If you were to ask a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers what their thoughts on the starting rotation (minus Clayton Kershaw) were, they would probably say something to the effect of “good, they get the job done, but not great.” Which is a perfect encapsulation of what the myriad of starters that the Dodgers have thrown out this season have been, good but not great.
The Dodgers have used 13 different starting pitchers this season, which is honestly rather absurd. Due to a record amount of injuries on the roster, at points in the season the Dodgers have had to turn to players such as Nick Tepesch and Brock Stewart to fill the void. No offense to either Tepesch or Stewart, who in their defense have performed very well in the minors, but frankly have no business making a start in the majors.
However, there have been two pitchers who have avoided the injury bug and been along for the ride all season: Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. They are the only pitchers who have been healthy and apart of the rotation all season and for the most part, have done well for themselves.
Maeda’s first season in the MLB, after reigning over Japan for eight years has been a rather successful one, posting an ERA of 3.29, a WHIP of .107, 138 K’s and a 12-7 record. Maeda established himself as the Dodgers number two started behind Kershaw and in lieu of Kerhs’s injury, is the de facto ace. However, Kazmir’s season hasn’t been as smooth.
After his first start for the Dodgers against the San Diego Padres in which he pitched 6 shutout, one-hit innings with 5 strikeouts it briefly seemed that concerns over the signing of the veteran lefty could be quelled.
However, over his next four starts, Kazmir pitched a total of 19 innings and surrendered 18 earned runs. This inconsistency has extended throughout the whole season and whenever Kazmir takes the mound, comfort is not a luxury that has been afforded to the ball club.
Kazmir is 10-6, has an ERA of 4.41, a WHIP of 1.31 and 133 strikeouts and in all, the Dodgers have won 13 of the 24 games he has started.
However, many times it has felt that the team has won in spite of Kazmir as he has averaged less than 6 innings per start and has only lasted seven innings or more twice. Yet, Kazmir has been someone that the Dodgers have needed to rely on and while his numbers don’t at all jump off the page, he’s been around all season and it doesn’t look like that will be changing as the team gears up for the playoff push.
Manager Dave Roberts is aware of Kazmir’s struggles, but is also appreciative of the lefty’s resilience and the fact that he is ready to answer the bell every fifth day. Speaking to the OC Register, Roberts offered up the following.
“I think Kaz has not hit his stride yet,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“I think he’s battled some physical things. But the one thing you can say is — he’s posted. In a year when we’ve had instability with players and pitchers, he and Kenta (Maeda) have been very consistent in being able to post. That level of consistency has been huge for us.
“I know Scott expects more from himself, as we do. I expect a great run from him to finish the season. But just to post every fifth or sixth day, whatever it is, has been huge for us.”
So that has been it for Kazmir this season, just the fact that he has been able to keep himself on the field and pitched well more often than he has pitched poorly has been enough for the Dodgers. If the team can get Kershaw back and if Rich Hill’s blister can ever heal, the pressure on Kazmir will certainly decrease and less attention will be on him, which perhaps will lead to more consistent performances.
No one would accuse Kazmir of being a Cy Young candidate, or even anything really close to it for that matter, but, he has been a valuable piece in the rotation.
He has gotten a lot of criticism, most of which was deserved, but he has continued just trudging along and keeping his head down and going to work. It’s not exciting, and sometimes it’s not effective, but it is necessary. Kazmir hasn’t had a great season, but if he had bowed out like many other of our pitchers did, who knows where the team would be.
If nothing else, he deserves credit and respect for this and many will probably not want to give it him, but, begrudgingly as it may be, they should.
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