While the offense was a disappointment, the Dodgers' rotation was a huge success. The starters combined for a 3.41 ERA, ranking 3rd in the league. They also ranked 4th in strikeouts per nine and 5th in strikeouts per walk.
And it all starts with Clayton Kershaw. I remember the day he was drafted back in 2006, shouting with excitement after the selection was made. Just five short years later, he'd already fulfilled his immense potential. He became the first pitcher in the National League since 2007 to win the pitching triple crown (Wins, ERA, strikeouts). He also won the Cy Young and the Gold Glove but I was very disappointed that he didn't get the Silver Slugger. But hey, nobody's perfect.
The Dodgers' second best starter last season was Hiroki Kuroda, who stepped up in place of a struggling Chad Billingsley. Kuroda posted a career best 3.07 ERA in 32 starts, giving up more homers than 2010 but also walking fewer batters. Very impressive how, at age 36 and in his fourth MLB season, Kuroda proved to be a very productive player.
Speaking of Billingsley, he was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde in 2011. At home, he posted a sparkling 3.07 ERA, but allowed nearly 3 runs more per 9 innings on the road. In the first half, Chad posted a solid 3.87 ERA. After the break, that number rose to 4.77. Overall, his strikeout rate was at a career low while his walk rate was the highest it's been since he broke into the majors in 2006. Hopefully this was the result of a minor injury or mechanical issues that can be resolved in 2012.
Ted Lilly was another schizophrenic pitcher last year. In the first half, Lilly allowed 19 home runs in 19 starts with a 4.79 ERA. But after the all star break, Ted was a completely different animal. His homer rate dropped, his strikeouts went up and he allowed just 56 hits in 85.2 innings. If only the Dodgers could get that second guy to pitch the entire year…
The 5th starter spot was more volatile than usual. The final 167 innings were compiled by five guys (great burgers, by the way), with varied results. Rubby De La Rosa looked like he was going to be a fixture in the rotation for the near future until he blew out his UCL and become part of the Tommy John brotherhood. Nathan Eovaldi was another top prospect that came up and had success, though the Dodgers wanted to limit his innings, pulling him from the rotation and putting him in the pen where he threatened with triple digits. Jon Garland was the biggest disappointment, amassing a 4.33 ERA in 9 starts before succumbing to injury. John Ely made one start, allowing 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings.
But the biggest surprise came in the person of Dana Eveland. An afterthought signing as an NRI, Eveland bided his time in Triple A before finally getting the call in September. While he did have a couple rough outings, the 28 year old lefty did more than anyone could have asked by providing a 0.6 WAR in just 5 starts.
Overall, the starting staff was the sole reason the Dodgers ended the season over .500. While Kershaw was the star, the fact that the team got quality performances from three more pitchers helped immensely. Can the Dodgers match the production in 2012?
2011 Dodgers Positional Review: Starters
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