It’s been an eventful season for the 38-year-old Rich Hill.
After numerous DL stints and disastrous starts, Hill has completely turned his season around, and gone from being a question mark with every start, to one of the more reliable pitchers on the Dodgers.
Hill’s season got off to a shaky start. Through three starts, he allowed 10 runs in 15 innings. On April 18, he was placed on the DL with a left third digit inflammation.
He would miss nearly three weeks, until returning on May 8. His return was short-lived, as he only lasted four innings, allowing five runs as well as three home runs.
On May 19, Hill would have the shortest outing of his career. Lasting only two pitches, he was removed from the game with a blister on his middle finger. This landed Hill on the DL yet again. This time around, Hill would miss a month.
In his return, Hill threw six scoreless innings against the Cubs, his best outing since his first start of the season. It appeared as if Hill would be ready to turn things around.
Sadly, multiple rough outings would follow. Over his next 23 2⁄3 innings, Hill would allow 11 runs. Something needed to change.
On July 14, Hill would make an appearance out of the bullpen against the Angels. He went one inning, and struck out two. Since then, Hill has been one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Since then, Hill owns a 1.72 ERA, the fourth-best in the national league during that stretch. Hitters are batting only .188 against him.
The ironic thing about his recent stretch of dominance is the fact that his strikeout numbers are down and his walk numbers are up. Prior to the streak, Hill was striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings, now it’s only 9.2. He was also walking 3.0 batters per game, now it’s 3.4.
Usually when a pitcher gets hot, the numbers get better. It’s unusual to see. But then again, Rich Hill is an unusual pitcher.
Hill’s dominance has really come against right-handed hitters. Against right-handed batters, Hill owns a 1.16 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP. He’s striking out 30 percent of the righties he faces.
Before July 14, nearly 50 percent of balls were hit hard off of Hill. Since then, only 38 percent of balls are being hit hard. This is helping limit the amount of home runs Hill has been giving up. Through the first four-and-a-half months, Hill was allowing nearly two home runs a game. Now, he’s only allowing 0.6 home runs per game.
As well as limiting hard hit balls, Hill has been able to make hitters chase pitches. As you can see, the numbers have drastically gone up, being a contributing factor to his success.
Another way Hill has been able to improve is getting ahead in the count. When Rich Hill starts the count 0-1, he has an ERA of 0.50. As you can see below, Hill is now starting counts with a strike over 65 percent of the time.
It’s been a roller-coaster type season for Hill. After multiple DL stints, many questioned if Hill would ever be fully healthy for the season. After battling through the blister problems, it appears that those DL days are in the past.
Dodgers fans know that when healthy, Hill has the potential to be one of the better left-handed arms in the game. They’ve seen his potential, but it’s always been limited due to injuries.
Over the last month, Hill has been healthy, and he’s been one of the most consistent and reliable arms the Dodgers have.
Hopefully Hill’s health won’t be a concern, and he can continue to go out there and give the Dodgers quality starts. Fighting for their sixth consecutive division title, Hill’s health and success may be more crucial than ever.