Ryu gets the nod in Game 2, along with Gordon and Baxter

The Dodgers are changing things up in the second game of the season in Australia, inserting two new players into the lineup and switching up the batting order. Scott Van Slyke is sitting for Mike Baxter and Justin Turner is being replaced by Dee Gordon, but perhaps the most interesting move is the decision to bat Gordon leadoff.

The changes are understandable with a switch in handedness of the opposing starting pitcher (though SVS had a reverse platoon split last year), and I think it’s actually a positive sign for the future if this indicates a new willingness to platoon going forward. Here’s hoping Don Mattingly doesn’t give up on it if a few tries are unsuccessful … and that he doesn’t view players like Baxter as a legit platoon option going forward.

Meanwhile, starter Hyun Jin Ryu has high expectations for his 2014.

“Our one and two starters are so strong, but after Zack Greinke was hurt, I started thinking I might pitch,” said Ryu, who gets the ball for the Dodgers on Sunday against the D-backs. “I had a really good spring, and I feel really good. I have high expectations.”

Diamondbacks
Dodgers 
7:00pm PT
Sydney, Australia
CF
Pollock
2B
Gordon
2B
Hill
RF
Puig
1B
Goldschmidt
SS
Ramirez
LF
Prado
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Trumbo
CF
Ethier
RF
Montero
C
Ellis
C
Parra
LF
Baxter
2B
Gregorius
3B
Uribe
P
Cahill
P
Ryu

In injury news, Chad Billingsley continues to progress in rehab.

Billingsley said he expects to throw a few more BP sessions against hitters, and he remains on track to make the first of at least five rehab appearances in the Minor Leagues starting on April 6. The right-hander estimates that he has already thrown close to 20 bullpen sessions this year.

“My arm felt good, so that’s definitely good, especially being the first time going full bore with the heater and the first time throwing a hard curveball and changeups,” Billingsley said. “I was a little rusty, but I was very pleased with the curveball. The timing was a little off, but I threw some good pitches, and overall, I’m pretty pleased with it.”

And no, Matt Kemp is apparently not banned from getting hits in minor league games.

Kemp finished 2-for-4 with a home run and a double in a Triple-A game against the a White Sox.

“I’m getting my work in and getting ready for the season,” Kemp said. “I felt pretty good. Today was a good day.”

Have a feeling the Dodgers are really going to need him in 2014, for better or worse.

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-Carl Crawford‘s fiance gave birth to a baby boy. No complications and he should be ready to go when the Dodgers get back. Congrats to him.

2014 Spring Training preview: Starting pitchers

haren_2014-03-01

Dan Haren could be one of Ned Colletti’s best signings.

Age IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 26 2013 236 8.8 2.0 1.83 2.39 2.88 6.5
’14 ZiPS 227.1 9.2 2.1 2.26 2.55 N/A 5.7
’14 Steamer 192 9.2 2.4 3.11 2.98 N/A 3.6
Zack Greinke 30 2013 177.2 7.5 2.3 2.63 3.23 3.45 2.9
’14 ZiPS 192 8.2 2.1 2.95 3.00 N/A 3.7
’14 Steamer 192 7.8 2.3 3.48 3.25 N/A 3.0
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27 2013 192 7.2 2.3 3.00 3.24 3.46 3.1
’14 ZiPS 182.1 7.7 2.5 3.65 3.93 N/A 1.3
’14 Steamer 189 7.6 2.6 3.58 3.38 N/A 2.7
Dan Haren 33 2013 (Nationals) 169.2 8.0 1.6 4.67 4.09 3.67 1.5
’14 ZiPS 162.2 7.6 1.7 3.71 3.59 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 173 7.4 1.7 3.56 3.55 N/A 2.2
Josh Beckett 34 2013 43.1 8.5 3.1 5.19 4.66 3.81 -0.1
’14 ZiPS 103.2 7.8 2.7 3.73 3.83 N/A 0.8
’14 Steamer 77 7.5 2.7 3.81 3.73 N/A 0.7
Paul Maholm 32 2013 (Braves) 153.0 6.18 2.76 4.41 4.24 3.89 0.7
’14 ZiPS 147.1 6.11 2.51 3.97 4.12 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 77.0 6.22 2.74 4.01 3.76 N/A 0.6
Chad Billingsley 29 2013 (Dodgers) 12 4.5 3.7 3.00 4.38 4.66 0.0
’14 ZiPS 97 7.1 3.3 3.90 3.74 N/A 0.9
’14 Steamer 19 7.0 3.1 4.14 3.91 N/A 0.1
Stephen Fife 28 2013 (Dodgers) 58.1 6.9 3.1 3.70 4.35 3.89 0.1
’14 ZiPS 124 5.5 3.8 4.57 4.68 N/A -0.5
’14 Steamer 19 6.2 3.6 4.48 4.23 N/A 0.1
Matt Magill 24 2013 (Dodgers) 27.2 8.5 9.1 6.51 7.13 6.04 -0.8
’14 ZiPS 117.1 8.2 5.7 4.60 4.74 N/A -0.4
’14 Steamer 19 8.4 5.9 4.47 4.21 N/A 0.1
Zach Lee 22 2013 (AA) 142.2 8.3 2.2 3.22 33.7 N/A N/A

