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Dodgers Pitching A Strength, Not A Weakness

Coming into the season, the prevailing thought about this Dodger team was that it would ride the offense and hope the pitching staff gave them enough to compete.  We even ran a contest trying to figure out which historical Dodger team the 2009 club would emulate.  The 1963 Dodgers won that contest, with their 98 OPS+ (meaning slightly below average offense after accounting for park and league) and 105 ERA+ (meaning slightly above average pitching).

Here we stand, 136 games into a 162-game season, and the verdict in:  the pitching staff is the unquestioned strength of this team.  You might not know this if you have read columns and articles recently  about the Dodgers' lack of an ace pitcher to lead the rotation.  However, in total, from starters to the amazing bullpen, the Dodgers have an awesome pitching staff.

The Dodgers have an adjusted ERA, or ERA+, of 121.  They are 21 percent better than the average NL team.  That figure is second in baseball to the Giants, who boast an impressive staff of their own.  The Dodgers are also third in the league in FIP, at 3.84, behind the Braves and Giants.  Here's a look at the National League playoff contenders and their pitching staffs:

Overall Starters Bullpen
Giants 3.48 124 3.47 124 3.52 123
Dodgers 3.47 121 3.64 115 3.19 132
Cardinals     3.66 114 3.61 114 3.77 111
Rockies 4.24 107 4.11 110 4.52 100
Phillies 4.12 105 4.25 102 3.87 112

That 121 ERA+ by the Dodgers would be their third best since moving to Los Angeles.  The amazing 2003 club represented an amazing contrast.  When the Dodgers were on the field, they were one of the greatest teams of all-time (128 ERA+), but when they grabbed a bat they were one of the worst teams in history (79 OPS+).  The 1966 club rode a 125 ERA+ to the World Series.

Putting up a 120 ERA+ as a team is a rare event, or at least it was rare until the Braves of the 1990s decided to assemble the greatest pitching staff of all-time.  Counting this year's Dodgers and Giants, the 120 ERA+ barrier has only been reached 25 times in the last 52 years in the National League.  Eight of those occurrences were by the Braves, in a ten-year period from 1993-2002.

Highest NL ERA+, 1958-2009
Team Year ERA+
Braves 2002 133
Braves 1997 131
Braves 1993 129
Braves 1998 128
Dodgers 2003 128
Dodgers 1966 125
Reds 1967 124
Braves 1995 124
Braves 1996 124
Braves 2001 124
Giants 2009 124
Braves 1974 123
Astros 1981 123
Braves 1999 123
Mets 1969 122
D-Backs 1999 122
D-Backs 2003 122
Cardinals 1962 121
Cubs 1969 121
Cardinals 1969 121
Cardinals 2005 121
Dodgers 2009 121
Dodgers 1972 120
D-Backs 2001 120
Astros 2005 120

From top to bottom, the strength of this Dodger team is pitching.  Don't let anyone else tell you any differently.