Dodgers' First Half Review: Pitching

As we enter the All Star break, I'll take a look back at the first half and predict how the second half will play out.

What Happened?

While the Dodgers' offense was almost non-existent entering the All Star break, the pitching has been superb. The team's collective 3.33 ERA is second in the majors, behind the surprise first-place Washington Nationals. The team also ranks second behind the Nats in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). So, by two measures, the Dodgers are among the best in the league when it comes to their pitching staff.

Clayton Kershaw, the team's ace, hasn't pitched as well as he did in 2011 when he won the Cy Young award, but he's still been one of the better starters in the National League. The 2012 All Star posted a 2.91 ERA in the first half, though his strikeout rate is down slightly and his home run rate is up a little. His mechanics have been less consistent this year so hopefully he can clean them up in the final 2.5 months.

Chad Billingsley hasn't put up the prettiest of numbers but has been better than his 4.30 ERA would indicate. His peripherals are solid and his FIP is almost a run lower than his ERA. Bills gives fans headaches because he tends to give up poorly timed hits. A little more luck and he'd be lauded for his abilities as a #2 starter.

Another familiar face, Ted Lilly, hasn't been seen around the club since May due to a shoulder injury. Prior to the injury, he'd put up sparkling numbers up until his last three starts. Apparently someone told him the season started in August, as Teddy is a notorious second half pitcher. Hopefully he can make it back to the mound this season.

The new guys, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, have provided solid value at the back of the rotation. Capuano matches Kershaw with a 2.91 ERA and his peripherals are only slightly lower across the board. He's been a very pleasant surprise. Harang hasn't posted strong strikeout or walk numbers but he's kept the ball in the yard. His 3.51 ERA is more than what many fans expected of him.

Nathan Eovaldi, who came up to replace Lilly in the rotation, has done alright as the team's interim #5 starter. His 4.21 ERA is acceptable and he's throwing more strikes this year as well as keeping the ball down. The downside is his lack of strikeouts, which is odd given his electric stuff. I'd like to see him use his slider more in the second half.

As for the pen, it begins with Kenley Jansen who's entrenched himself as the club's closer for the foreseeable future. The 24 year old converted catcher lowered his walk rate to under 3 but sacrificed strikeouts and has given up more home runs. Still, he's one of the better closers in the NL and should be for years to come.

With Javy Guerra pitching himself out of the closer job and Josh Lindblom regressing, Ronald Belisario has stepped up as the club's setup man. The 29 year old who missed all of last season is back to his dominant form. In 29.1 innings, he's surrendered just 5 earned runs and, while he's not striking a ton of guys out, he's inducing a ridiculous 4.09 groundball to flyball rate.

Guerra and Lindblom will be important pieces in the Dodgers' playoff run. Guerra, who underwent successful knee surgery, has made 2 scoreless appearances since returning from the disabled list. He's yet to allow a home run and must use his secondary pitches more in the second half in order to be more effective. Lindblom was doing fine, until June when his ERA rose to 5.25. He gave up 6 home runs in May and June, so he'll have to keep the ball in the yard to continue contending for the 7th inning role.

There are guys who are no longer with the club. Mike MacDougal pitched his way off the time by walking more than a batter an inning. Todd Coffey injured his elbow and is done for the season. Matt Guerrier is still on the DL with an elbow problem but has recently begun throwing again.

What's Next

As I'm typing this, Ken Gurnick tweets that Ronald Belisario was detained in Miami by immigration after he spent the All Star break in Venezuela. Time for Javy Guerra or Josh Lindblom to step up and set up.

Other than that, there's not really much to do. Stay healthy and get healthy. I've heard rumors that the Dodgers are interested in a left-handed reliever, which wouldn't hurt. The Nationals have three worth watching: Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Gonzalez and Sean Burnett. I just hope they don't overpay.

If anything prevents the Dodgers from reaching the playoffs, it won't be the pitching.

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