The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching — especially their starting pitching. With this potentially stellar group led by Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers figure to have one of the best rotations in the majors.

Kershaw is coming off his second Cy Young award in three years, and it easily could have been 3-for-3. He’s the first starting pitcher (who qualified for the ERA title) to post a sub-2 ERA since Pedro Martinez did it in his historic 2000 season. Greg Maddux last did it in the National League in 1995. Yes, ERA is becoming more and more like batting average, but if a guy hit .375, that’s going to open some eyes.

A’s
Dodgers 
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Burns
2B
Gordon
SS
Punto
LF
Crawford
3B
Donaldson
SS
Ramirez
DH
Cespedes
CF
Ethier
1B
Callaspo
RF
Puig
RF
Taylor
3B
Uribe
CF
Gimenez
1B
Van Slyke
LF
Fuld
C
Federowicz
2B
Elmore
P
Ryu

The soon-to-be-26-year-old signed a monster contract extension in the offseason and will be a Dodger for at least the next five seasons. While he’s off to a slow start in spring training (10.00 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .308 BAA), it’s nothing to be concerned about. He’s going to be one of the two pitchers to start the Dodgers’ opening series in Australia. While the last memory some folks have of Kershaw is his disastrous Game 6 performance in the NLCS, he’s primed to bounce back from that.

Zack Greinke is coming off a great first season in Los Angeles. Despite missing time with a broken collar bone, he was still able to be the unquestioned No. 2 starter on the staff. For a time last season, Greinke was the Dodgers’ best pitcher; he has that kind of ability. Entering his age-30 season, Greinke is showing no signs of slowing down. He might not be the 220-plus inning workhorse many would like him to be, but he’s going to give the Dodgers quality innings while he’s out there. He’s been hampered by a calf injury thus far, but he should be ready for stateside opening day.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s debut season was fantastic. After a lot was made of his signing, and the uncertainty behind it, he went out and pitched about as well as anyone could have expected. He should take a step forward this season and be a 200-plus inning pitcher for the Dodgers. I’m predicting a big season from Ryu, i.e. better numbers than he posted in his rookie year (even if the projection systems disagree). He’ll join Kershaw pitching in Australia.

Dan Haren was a quick signing by Ned Colletti, and it could pay off big time for the Dodgers. Haren is a local kid and, despite a couple of down seasons, could be one of the best No. 4 starters in the game. Both ZiPS and Steamer expect him to be better than Ryu. I don’t think he’ll be that good, but he should be a quality pitcher for the Dodgers.

Those are the locks, barring injury. Now comes the fun part.

Josh Beckett has looked pretty good this spring, even if the Mariners roughed him up on Sunday. His velocity seems to be solid and his curveball (in his first start) was good. He’s recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, so it’ll be interesting to watch his progress. He has the inside track for the No. 5 spot right now.

Paul Maholm was a nice value signing, and an insurance policy in case Beckett’s offseason surgery prevented him from pitching (well) in 2014. He won’t overpower hitters and he’s the definition of a crafty lefty. He said after he was signed that he’d be willing to pitch out of the bullpen, if needed As of right now, it looks like that might be the case.

