start looking for some help?
Not at all. The Dodgers have three of the twelve most unlucky pitchers in the NL according to FIP , which measures ERA based on a pitcher’s peripherals. Chad Billingsley checks in at number three on the list, Brad Penny at number nine, and Derek Lowe at number 12. If our pitchers were performing like the numbers say they should, the Dodger rotation would look like this:
Brad Penny – 3.86 ERA
Derek Lowe – 3.72
Hiroki Kuroda – 4.18
Esteban Loaiza – 4.59
Chan Ho Park – 5.41
When you look at the rotation like this, things certainly look a lot better. The Dodgers should be sporting a fifth starter with an ERA under 4.60 and three starters under 3.90. I don’t think there’s any team in the league that would be unhappy with that kind of performance from their rotation.
The reason for these inflated ERAs is the team’s defense, which ranks27th in the league in defensive efficiency. However, I don’t think this actually represents a problem. Players that we know are good defensively like James Loney, Rafael Furcal, and Andruw Jones are putting up horrible to average RZRs , an improved version of zone rating. Zone rating works by dividing the field into “zones” for each fielder, then measuring the percentage of balls in that zone that are converted into outs. The low numbers from known defensive assets tell me that the other team is being unusually good at hitting them where they ain’t and they can’t keep that up for ever. Even the most pessimistic person would say that the Dodgers an average defense and this will show up once they actually get opportunities to field the ball.
We came into this year expecting our pitching to be a big part of the team’s success. Just because some balls have happened to find gaps this year, nothings changed. Despite looking bad right now, the Dodgers starting pitching will bounce back soon, and the ability to add a James McDonald or Clayton Kershaw makes it even better.
Old friend/most evil man who ever lived Paul DePodesta has started a blog for the Padres front office. Knowing my history with him, I’ll probably enjoy it.