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2012 Dodgers exit interviews: Starting pitchers

A look back at what went right and wrong for the starting pitchers for the Dodgers in 2012.

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Our look back at the 2012 season for the Dodgers begins with a review of the starting pitchers. The group wasn't as stable as 2011, when the top four starters made 130 starts (this year's foursome made 122 starts), but despite some injuries the group performed relatively well. Dodgers starting pitchers were tied for sixth in the National League with 93 starts, they were fifth in the circuit with an average of 6.1 innings per start, and led the NL with a 123 ERA+.

Here is a look back at the nine pitchers that started a game for the Dodgers in 2012.

Clayton Kershaw

What went right: Kershaw was nearly as dominant as he was in 2011 when he won the NL Cy Young Award. The 24-year old added to his excellent resume in 2012 by leading the major leagues in ERA for the second straight year, making him the first Dodger since Sandy Koufax to lead the league in ERA in consecutive seasons. Kershaw was 7-3 with a 1.55 ERA in his final 12 starts, and finished with 229 strikeouts, just one shy of the league lead. Kershaw made his second straight All-Star team.

What went wrong: A right hip impingement briefly sidelined Kershaw in September, but opponents may have a hard time believing anything was wrong, as Kershaw allowed four runs in his final five starts. Kershaw also provided a case study for the value of starting pitcher wins, as despite pitching nearly as well as 2011 he ended with 14 wins, seven fewer than he had last year. Kershaw pitched in a major league high five games in which he allowed one run or less in seven innings or more with no win.

2013 status: Kershaw will make $11 million next season in the second season of a two-year contract, plus $2 million deferred from 2012. Kershaw will have one more season of arbitration eligibility, in 2014.

Chris Capuano

What went right: With a salary of just $3 million (plus another $375,000 in earned bonuses), Capuano was one of the biggest bargains in baseball, especially when he started the season 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA in his first 17 starts, with 34 walks and 95 strikeouts. Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, Capuano led the NL with 33 games started, one of 12 pitchers who tied for the league lead (including Kershaw). It was the second time in his career that Capuano led a league in a something, to go with his 35 games started in 2005. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Aug. 12 in Miami.

What went wrong: After that stellar start, Capuano was just 3-9 with a 4.99 ERA in his final 16 starts, with 20 walks and 67 strikeouts in 92 innings. In Capuano's final eight starts he had more than three strikeouts just once, when he had all of four on Sept. 2. He needed to last just 4⅔ innings in his final start of the year to reach 200 innings for the first time in six years, but only pitched three innings thanks in part to a shoulder injury suffered when Capuano was hit by a batting donut during batting practice, and the Dodgers were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

2013 status: Capuano will make $6 million in the second season of a two-year contract. He also has a mutual option for $8 million in 2014, with a $1 million buyout.

Aaron Harang

What went right: Harang made 31 starts and pitched in 179⅔ innings, his most since 2008. He put up a 105 ERA+, his highest mark since 2007. Like Capuano, Harang was a bargain at just $3 million in the first season of a two-year deal and put up a respectable 3.61 ERA. He set a new Dodgers franchise record with nine consecutive strikeouts, part of a 13-strikeout effort against the Padres on Apr. 13.

What went wrong: Harang allowed 256 batters to reach base via hit, walk, or hit by pitch, and his 1.403 WHIP was fourth worst among qualified NL starters. Harang's 85 walks were 27 more than he had ever issued in one season. He had just 15 strikeouts and 17 walks in his final six starts.

2013 status: Harang will make $7 million in the second season of a two-year contract. He also has an option for between $7 million and $8 million for 2014 that will vest if Harang pitches at least 180⅓ innings in 2013.

Chad Billingsley

What went right: Billingsley began to turn around what could have been a disappointing season after the All-Star break. He went 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA in seven starts after the break, including a win in six straight starts for the first time in his career. Billingsley also walked 7.1% of his hitters faced and 2.7 batters per nine innings, by far the best marks of his career. He struck out a season-high 11 in his first start of the season, on Apr. 6 against the Padres at Petco Park.

What went wrong: After starting the season 2-0 with 17 strikeouts and one walk in his first three starts, Billingsley was 2-9 with a 5.02 ERA in 15 starts heading into the All-Star break, including a five-start losing streak. Billingsley went on the disabled list just after the All-Star break with elbow inflammation, then came back strong with his six-game winning streak. But his Aug. 24 start against the Marlins was his last of the season, as he suffered a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

2013 status: There is no bigger or perhaps more important question to the Dodgers than Billingsley's status for next year. He had two injections of platelet-rich plasma into his elbow in an attempt to heal the torn ligament without surgery. Billingsley will gradually increase intensity on a throwing program, and we will likely know by November whether or not he will need Tommy John surgery, which would sideline him for all of next season. Billingsley next year will make $11 million in the second season of a three-year contract.

