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Dodgers Sign Jon Garland For One Year Plus Option

The Dodgers have brought back an old friend today, signing Jon Garland, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Garland, a late-season acquisition by in 2009, was 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA in six starts for the Dodgers, although he didn't pitch in the postseason.The deal is a one-year deal, plus a club option for 2012. The club now has 38 players on its 40-man roster.

Hernandez also reported the 2012 option vests with 190 innings pitched in 2011. Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported the contract is for $5 million, plus performance bonuses (Garland got $5 million guaranteed from the Padres last winter), which seems like a perfectly reasonable deal. The Dodgers are loading up on pitching, but there seems to be a method to the club's madness so far this offseason.

The Dodgers were 31-43 after the All-Star break this season, which makes it difficult to remember that the club was just two games out of a playoff spot at the break. Only four teams had a worse record in the unofficial second half of the season: the Mariners, Pirates, Royals, and Nationals. The Dodgers scored a paltry 3.3 runs per game after the All-Star break, a mark of futility only surpassed by Seattle, who scored 2.91 runs per contest during that span.

So naturally, the Dodgers have decided this offseason to focus on improving their pitching?

However, it's not as absurd as it sounds. For one thing, it's still November, and we really have no idea whom the Dodgers plan on bringing in to improve the offense. For another thing, the Dodgers entered their offseason with just Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley in their 2011 rotation, so it was a given that at least two starters would be signed this offseason. Those two happened to be returnees Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, which gives the Dodgers a very nice front four. However, based on 2010 it's hard to blame Ned Colletti for wanting a little more certainty in that fifth spot.

“We’re very pleased to have Jon join this group and give us five very strong starters going into Spring Training,” said Colletti. “We saw what Jon was capable of down the stretch in 2009 and again last year within our division. Year after year, he takes the ball 30-plus times and gives his team a chance to win every time out.”

In 2010, the Dodgers got very good production out of their front four starters: Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda, Padilla, and (after July 31) Lilly. But the remaining 40 starts left a lot to be desired:

2010 Dodgers Starters
Front Four*
Everyone Else

The everyone else was comprised mostly of John Ely and Carlos Monasterios, who made 31 of the 40 starts from the bottom of the rotation crew. Both had their moments, Ely more than Monk, but none inspired confidence to head into 2011 with any kind of confidence to pitch a full season. It's hard not to want to improve on a 6.34 ERA and 5.28 FIP in just 4.72 innings per start.

With Garland, you pretty much know what you are going to get. He has made 32 or 33 starts in nine straight seasons, and has pitched between 191 2/3 and 221 innings in those nine years. He'll get you a FIP somewhere in the mid-fours, but Garland's strength is eating innings. Garland pitched six innings or more in 24 of 33 starts with San Diego last season (the fifth starters combined to go six innings in just 11 of 40 starts), and now the Dodger rotation has five, count 'em five, starters who average at least six innings per start. Call me crazy, but I'm actually excited about this rotation.

Speaking of offense, check this out. The current Dodgers five-man rotation combined for 103 quality starts (in 157 starts) last year, which would have tied for the major league lead. The winning percentage in 2010 across MLB when pitchers threw a quality start was .667. However, the Dodgers were 54-38 (.587), including just 23-24 after the All-Star break when their starters threw a quality start.

Now (again), about that offense...