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Entries in Starting pitching (4)


Dodgers Turnaround Part 2: Pitching

The other day, I kicked off this mini-series about the Dodgers by diving into the offense with regards to what has made them one of the best teams in the game this season.

Today, we move onto pitching.

The first part of the LA pitching season was ugly.

The starters were so-so

One would think that a Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke fronted rotation shouldn't have any problems performing well. And to a point, the starting rotation has not been overly bad. Kershaw will find himself in the middle of the Cy Young Award voting again this season. Greinke got off to a slow start, but also missed time with a broken collarbone thanks to Carlos Quentin.

The contribution that helped the most in the rotation at the beginning of the season, was that of Hyun-jin Ryu

Through the 21st of June, the Korean import's ERA of 2.96 trailed only Kershaw among Dodger starters. With a 21.2% K-rate and K/BB of 2.92, Ryu was making the Dodgers front office look brilliant for investing $61-plus million (Posting fee, $25+ million. Contract, $36 million) in the 26 year old left hander.

The starting rotation was around the middle of the pack in the NL in most categories.

But the bullpen, well...

Through June 21st, the bullpen's ERA was 13th in the National League. It's WHIP was 14th. It's OPS against was 13th. Slugging against, 12th. Do you catch my drift?

Of course, when any bullpen is doing terrible, all eyes look to the closer.

And as the closer, Brandon League was all kinds of not good during the first three months of the season.

League was 14/18 in save chances through late June, and got tuned up by opposing offenses who posted a slash line of .300/.352/.455 against him. Or roughly, Allen Craig-like. League's unsightly 5.14 ERA and 1.464 WHIP eventually got him demoted from the closer role. But as a team, the relief pitching blew 15 save opportunities through June 21st. It's easy to point and laugh at League's non-production, but the late innings were a mess for the Dodgers, and it nearly cost manager Don Mattingly his job.

But then came Kenley Jansen.

Yup, Kenley Jansen. Just your typical, run-of-the-mill, completely dominant closer. I would list the stats for Jansen, but I'd rather just stare at the stat table embedded below with you. We can clean each other's drool off of the table.

Jansen by the numbers
Kenley Jansen .181 .278 .228 5 0.817 37.3% 4.6% 1.98

The Curacao native has been nearly untouchable for the Dodgers throughout July and August, allowing only four earned runs and blowing one save in that time span. 

He may not have Mariano Rivera's cutter, But when you are using it 83.7% of the time, and the results above are what you are getting, it must be something special. 

Along with Jansen anchoring the back end of the bullpen, the rest of the Dodgers relievers have stepped in line to make sure that he gets the ball in the ninth inning. Well, except for League, his ERA since the team became ridiculous good is 4.96. Thanks for nothing, Brandon.

Ronald Belisario has appeared in 25 games since June 21st. His ERA over that span is 0.90. His WHIP is 1.000. Chris Withrow has appeared in 11 games and has an ERA of 1.59 with a WHIP of 0.765. J.P. Howell has an ERA of 0.52 and a WHIP of 0.981. In 24 games, Paco Rodriguez has an ERA of 0.47 and a WHIP of 0.569.

That's five relievers if you include Jansen who have a sub-2.00 ERA and WHIP's at 1.000 or below.

The game is over after four

As a unit the relief corp since June 22nd ranks first in the NL in ERA (2.67), first in WHIP (1.041), third in OPS against (.663) and their K/BB of 3.61 is pacing the NL as well. In theory, that means that every game where the Dodgers have a lead after four innings, should be nearly automatic, and starters could be used less.

But that would mean a lot less Kershaw and his 7-2 record. What's that? You think pitchers wins are silly too? How about an ERA of 1.40, a WHIP of 0.649 and a K-Rate of 25.5% to go along with his 7-2 record over his 10 starts since June 21st? I may have said it before, but just in case I haven't, Clayton Kershaw is good. Like, really really good. I could probably write about him everyday. 

And his number two, Zack Greinke, has been a legitimate number one. He's 8-1 over his last 11 starts to go along with a 2.25 ERA and 1.092 WHIP. A big money offseason signing that worked. I wish my team had one of those. 

The Dodgers are on a run where they are 42-9 since June 21st. 42-9! The Tampa Bay Rays were recently called the "hottest team in baseball." Their record since June 21st is 31-16. The Atlanta Braves just rattled off 14 consecutive wins. Their record? 32-16. 

No team can touch what the Dodgers have been doing for the last eight weeks.



Matt Moore is Getting Hit. Hard. What Gives?

The Tampa Bay Rays are the team that every other team wants to be.

OK, maybe not this year judging by their spot in the standings (which shouldn't matter anyway because who knows what kind of tricks wacky Joe Maddon has up his sleeve. What? No one calls him that? So noted), but no other team in recent memory has had so much success while spending so little money. Maybe the Angels, Blue Jays and Dodgers should have been paying closer attention. 

High draft picks for a decade yielded a stockpile of top-shelf talent, all of which seemed to flood the big league team at the same time: Evan Longoria, David Price, the list goes on. 

Their latest and greatest minor league graduate wasn't a first round pick. But, judging by his "stuff," Matt Moore looks more like an overall first choice, then an eighth-round selection.

Matt Moore

After laying the groundwork for his legend with a stellar ALDS performance in 2011 against the Rangers, Moore put together a fine season in 2012. Nothing spectacular, but good for a rookie. Too many walks, a strikeout per inning, an ERA under 4.00, a good start.

Moore then came barreling through the gates in 2013, firing on all cylinders and rendering any hitter that stepped into the batter's box helpless. He posted a 5-0 record in April with a 1.13 ERA and a 10.7 K/9. He went 3-0 in May, but his ERA was nearly three times what his April marking had been. His K/9 also fell to 5.7 for that month. He was winning, but pitcher wins are silly, and his peripherals suggested that hitters were adjusting.

Or were they?

Matt Moore is a three-pitch pitcher (which is kind of necessary if you are going to be a successful major league starter). He relies mostly on his wicked fastball and wipeout slider. He has a change-up, but has always used that sparingly compared to the other two. And in the first two months of this season, Moore stayed with that approach. In June, well, not so much.

He used his change-up 14.4% of the time in April.

In May, he used it 15.6% of the time.

In June (over the super-duper small sample size of seven innings), he has used his change-up 25.3% of the time. He's still throwing his fastball more than 60% of the time, but his slider is the pitch that is getting shelfed in favor of his change-up. And hitters are teeing off on it. 

And by "teeing off," I mean "torching."

Hitters are posting a  .462 batting average against the pitch this month (which he has thrown 47 times already) and slugging a robust .615 against it. Probably because, well, he's throwing it too much. To illustrate how much the pitch is getting smacked around.

Here's a heat map of his changeup.

Yup. That's a lot of red.

Normally, Matt Moore's change-up is a decent out pitch. His slider is still his bread and butter though. Hitters hold a career OPS of .478 against that pitch. But a .674 OPS against on his change-up, is nothing to be ashamed of. It's just not a pitch that is meant to be thrown over and over and over and over...yeah, you get the point. 

So, Matt, Pedro Martinez you are not. If we hope to see your crazy, two-feet-of-movement fastball hang around in the big leagues for a long time to come, keep the change-up in your back pocket. For your sake, and for ours.


How strong has the Red Sox pitching been?

Really, really, really strong

“Our pitching has been unbelievable,” Red Sox captain-in-waiting Dustin Pedroia said.

But believe it.

As I wrote in my piece on, Red Sox starters have not yet allowed more than three earned runs in a game this season.

The 2013 AL Starting Pitching 

As you mouse over the the teams, you realize that you want to be as far to the lower left-hand corner as possible. 

  • You don't want to be the Angels, whose starters have a 6.07 ERA and a 1.692 WHIP.
  • You don't want to be the Blue Jays, whose starters have a 5.92 ERA and a 1.608 WHIP.

But, you want to be the Tigers, whose starters have a 2.70 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP.

And, you want to be the Red Sox, whose starters have a 2.30 ERA and a 1.202 WHIP.

The 2013 AL Relief Pitching 

At this time of the year I am less concerned with the ERA of bullpens because of the small sample, but I am concerned with the number of innings thrown as that reflects short starts and could ultimately result in further wear and tear on the relievers. With relievers I always pay attention to WHIP.

On the chart above, you want to be in the lower left-hand quadrant, not the upper-right.

Royals fans have to be pleased that their bullpen has only had to throw 32.1 IP and been incredibly successful with a 1.113 WHIP.

The Astros bullpen introduction to AL has been less accomodating. They have already thrown 58.0 unproductive innings with a 1.517 WHIP.

Of major concern across the border has to be the Blue Jays bullpen which has been out there for 55.1 innings , with a 1.428 WHIP and having allowed 23 earned runs.

But the Red Sox pen has pitched 42.2 innings, their WHIP is 1.055, and they have allowed just 16 earned runs.

The bottom line is that the Braves today are the best team in baseball and their pitching staff has permitted just 25 ER, the Red Sox are next on the list having permitted only 37 ER.

The formula for succcess

It's a long season, but forget all the talk about chemistry, the game is about pitching and if you pitch well, you will do well and so far that's the Boston formula for success.