Chad Billingsley won’t be ready until — depending who you believe, June or July. He’ll likely be brought back slowly, pitching out of the bullpen to build up his endurance. Remember, he won’t get a regular spring training. Sure, he’ll get a few rehab starts in the minors, but it isn’t the same. If he comes back and is a anywhere close to his former self, that would only be a good thing for the Dodgers.

Stephen Fife had a solid stretch in 2013 when he was an effective pitcher. Some poor late-season outings put a damper on an otherwise solid season. He should head the Albuquerque Isotopes’ pitching staff and be on the short list if the Dodgers need an emergency start.

Matt Magill had a fantastic debut against the Milwaukee Brewers only to see Matt Guerrier blow the game for him. There wasn’t much other good from Magill’s time in the majors in 2013. He completely forgot how to throw strikes and couldn’t be counted on. He had control issues in Triple-A, but he showed flashes that made him a Top-10 prospect last year.

Zach Lee had a solid spring debut on Friday, throwing two scoreless innings against the Rangers. He is the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect and the one closest to the majors after Ross Stripling was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He could make his debut in 2014, but it’d be in a capacity not dissimilar to Joc Pederson‘s — an extended period of time, not a spot-start.

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With that, we conclude the Dodgers Digest Spring Training Preview series. Baseball is almost here for real, folks.

Projected 2017 Dodgers’ pitching staff

If you thought projecting the 2017 lineup was tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. While you’ll recognize a lot of the names listed here, the pitching projections are a lot more unstable than the position player projections.

Without further adieu, here is who you should expect to see Opening Day 2017.

Starting Pitcher 1
If Clayton Kershaw isn’t the Dodgers’ No. 1 starter in three years, it’s highly likely he’s been abducted by aliens.

Options
Clayton Kershaw: Will be in his age-29 season and rolling around in his millions of dollars he’ll have already earned.

2017 SP 1: Kershaw

Even with the opt-out clause in his 7-year deal (after the fifth year), Kershaw will still be owed $33 million for the 2018 season, with a $65 million due the next two seasons — which will be his age-31 and 32 seasons. Odds are he’ll opt out, and the Dodgers will sign him to a new mega deal.

Starting Pitcher 2
This is a situation similar to Kershaw’s, as Greinke is clearly the second-best starting pitcher the Dodgers have now (and probably will have) in 2017.

Options
Zack Greinke: Will be 33 and will likely have been re-signed to a new contract (opt-out after 2015).
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Will be in the fifth year of a 6-year deal and entering his age-30 season.
Julio Urias: Almost preposterous to include him, seeing as he’ll be 20 years old and could conceivably be in his second full season.

Dodgers
Reds
6:05 p.m. PT
Goodyear, Ariz.
CF
Gordon
CF
Hamilton
DH
Crawford
2B
Phillips
RF
Puig
1B
Votto
1B 
Gonzalez
LF
Ludwick
3B
Uribe
RF
Bruce
LF
Pederson
3B
Frazier
2B
Guerrero
SS
Cozart
C
Federowicz
C
Pena
SS
Rojas
DH
Duran
P
Ryu
P
Bailey

2017 SP 2: Greinke

Greinke is probably going to opt out of his deal in 2015. He’s such a good pitcher, has such good mechanics and is one of the smartest pitchers in the last 15 years that the Dodgers couldn’t possibly pass on bringing him back. He figures to age well as he doesn’t rely on elite velocity to be successful.

Starting Pitcher 3
Here’s where things get a little murky — in a good way. There are two or three guys who could realistically lay claim to this spot in the rotation.

Options
Chad Billingsley: Will be entering age-32 season and could be on a different team by this point.
Zach Lee: If he reaches his potential, this could be his spot — even in his age-25 season.
Hyun-jin Ryu: Only figures to get better; certainly doesn’t figure to get any worse.
Julio Urias: The most potential of anyone on this list.

2017 SP 3: Ryu

Ryu figures to have some really solid campaigns behind him by this point. He’s the best pitcher of the four listed above and could be one of the game’s best left-handers by 2017.

Starting Pitcher 4
This spot almost seems reserved for a certain 20-year-old, as he has some of the most pure talent in the Dodgers’ farm system.

Options
Chris Anderson: The 2013 first-rounder will be 24 and probably one of the best prospects in the system, if he’s still eligible.
Chad Billingsley: Probably on a different team by now.
Zach Lee: More likely the No. 5 starter — or a No. 3 or 4 on another team.
Ross Stripling: Will be 27, unlikely after Tommy John surgery, but still has a starter’s repertoire/build.
Julio Urias: This is his spot.

2017 SP 4: Urias

This will be just the beginning for Urias. He’ll be 20 years old and on his way up. He’ll eventually be the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter — at least, as long as Kershaw is still around.

Starting Pitcher 5
This spot will likely be filled from within the system — and could even be a player who isn’t yet a member of a Dodger (i.e. a draftee).

Options
Chris Anderson: While it’d be nice to see him make it as a starter, he could be dominant reliever.
Chad Billingsley: Love ya, Chad, but I’m sure you’ll be in Cincinnati by this time.
Zach Lee: Hoping that $5.25 million bonus pays off by this time.
Ross Stripling: Might be a reliever or with another organization.

2017 SP 5: Lee

Lee could end up being a Kyle Lohse-type, which would be a fantastic No. 5 starter in this game (at a fraction of the cost). His stuff could be average at this point and he’d still be a great No. 5 starer.

Closer
At one time, everyone thought Eric Gagne would never break down and he’d go down as one of the greatest closers ever. He had the best 3-year stretch of any reliever, but he eventually broke down. Kenley Jansen is great, but there’s a chance he could — eventually — break down. Not because of anything he has or hasn’t done, but because of the position itself.

Options
Chris Anderson: Has the arsenal to do the job, but makeup/poise are unknown.
Onelki Garcia: Has a potentially devastating 2-pitch combo that gives him a closer’s ceiling.
Kenley Jansen: Will be 29 years old and be making crazy money.
Chris Withrow: Has the best stuff of this quartet, but control/command are question marks.

2017 Closer: Jansen

Provided Jansen’s cutter is still as filthy as it is now, I don’t see him breaking down physically (as long as his heart is OK) and I see his control/command holding up just fine. But it’s nice to see the Dodgers have some legitimate options if things change dramatically in three years.

Relief Pitchers
The most volatile of any player on the baseball field, don’t expect to see a lot of veteran presents here, as the Dodgers should fill voids in the bullpen from within.

Options
Chris Anderson: Heavy fastball and slider combination should play up out of the ‘pen.
Jose Dominguez: Elite fastball velocity should be sustainable as he enters his age-26 season.
Onelki Garcia: Will be in age-26 season and could find himself traded by this time.
Yimi Garcia: Will be entering age-26 season, and despite fastball spin, lack of plus-velocity could hold him back.
J.P. Howell: Will be 34 and a free agent, likely not brought back.
Matt Magill: Will be 27 and needs to keep command/control in check to have a long-term career.
Chris Reed: Only on here because of his prospect ranking, I have no faith in him — even out of the ‘pen.
Paco Rodriguez: Should have established himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game at age-26.
Tom Windle: Will be 25 and a cheaper option than a guy like Rodriguez.
Chris Withrow: Should start getting expensive at age-28, could be a trade candidate.

2017 RPs (6): Anderson, Dominguez, O. Garcia, Rodriguez, Windle, Withrow

Aside from Howell and, to a lesser extent, Rodriguez, these are all power arms and all should do quite well setting up the Dodgers’ 2017 closer. The only problem is, guys like Rodriguez and Withrow figure to start getting expensive — perhaps too expensive for the Dodgers (as funny as that sounds). That’s where the next tier of reliever prospects comes in — Victor Arano, Ralston Cash, Jharel Cotton, Scott Griggs, etc.

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Zack Greinke SP 2
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 3
Julio Urias SP 4
Zach Lee SP 5
Jose Dominguez RP
Onelki Garcia RP
Tom Windle RP
Chris Anderson RP
Paco Rodriguez RP
Chris Withrow SU
Kenley Jansen CL

Zack Greinke isn’t going to Australia, and that’s OK

greinke_2014-02-27

G’day, mate.

When I opined last week that Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke should skip the Dodgers’ trip to Australia, I had the scenario playing out differently. I certainly didn’t have Greinke suffering a calf injury on his fourth pitch of his first 2014 spring training appearance that would effectively force out of the game.

But here we are — five days later — and Greinke is only now beginning to play catch. Don Mattingly told reporters after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the A’s that Greinke was not an option to go down under. That’s great. Now, if we can just convince Mattingly to hold back Kershaw — who was roughed up for a second consecutive spring start (no, it isn’t time to panic) — we’ll be sittin’ pretty.

Greinke’s injury is minor enough that it shouldn’t have a bearing on his regular season performance or readiness, especially since he’s staying in the past.

Mattingly said whichever starting pitchers the Dodgers take to Australia, they will be on strict pitch counts (90-100). If the Dodgers take Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren to pitch against Patrick Corbin and Trevor Cahill, I like their chances. Yes, their chances would improve dramatically if Kershaw were to pitch, but I’m more than confident in Ryu and Haren being able to take at least one game from the Corbin/Cahill duo.

Because of the strict pitch counts, the Dodgers are going to have to bring a long man or two just in case Ryu and/or Haren falter. That man could be Seth Rosin (pronounced Ro-ZEEN, as some have wonder in the comments section), whom Mike wrote about earlier. How good has he been in his first five innings? Eight strikeouts and no runs allowed — doesn’t get much better than that. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA laid out just how Rosin could join the Dodgers in Australia.

“The Dodgers have to submit a 28-man opening day roster to MLB by 7 p.m. PT on Friday, March 21, six hours before their opening game against the Diamondbacks in Australia. Three of the 28 names, which must be designated simultaneously with the roster submission, are ineligible to play in those two games. These will people likely left behind in Arizona to continue to work in minor league games but not on the disabled list, with candidates like Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett, to name two.

This potentially opens up a spot for an extra relief pitcher or two, at least for those two games in Australia. The Dodgers do have to cut down to a normal 25-man roster by March 30, the date of their first game in the U.S., against the Padres in San Diego.”

If only Brandon League weren’t a thing…

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And just for shiggles, since EephusBlue brought it up on Twitter today, here’s a video I shot last year that “features” the Camelback Ranch Lemonade Man in the background of a Yasiel Puig at-bat.

Really hope this guy is still there selling tons of limonada.

A case for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke skipping the Dodgers’ Australia trip

It’s assumed by everyone Clayton Kershaw will start the first game of the season. He’s the ace, he pitches the first game — not unlike the second baseman batting second in Don Mattingly‘s lineups.

But, it might actually make sense to hold Kershaw back from starting the first “official” game of the season in Australia.

It’s still February, and the Dodgers have already expressed concern about Kershaw’s 2014 workload — they want him to be as fresh as possible for the postseason. If Kershaw were to start three of the first six games of the season (the schedule allows for that), the Dodgers wouldn’t be doing that.

Teams should want their best pitcher throwing as much as possible, but there is something to be said for big workloads these days. Kershaw has averaged 225 innings in the last four years, including an career-most 236 in 2013 (259, if you count his 23 postseason innings). While he was nails against the Braves in the National League Division Series and in the first game against the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, Kershaw looked tired in Game 6, and the results showed as much.

Dodgers
D-backs
12:05pm PT
Scottsdale, Ariz.
SS
Figgins
CF
Pollock
LF
Crawford
2B
Hill
RF
Puig
1B
Goldschmidt
3B
Uribe
3B
Prado
CF
Pederson
LF
Trumbo
1B
Van Slyke
C
Montero
C
Federowicz
DH
Tuiasosopo
2B
Guerrero
SS
Pennington
DH
Turner
RF
Parra
P
Kershaw
 
P
McCarthy

I first heard David Vassegh mention this possibility on Dodger Talk last week. While I don’t agree with a lot of comments and opinions on the show, this one actually makes some sense.