Ted Lilly

What went right: After a slow start to his 2011 campaign, Lilly entered spring training in good shape looking to get 2012 started off on the right foot. Despite a neck injury in spring training that delayed the start to his season by about a week, Lilly did get off to a strong start. He allowed six runs in his first five starts, and was 5-0 with a 1.79 ERA in his first seven starts. Dating back to last season, Lilly had a streak of nine full starts, 68⅓ innings, and 268 batters without allowing a home run, a streak that ended May 1 against Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, the same man who had hit the previous home run against Lilly on Aug. 26, 2011.

What went wrong: Lilly got bombed on May 23 in Arizona, as he allowed eight runs on nine hits and five walks in 3⅓ innings against the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately for Lilly that was his final start of the season as he went on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation. Despite an attempt at a comeback that included four games pitched on various minor league rehab assignments with Class A Rancho Cucamonga, Lilly was shut down in September and had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Sept. 21.

2013 status: Lilly is expected to begin his normal throwing program in January and should be ready in time for spring training. He will make $13.5 million in the final season of a three-year contract, including $12 million in salary and $1.5 million in deferred signing bonus.

Josh Beckett

What went right: Beckett welcomed himself back to the National League nicely, putting up a 2.93 ERA in seven starts after his acquisition in the Aug. 25 nine-player blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. Beckett struck out 17.2% of his batters faced with Boston this season, but after joining the Dodgers he struck out 20.8% of his batters faced, much more in line with his 22.2% career mark.

What went wrong: The Dodgers scored just 20 runs in Beckett's seven starts, including two runs or less five times. In one of the games Beckett actually got run support, the bullpen blew a 6-3 lead (and what was a 6-0 lead) on Sept. 19 in Washington D.C., giving Beckett a no-decision in a game the Dodgers eventually won. The poor run support gave Beckett just a 2-3 record despite pitching well with Los Angeles.

2013 status: Beckett will make $15.75 million in each of the next two seasons.

Joe Blanton

What went right: Blanton had a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts against just one unintentional walk in his final three starts, including just one run allowed in his final two starts. Blanton had just six unintentional walks, and 39 strikeouts, in his final seven starts, including just one start with more than one unintentional free pass.

What went wrong: After issuing more than two walks just once in 21 starts with the Phillies, Blanton walked three and four batters in his first and third starts, respectively, after his July 31 acquisition. He walked 18 in 21 starts with Philadelphia, and walked 16 in 10 starts with Los Angeles. Blanton allowed four or more runs four times in a six-start stretch from Aug. 11 to Sept. 9, putting up a 6.82 ERA during that span.

2013 status: Blanton is one of seven Dodgers free agents.

Stephen Fife

What went right: Fife did just about everything that was asked of him in his spot starts, especially in September when he struck out 13 and walked three in his two starts. Fife allowed two runs or less in each of his five starts, the first Dodgers pitcher to do so in his first five career starts since Edwin Jackson did so in his first six career starts in 2003-2004.

What went wrong: He tiptoed through a minefield, especially in his first three starts, as he allowed 25 baserunners in just 16⅔ innings, including nine walks and just seven strikeouts.

2013 status: Fife has 41 days of service time, and has two option years remaining.

Nathan Eovaldi

What went right: He filled in nicely for Lilly at first, allowing just six runs (five earned) in his first four starts of the year. He had five quality starts in his first eight outings, and was able, along with minor league pitcher and 2011 fifth round draft pick Scott McGough, to net the Dodgers Hanley Ramirez in a July 25 trade with the Marlins.

What went wrong: Eovaldi had a 6.59 ERA in a five-start stretch from June 20 to July 16, including just nine strikeouts and 10 walks during that span. The Dodgers lost his first seven starts, thanks in large part to scoring five runs during those games, including more than one run just once, when they score two runs on June 3 against the Rockies. The Dodgers were finally able to win a game at Dodger Stadium started by Eovaldi on Aug. 24 ... when he was with Miami and allowed three home runs and six runs in just three innings.

2013 status: Eovaldi, who turns 23 in February, has two more years of team control left with the Marlins before hitting arbitration.

Billingsley photo courtesy of Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE; Lilly photo courtesy of Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE; Fife photo courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE