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2019 Dodgers Projections: The Starters

Dodgers
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is seen during the spring training game against the Texas Rangers on March 3, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

In this article series, I’ll be breaking down Baseball-Reference projections, and providing my own projections for the 2019 Dodgers.

Previous Articles: 

Infield: Dodger Infielder Projections

Outfield: Dodger Outfielder Projections

Catchers: Dodger Catcher Projections

Clayton Kershaw

I’ve written about King Kershaw so much this off season. Much of what I’ve written about Kershaw centers around the idea that his 2018 was better than what is perceived. Heavy lies the crown. People expect much from greatness, and sometimes “very good” isn’t good enough. Let’s not re-litigate his 2018 anymore, let’s see what B-Ref says about his 2019.

 

 

My Thoughts/Projection: I think this is a fair charge, mostly. The projected WHIP would be his highest since 2010. Based on his dipping velocity, and Clayton’s insistence on attacking the zone, this is probably accurate. He’s going to allow some hits, which is okay. Clayton’s 2019 success is going to hang more on soft contact and getting outs in alternative ways than it does on strikeouts. I also think the Dodgers overall offense is going to be less inconsistent, and Kersh wins a few more games. Wins are a pointless stat, but they still look good on the paper. Everything else in this projection looks accurate, and depending on his health, it looks generous. Kershaw will still give us a 4 WAR win season.

Walker Buehler

The Vanderbilt flame-thrower was sure fun to watch last year. He found his stride in mid-season. What was most fun about watching Buehl-Dog (FRG coin noise) for me was watching him shut down the Rockies in game 163, and watching him shut down the Boston Red Sox for 7 innings during the World Series. I was riveted by Walker Buehler in 2018, and I personally can’t wait to see his 2019. Let’s see what BREF thinks.

 

 

My Thoughts/Projection: This appears underwhelming but only because of the small amounts of innings. Dave Roberts indicated they would be careful with Walker’s work load again this year. The Dodgers depth allows this to work. I’ll touch on the pitcher who can fill in starts to keep Walker’s innings low, at the end. 1.09 WHIP looks accurate, and 132 K’s in 122 innings looks accurate too. Walker is going to rack up the strikeouts. Even the 2.8 walks an inning seems about right. I think he allows less hits, though. He’s electric and that 3.25 ERA is going to be under 3.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Before the worst sounding injury I’ve read in a while shortened The Monster’s 2018, he was on fire. He still had a great year. Hyun-Jin had a 1.97 ERA, a 198 ERA+, and a 1.00 WHIP. I understand these numbers were in an abbreviated 82.1 innings. I don’t care–he was fantastic. Joe Davis pointed out he’s the best #3 in the league. The Korean monster would be an ace on a lot of staffs. What does BREF say?

 

 

My Thoughts/Projection: I’m honestly torn here. There are a lot of reasons to think he can’t come close to repeating his 2018 in more innings. He isn’t on any innings limit, so as long as he’s healthy, he’s going to pitch. I think he can actually pitch 140 innings this year at a 3.10 ERA clip. He’ll strike out around 130. I do see his hits/9 going up just slightly, but not too much.

Rich Hill

A Dodger fan favorite, Dick Mountain had a consistent 2018 in relation to his 2017 (his first full season in LA.) His hit per 9 innings went up slightly, as did his home runs per 9. His walks went down, however, and his WHIP remained a steady 1.123. It’s easy to overlook Rich Hill’s effectiveness at his age when he’s so fun to watch. He’s fun to watch pitch. That curve ball is absolutely a thing of beauty. He’s fun to watch bat, and he’s definitely fun to watch when he runs the bases. He gives 100% at everything he does. His story is also a really inspiring one. Rich Hill is easy to like, and his effectiveness even at age 39 is phenomenal. What does BREF say his 2019 could look like?

 

My Thoughts/Projection: I’m actually surprised BREF is giving Rich Hill 139 innings. BREF tends to round down because that’s a statistically safer and often times more realistic prediction. In the past 2 years, Rich has pitched 135 and 132 innings respectively. A typical move for BREF would be to round his projection down to around 115. That said, I like this projection. It’s mostly very similar to his 2018, with his hit total going up, and the HR total slightly going down. It’s a fair charge. Rich will give up his fair share of hits. Hitters will guess right occasionally on his fastball/curve ball chess game, and it allows some hits. A 1.180 WHIP is decent, and the ERA looks right. Rich Hill is marvelously consistent, and I don’t see that changing.

Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda had another year of jumping from the rotation to the bullpen. Kenta is the ultimate team player, and did both gracefully. His Strikeouts per 9 was a flame-throwing 11.0. His changeup was filthy, and his slider gave RH batters absolute fits. There was a sentiment of “Two Kenta’s,” though. You could tell almost immediately when he started pitching. When he was passive, he got hit a little harder. When he was aggressive, he was untouchable. This is obviously an over-simplification, but there was a visible difference. If he can give us “flamethrower Kenta” more often, the rest of the league is in trouble. Let’s see BREF’s projections.

 

My Thoughts/Projection: BREF really likes Kenta’s consistency. They almost carbon copied his 2018 into the projection box of 2019. They have all of Kenta’s number slightly worse for 2019, and I actually don’t agree. Kenta is finding balance in his role. I truly believe he’s still going to strike out 10+ per nine innings. He’s found his stuff, and it’s absolutely filthy. I don’t think his ERA is going to be anywhere near 4. You can roast me for it later if I’m wrong, but Kenta Maeda is going to be lights out this year.

The 6th Man

I was going to include Julio Urias, but with his innings limit it seemed a stretch to discuss him in the starting rotation. At best he’s going to be a spot starter, otherwise he’s going to terrorize batters coming out of the bullpen. The 6th starter is clearly our favorite stockbroker.

Ross Stripling

Anytime I see Dodger fans doubting the depth of our starting rotation, I’m reminded that the odd man out of the starting rotation, was an all-star last year. There’s no obfuscating that statement. The depth of the Dodgers rotation is a true embarrassment of riches. Let’s see BREF’s prediction of Bawce Ross’s 2019.

 

My Thoughts/Projection: Mostly I think they’ve got it close. This is shakiest opinion I have on any of our starters, because Ross was two different pitchers in two different half-seasons last year. Due to that uncertainty, painting his 2019 numbers as the mean of the two extremes is probably spot-on. He’s got a wicked knuckle-curve, and his slider has a lot of bite, but he also tends to get hit really hard. I’d like to think his numbers will resemble his 2018 first half, but as a spot-starter/bullpen piece, I just can’t see that being realistic.

Final Thoughts

There’s not a team in MLB that has the quality and depth that the Dodgers do. Critics of the Dodgers front office have a handful of arguments that hold water, but the starting staff isn’t one of them. Should there be unexpected injuries to the starting staff, the Dodgers are built to weather the storm better than anyone.

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Written by AJ Gonzalez

AJ is a lifelong Dodgers fan who grew up in California. His whole family are also lifelong Dodgers fans. He lives in Tennessee with his wife, daughter, beagle, and strat.

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  1. GONSOLIN AND MAY SHOULD BOTHSATRT FOR THE DODGERS THIS YEAR–I ALSO DONT AGREE WITH MOST OF THE WON LOSS RECORDS THEY GIVE THE PITCHERS EITHER———-NOT–PUT THE DH IN ALL OF BASEBALL

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