Hitters are always ahead of pitchers in spring training. All these guys are used to a full month of games before breaking camp. The Dodgers (and Diamondbacks) have the shortest camps this year because of the opener down under. The Dodgers begin games today, and their final game in Glendale is March 16 (I’ll be there!). They come back after the trip and have the Freeway Series on March 27-29, with their first real stateside game March 30 against the Padres on Sunday Night Baseball.

Kershaw is entering his age-26 season and just signed a mega deal. The last thing the Dodgers need is have him pitch meaningful games before he’s ready. That could be said about all their pitchers, but with the investment they made in Kershaw, it’s much more magnified. Skipping the Australia trip is more about his being ready for 32-33 starts from April through September, and hopefully 5-6 starts in October.

If Kershaw does remain in Glendale, he can get plenty of work in on the back fields. While he wouldn’t be facing major leaguers (or future major leaguers), it’d be true game action, and would help him get his arm where it needs to be.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and routine. Kershaw has a specific routine, and throwing a regular season game in Australia in March probably isn’t part of it.

The more I think about it, the more I agree with Zack Greinke about there being “zero excitement” for the trip, seeing as he’d be probably be slated to start the game that was reserved for Kershaw.

Greinke caught some flak for that comment, but I see nothing wrong with it. Greinke is one of the most honest athletes in sports today, and that’s rather refreshing. It’s better than a standard or canned, “We look forward to playing in Australia to open the 2014 season.”

So, if Kershaw is out, who goes to Australia? Greinke — despite his comments — would have to go. I mean, the Dodgers couldn’t conceivably refuse to throw Kershaw and Greinke in the first two meaningful games of the season… right?

Hyun-Jin Ryu would be one of the starters for sure. He’s one of the international faces of the club, and what better way to promote the Dodgers by sending a Korean pitcher to Australia?

Since the Dodgers don’t need a fifth starter much in April, even if they don’t throw Kershaw as much as they can, perhaps Ryu and Dan Haren could get the first two starts, with Josh Beckett (the leader for the No. 5 rotation spot) ready to spell Haren for a start in April. Remember, Haren spent time on the disabled list last season because he was tired, not because he was hurt. Limiting Haren’s workload might be a little more important than limiting Kershaw’s at this point (but only a little).

If Greinke isn’t excited (at all) for the trip, then maybe it makes more sense to hold him back as well. He and Kershaw give the Dodgers the best 1-2 combination in baseball. If the team sends Ryu and Haren — and the team loses both games — is it really the end of the world? I know, I know, games in April (well, March, in this case) mean just as much as games in September. However, the Dodgers returning home 0-2 isn’t devastating. Sure, it’d suck, but there is far too much talent and veteran presents on this team to let an 0-2 rattle it.

Oh, and Ryu and Haren are good pitchers. There’s every chance the Dodgers come back 2-0, despite sending their No. 3 and 4 starters. Then, all the hand-wringing about not sending Kershaw and Greinke will have been for naught.

It’s almost like playing with house money. Send Ryu and Haren to face off against Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill or whomever the Diamondbacks are sending to Australia — I like the Dodgers’ chances in those match-ups.

There’s a real possibility Kershaw doesn’t go, and Greinke probably shouldn’t go. I don’t see the scenario playing out like this, but it’s something that should at least be considered by Mattingly and Co.

Hyun Jin Ryu’s Impending Sophomore Slump?

Without Masahiro Tanaka in the fold, and with the fifth starter role still up in the air, Hyun Jin Ryu‘s ability to be consistent as the Dodgers‘ #3 starter becomes all the more important to the quality and depth of the 2014 starting rotation. Since his performance will be key this year, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles wondered if the team should worry that Ryu is due for a sophomore slump.

It’s difficult to predict what pitchers will do coming off strong rookie seasons. For every Dwight Gooden, who takes a major step forward, there is a Rick Sutcliffe, who regresses dramatically.

It’s probably a bit more instructive to compare Ryu to other pitchers who came straight from foreign professional leagues, because — unlike U.S. players — they have no minor-league history with any of the hitters they’re facing. They often have been lightly scouted. It’s fair to say they own a sizeable advantage on the hitters, one which fades over time.

