Losing your second best pitcher is very rarely seen as a positive, especially when that second best pitcher is one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last couple season. After losing right-hander Zack Greinke, the Los Angeles Dodgers need to replace him. But can they?
The question posed is one that Sporting News asked in an article today about the “Five things to watch in the NL” as the Spring Training unfolds. It’s a tricky question filled with a lot of differing opinions, but there’s still an answer to be found somewhere in there.
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Despite Greinke’s departure, the Dodgers’ starting pitchers are listed as MLB’s best heading into the 2016 season, according to Fangraphs, which projected the team to have a 3.21 ERA among starters and a 19.2 WAR, just ahead of the Mets at 18.3.
Oh, he’s not kidding. The Dodgers are projected to have the top pitching fWAR – which is FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement – in all of baseball this upcoming season. Now, that doesn’t mean that they will, so don’t think of it like that. But they are, at the very list, viewed favorably.
Rodgers goes on to mention that Kenta Maeda will actually be the team’s only right-hander in the projected Opening Day rotation – a rotation that features Clayton Kershaw (lefty), Scott Kazmir (lefty), Brett Anderson (lefty), Alex Wood (lefty), and possibly Hyun-jin Ryu (lefty). That means that Maeda will have to carry the right-handed workload.
However, Rodgers’ first line in the piece is key:
The team brought in two additions to replace Greinke in the rotation, Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir.
And that’s the argument as to why they can, in some ways, replace Greinke. Neither guy has to be as good as Greinke, but the combination, as a whole, has to be up to his 2015 level. That doesn’t mean they will, but it also doesn’t mean they won’t. You just have to see how it all plays out.
The team’s rotation is certainly stronger in 2016 than it was in 2015, which is partly why FanGraphs loves them so much, but losing Greinke does hurt. However, the improvements to the middle and back end of the rotation should render Greinke’s loss to a division rival as something very minor.