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Friday, February 23, 2007

Do The Dodgers Have The Best Pitching Staff In Baseball?

By David

Right off the bat the answer to this is no. The Dodgers do not have the best pitching staff in baseball, but they are the class of the NL West. Still, L.A. has a formidable staff and one that can compete with the best in baseball.

Anchoring the staff is the newly acquired Jason Schmidt who signed a three year, $47 million contract during the off season. He will be entering his 13th season in baseball and recently enjoyed great success during his six seasons with the rival Giants. He won 78 games in San Fran and only posted an ERA higher than 3.59 once. In terms of durability, Schmidt has pitched at least 172 innings the past five seasons and during that span he has compiled 14 complete games and 9 shutouts. The right-hander will fit in nicely to an already strong rotation.

Righty Derek Lowe is coming off of a 16 win year in which he posted a stellar 3.63 ERA. Lowe will be the opening day starter for the Dodgers this season. The trust that manager Grady Little has installed in Lowe displays how important he is to the team. Over the past two seasons he has racked up 420 innings of work.

Brad Penny will most likely be the number three starter this season and like Lowe, he amassed 16 wins last year. I'm not a big fan of Penny, but if he's on his game the Dodgers will be in great shape. He didn't do much during his first two seasons in L.A., but he demonstrated last season that he can still pitch well.

The back end of the rotation might end up being the Achilles heel for the Dodgers or it might end up being a strong point. Is left-hander Randy Wolf healthy and will Chad Billingsley have his break out season? Randy only started 12 games last season and has won a total of 15 games the past three years. That is less than the total amount of games[16] that he won in 2003 as a member of the Phillies.

Wolf, an 8-year veteran, is a resident of Calabasas, California and is hoping that a return home can resolve his pitching woes. If his elbow is healthy he can have a bounce back season and make a difference in the NL West.

Maybe the biggest wild card for the Dodgers rotation is 22-year old Chad Billingsley. He is one of the bright young stars on the roster and can turn out to be the ace of the staff in years to come. Currently, L.A. needs him to continue where he left off from last season as he won seven games with a 3.80 ERA in 18 games.

If the back end of the rotation can perform the Dodgers can compete with the best that the NL has to offer. If not, they will manage to win a mediocre NL West and lose in the first round of the playoffs. One of the positive attributes of their pitching staff is that they have veterans in the bullpen who can step in and be starters. Those players are Elmer Dessens, Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson.


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