"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Los Angeles Dodgers Organizational Depth Report

1. clayton kershaw, LHSP - april 2008
2. jonathan broxton, RHRP
3. chad billingsley, RHP
4. scott elbert, LHSP - may 2009
5. john meloan, RHRP
6. james mcdonald, RHSP - august 2008
7. avery morris, RHSP - august 2010
8. ramon troncoso, RHRP - july 2008 *SLEEPER*
9. josh wall, RHSP - september 2010
10.justin orenduff, RHSP - 2010

i've got ramon troncoso pegged as a sleeper because of the tremendous depth on his fastball, which leads to the most favorable outcome. his situation seems very similar to another pitcher i've profiled in these pieces, in luis pena. i don't think troncoso's fastball can be dialed up to 99, like luis pena's, but it is still quite effective as it is thrown on a downward plane from his 6'7" frame.

the big question for this organization seems to be whether or not clayton kershaw should start the year in the rotation for joe torre. as i've stated previously, my philosophy aims to get the most production possible out of young pitchers during their age 22-26 seasons. i believe that the way to do this is to strictly limit the stress put on arms in their age 18-22 seasons. clayton kershaw is only 20, so it should follow that i would think he'd be better off by spending a few more months in the minors.

but that's not the case. i strongly believe in giving pitchers the opportunity to learn from opposing major league batters, and i strongly believe that they should get the opportunity at a time when they are not being relied upon as a stopper. that would be the case for kershaw if he entered april as the dodgers fifth starter.

from my viewpoint, the worst thing that could happen to kershaw in the major leagues is he gets hit around, then sent down to AA where he would then know exactly what he would need to work on. the other worst thing that could happen is he has success, and ends up pitching 215 innings for colletti, torre, and bowa. were i a dodger fan, that might actually be a pretty big concern considering the apparent disinterest from all of the above in actually learning about ways to limit the risk of pitching injuries via pitch counts, and inning caps. we'll see how this turns out.

Spotlight: Chad Billingsley

Billinglsey has 2 plus pitches, in his 92-95 MPH fastball and his 78 MPH curve, while his slider ranks as just slightly above average. his changeup is a largely unrefined, and it's used twice as much against LHBs than RHBs.

billingsley is a small step below being a dominant power pitcher. all of his peripheral rates are excellent, and though his BB rate is much higher than optimal, the percentage of strikes to balls is well within the range at which he can be successful. on average, LHBs made more and better contact against billingsley, though RHBs slugged the majority of homeruns.

the difference between billingsley's performance as a starter versus as a reliever is mildly concerning going into 2008. as a reliever, billingsley was studly. his K rate was well above average (10.29 per 9 IP), his BB rate was well in check (2.57 per 9 IP), he allowed just 1 HR in 35 innings (.26 per 9 IP, and well fewer than a hit per IP (7.46 per 9 IP), which all combined to give him a 3.09 ERA through his last relief appearance on june 16. moved into a starting role at that time, all of these rates declined, as should be expected, but some were more concerning than others.

as a starter, billingsley's K rate fell to 8.12, while his BB rate jumped to 4.10, his HR rate jumped to 1.13, and his H rate, though still well above average, jumped to 8.19. with all of this regression in his peripherals, the most surprising number for billingsley as a starter is his ERA, which was 3.38.

going forward into 2008, there are a few things that i expect from billingsley, assuming he lands a spot in the dodgers rotation out of spring training:

1) he will improve his HR rate into the .6 to .9 per 9 IP range
2) his K rate will jump back to the 8.5 to 9.5 per 9 IP range
3) his BB rate will remain in the 3.5-4.5 range
4) he will land on the DL twice with minor, nagging injuries.


Rob said...

I don't get the worry here. Bills' K:BB ratio was 83:42 in the second half when he was used exclusively as a starter. That's a 8.09 K/9 while pitching more innings than he ever had before in his career (though admittedly not by much, as he put in 146 for Jacksonville in 2005) and in the majors, to boot. He's still a well-above-average strikeout artist, with good time to get even better. All pitchers will do better as relievers; this should not come as a surprise.

steagles said...

the surprise wasn't that billingsley did worse as a starter, the surprise was that he didn't do worse than he did considering the slippage in his peripherals.

i'm not too worried, as i think he has a very bright future, but i'm pretty sure this is going to be a long year for him.