Brett Anderson held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, and the Dodgers' newest free agent addition discussed his recovery from back surgery and potential readiness for spring training, among other things. This is as good a time as any to point out that the Dodgers will use several starting pitchers in 2015, a virtual certainty in an uncertain game.
There is not just the rich injury history of Anderson to consider, as he has averaged 52 innings per season the last four years, not reaching 20 starts in a year since 2009. Anderson says he has been throwing at 150 feet, will pitch off a mound next week, and expects to be ready to go by spring training after an August procedure to repair a herniated disc in his back.
Summaries of the Anderson conference call, which I unfortunately missed, can be found from Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, and Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider.
But it's not necessarily Anderson why the Dodgers will need to rely on depth this season, arms in reserve like Joe Wieland, Mike Bolsinger or possibly Carlos Frias, Zach Lee or Chris Reed, with non-roster invitee Erik Bedard figuring somewhere in the mix as well, depending on the timing of any out clause he may have on his minor league deal.
The real reason why the Dodgers will use several starting pitchers in 2015 is because it happens every year, no matter much planning. In 2013 the Dodgers had eight starting pitchers under contract — high-priced contracts, to boot — to start the season, but the club still needed a ninth starting pitcher by April 27, the club's 23rd game.
Here is a look at the Dodgers starting pitching staff the last few years.
|Dodgers starting pitching, 2009-2014|
|Year||Starts from top 5||Starts from planned top 5||Starters used||MLB avg starters used|
|2009||126 (Wolf,Billingsley,Kershaw,Kuroda,Stults)||120 (Wolf,Billingsley,Kershaw,Kuroda,McDonald)||12||10.80|
|2010||128 (Kershaw,Kuroda,Billingsley,Ely,Padilla)||116 (Kershaw,Kuroda,Billingsley,Padilla,Heager)||10||9.60|
|2011||140 (Kershaw,Kuroda,Lilly,Billingsley,De La Rosa)||139 (Kershaw,Kuroda,Lilly,Billingsley,Garland)||9||9.40|
|2012||132 (Kershaw,Capuano,Harang,Billingsley,Blanton)||130 (Kershaw,Capuano,Harang,Billingsley,Lilly)||9||10.13|
|2013||126 (Kershaw,Ryu,Greinke,Capuano,Nolasco)||101 (Kershaw,Ryu,Greinke,Beckett,Billingsley)||11||10.27|
|2014||137 (Greinke,Kershaw,Haren,Ryu,Beckett)||137 (Greinke,Kershaw,Haren,Ryu,Beckett)||12||10.33|
From 2009-2014, the Dodgers have averaged 132 starts from their top five starters (measured simply, after the fact, as the five pitchers who made the most starts on the club), and averaged 124 starts from the planned top five at the beginning of the season.
The Dodgers have averaged 10½ pitchers making at least one start each season for the last six years, never fewer than nine in any year. The club hasn't used fewer than nine starters in a single season since 1997, when eight starters were used.
It isn't a new phenomenon either, as the Dodgers have averaged 9.48 starters per season for the last 25 years.
The Dodgers aren't unique in this situation, with MLB teams averaging over 10 starting pitchers used per team for the last six years. The number of teams using at least 10 starters each season has averaged 18.7 per season in the last 10 years, over 60 percent of the league, falling below 17 teams only once (2011, with 14 teams) in the last nine years.
For what it's worth, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Anderson combined to make 123 starts in 2014, and 118 starts in 2013.
Whatever your expectations are for that quintet in 2015, the Dodgers will surely need contributions from many others this year.