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Dodgers Turn To James McDonald To Fill A Gaping Hole

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As the Dodgers turn to James McDonald tonight to make his 2010 debut, we can look at the role that he is trying to fill, that of the fifth starter. Compared to last season, the top four starters have performed roughly the same this season, albeit a little bit more unlucky:

Dodgers Top Four Starters Through 92 Games 2009-2010
Year Top 4 Starters GS W-L IP/G HR/9 BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP WHIP
2009 Billingsley, Wolf, Kershaw, Kuroda 69 42-27 5.97 0.81 3.54 7.71 3.56 3.90 1.216
2010 Kershaw, Kuroda, Billingsley, Padilla   64 36-28 6.04 0.77 3.12 8.46 3.77 3.51 1.292

The Dodgers got five more starts out of their top four starters through 92 games last season, which explains in part the reason the Dodgers are nine games worse than last year at this time (49-43 versus 58-34). Fewer starts by the top four starters obviously means more starts for the fifth starters, and this year hasn't been pretty.

Dodgers Fifth Starters Through 92 Games 2009-2010
2009 23 16-7 4.58 0.68 4.70 6.15 4.78 4.61 1.585
2010 28 13-15 4.88 1.25 4.21 6.39 5.93 5.01 1.551

Even though the fifth starters were bad last season, the Dodgers were remarkably lucky, scoring a ton of runs in those games, winning 16 of their first 23 starts. This season, the fifth starters have been even worse, have pitched more often, and haven't been nearly as lucky with the run support.

John Ely filled in quite nicely at a much needed time for the Dodgers, but his 14 starts can be split into one good half and one bad half:

John Ely's First 14 Starts
First 7 starts
7 3-2 6.57 0.00 1.57 7.24 2.54 2.11 0.935
Last 7 starts
7 1-5 4.81 1.87 4.54 5.88 7.49 6.20 1.842

Now the role falls into the hands of McDonald, who was solid in the bullpen last season but his short trial as a starter was anything but solid. He pitched a grand total of 13 1/3 innings in those four April starts in 2009, and gave up 28 baserunners and 13 runs.

This year, while missing time with a pair of stints on the disabled list, McDonald was 6-1 with a 4.41 ERA and 3.91 FIP in the high-octane Pacific Coast League. This is his shot, the time for the Dodgers 2007 and 2008 minor league pitcher of the year to grab the reigns of a starting spot and never let go.

Bumgarner Shines

Rookie Madison Bumgarner has been very good so far in his first four starts this season, with a 2.57 ERA while averaging seven innings per outing. He has 21 strikeouts against just five walks, and has pitched at least six innings in each start. Bumgarner, who turns 21 on August 1, has a 3.87 FIP and 4.03 xFIP so far this season.


  • The Dodgers are 23-6 against the NL West, the best intradivisional record in MLB this year, including 5-1 against the Giants.
  • The Dodgers are 12-15 against left-handed starters this season
  • Rafael Furcal is hitting .333/.406/.596 with 12 runs scored and 11 RBI in 14 games in July

Get your guesses in for Xeifrank's game simulation here.

Game Time: 7:10 p.m.

TV: Prime Ticket

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