But again, we find mixed signals.

Ryu’s numbers — a .252 batting average on balls in play and 1.20 WHIP — suggest he could be in for a bit of a come-down in year two, as his luck was better than the average pitcher’s. On the other hand, he’s not a power pitcher and he’s not overly reliant on strikeouts. He tends to be pitch-efficient, which bodes well for his chances of giving the Dodgers consistent innings.

So, will he endure a sophomore slump? Probably, but it seems highly endurable.

As cliche as a sophomore slump sounds, there’s history to it in terms of Rookie Of The Year types who regress, and Ryu’s case is an interesting one to explore further.

In the argument Saxon is making, I’m not sure I can endorse a prediction of even an “endurable slump”. And it’s not even that I necessarily disagree, as there does figure to be a bit of regression in store for Ryu, but it’s hardly the 50/50 proposition between sophomore slump and continuing success that’s currently being juxtaposed.

For starters, if Ryu’s BABIP was .252 then that would indeed be cause for worry, because the team’s BABIP against was .291 and the league average was .294. Fortunately, Ryu’s actual BABIP was .296, making his luck in terms of batted balls quite neutral. And it’s why his peripherals led to a 3.24 FIP and 3.46 xFIP to go along with his 3.00 ERA.

That type of rock solid performance figures into all of Ryu’s 2014 projections, which have him as a dependable middle rotation guy across the board.

Hyun Jin Ryu’s 2014 Projections
Projection IP K/9 B/9 ERA WAR
Steamer 189.0 7.7 2.7 3.55 2.7
PECOTA 186.0 7.1 2.2 3.39 2.1
ZiPS 182.1 7.8 2.5 3.65 2.2
Oliver 188.0 7.0 2.4 3.12 2.6

That said, the reason some regression figures to occur is because of his 78.2 LOB% (strand rate), which ranked 13th in all of the MLB among qualified pitchers, compared to the league average of 73.5%. A big part of Ryu’s ability to get out of trouble like that was predicated on him inducing double plays, as Ryu managed to generate 26 double plays in 2013, third in the MLB. But even that has a justification attached to it since the double plays stem from Ryu’s groundball rate (50.6%), which ranked him 13th in the MLB among qualified pitchers.

So while expectations should account for the fact that Ryu projects to take a tiny step back in 2014, his 2013 was due to anything but luck or a lack of adjustment time (3.57 1H FIP/2.73 2H FIP). As with any pitcher, there’s always a chance for regression or statistical quirks, but Ryu’s 2013 was legitimately solid and he cemented himself statistically as a deserving #3 starter on a first-division team. And at the end of the day, Ryu’s at least as safe a bet to stave off a down year as his rotation-mates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Pitcher Hitting – The Dodgers’ Secret Weapon?

The Dodgers’ current starting rotation is shaping up to be one of the strongest in the league. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, and Josh Beckett is a combination that most teams in the league envy for their pitching ability. The Dodgers’ projected rotation has a hidden talent, though: they can hit. I’m not talking about sacrifice bunting, either. That’s boring. When compared to other pitchers, they can do more than that.

The graph below shows each of the projected starting five in terms of wRC+ (minimum 35 plate appearances) by season. The average wRC+ for a position player is 100, and the average wRC+ for NL pitchers is the light blue line.   Pitcher_Hitting_Chart

The graph shows that all of the Dodgers’ starting five is consistently better than the average pitcher with the bat. Let’s break this down pitcher-by-pitcher:

Clayton Kershaw

Best season: 2013. 92 PA, .182/.241/.260, 42 wRC+, 0.6 oWAR

Career: 424 PA, .154/.192/.175, -3 wRC+, 0.8 oWAR

Best moment: 4-1-13 Opening Day HR


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An easy choice. We’re not going to forget this moment for a long time.

Conclusion: Kershaw struggled with the bat during his first three years in the majors, hitting just .076/.103/.076 in his first 171 plate appearances. However, he’s improved his hitting line to .204/.247/.238 in his last 253 plate appearances. He’s been consistently competent with the bat over the last three seasons, and there is no reason to think that this won’t continue in 2014.

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