2012 Midseason Grades: Pitchers

I’m guessing the pitching reviews will be just a tad more fun to read than yesterday’s offensive grades…

Starting Rotation

Clayton Kershaw (A-)

You know, people can argue that he’s not as good as last year, and as long as you don’t try to say it’s because of his 6-5 record, you could potentially have a point. Strikeouts are down a bit, walks are up just a touch, he’s allowing a few more homers, so fine, I guess. There’s just a big difference between “not replicating a magical Cy Young season” and “isn’t any good any longer,” and let me tell you, he’s still pretty damn good. Are we really complaining about a guy with the sixth-most strikeouts in baseball and a top-13 FIP, right between Josh Johnson & Matt Cain? Please.

Chris Capuano (A)

I don’t want to get sucked into misleading wins and ERA, but Capuano’s obviously been a really nice find and so far, a good feather in Colletti’s cap, which is more than most of us could have expected this winter. Kudos all around for that. The funny thing is, he’s not really pitching all that differently than he did with the Mets last year, with similar K and BB rates, when he ended up with a 4.55 ERA. That says more about ERA than it does about Capuano, I suppose. Still, as long as his arm holds together, he’s a good guy to have around.

Chad Billingsley (D+)

I’m still looking for a way to explain the fact that Billingsley has a better K rate, a better HR rate, a similar walk rate, and better FIP & SIERA than supposed hero Capuano, yet has had his results be so poor. I say that not in a snarky way; I honestly don’t know what the cause is. That doesn’t completely excuse Billingsley, of course, because there’s a big difference between what should have happened and what did happen, and the results haven’t been there. Still, there’s a lot of reasons to think that we’ll see a better Billingsley in the second half. What we won’t see, of course, is fans who don’t hate him.

Aaron Harang (C+)

This is where the “expectations” piece really comes in to play, because Harang has been just okay, yet “just okay” is all we ever hoped for in the first place. (Aside from that game where he struck out the first 73 Padres he faced, which, damn.) His ERA is fine, though the advanced metrics don’t really support it, and he’s been of course better at home than on the road, other than oddly allowing more homers at Dodger Stadium. He is what he is, a decent back-end arm, no complaints about having him, not a split second of worry about replacing him. I suppose every team needs a guy like that.

Nathan Eovaldi (C-)

This is a grade where I could see people arguing it in both directions, but honestly I’ve never been one of Eovaldi’s biggest supporters anyway. I think people got a little fooled by his decent cup of coffee last year and especially by his nice initial starts this year, but a guy who has trouble missing bats like he does – just 24 strikeouts in 47 innings this year, after a pedestrian 7.4/9 rate in the minors – is going to have difficulty succeeding. I still like him, and he’s okay at the back of the rotation, but I just don’t see stardom for him and I would have no problem trading him if the right deal came along. If not, I think he’s more likely to succeed in the bullpen. Remember when some people said that he was untouchable in any deal? Good times.

Ted Lilly (D-)

Yeah, I know a 3.14 ERA looks shiny. I also know that before he was hurt, Lilly was A) striking out far fewer than he ever had before B) walking more than he had since 2006 and C) was riding a completely unsustainable HR rate – a guy who has never allowed fewer than 1.12 HR/9 in his career doesn’t suddenly start allowing 0.55/9. That’s a dangerous mix which was almost certain to start blowing up his face before he went on the shelf with shoulder pain, and remember when that was supposed to a very minor injury? That was months ago, and there’s still no real ETA for his return. At this point, it’s August, if at all.

Bullpen

Kenley Jansen (A+)

I still laugh at the idiocy we had to go through when Jansen blew that one save in April. Remember the Broxton-level of hate there for a day or two? Yikes. What really kills me is that he’s throwing fastballs 94.1% of the time, more than any pitcher in baseball. (Belisario is second.) That’s basically telling hitters, “hey, we both know what’s coming, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.” While some are concerned about his slight dip in velocity, he’s managed to cut his walk rate significantly from last year while still keeping his strikeouts high, making him one of the most dangerous relievers in the game.

Josh Lindblom (B)

You probably don’t remember this now, but Lindblom came pretty close to not making the team out of camp, avoiding being sent to the minors mainly because Ted Lilly ended up on the disabled list. As the season went on, Lindblom became a primary set-up man and has cemented his place on the team… yet has had a disturbingly high home run rate, contributing to a FIP over 5. He gets a B because he’s stuck around all season and been decent doing so, I’m just not sure how to reconcile this longball issue.

Scott Elbert (A-)

So here’s something odd, and yes, the sample sizes are small. Elbert is crushing righties this year (.171/.261/.275, 18 K in 12.1 IP) but hasn’t been quite as successful against lefties (.281/.349/.429, 9 K in 14 IP). That goes a long way towards explaining why the Dodgers are reportedly in the market for a second lefty reliever, since Elbert isn’t the guy you want to bring in against the big lefty bats of the league. Despite that, he’s managed to establish himself as a quality reliever with strikeout stuff. Am I alone in feeling like he’s left no impression either way, though? There’s tons to talk about regarding Jansen or Guerra or Coffey; Elbert just seems like he’s “there”. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose, because generally a reliever who’s keeping his head down is doing a good job. Maybe it’s just me.

Javy Guerra (B+)

I know I’ve said this about a few guys, and this probably won’t be the last, but issuing Guerra a grade is immensely difficult. On one hand, basically everyone on the planet predicted that he’d regress and lose his closing job to the superior Jansen, and it took him barely a month to do exactly that. On the other hand, he’s not really performing worse than last year, with strikeout and walk rates that are basically identical, and he’s yet to allow a single longball. You could argue that his problems all stemmed from the Brian McCann liner he took off the jaw in April, since he twisted he knee attempting to avoid it, an issue which continued to get worse until he finally succumbed to surgery. I never thought I’d say “Guerra lost his job and he’s doing fine,” yet here we are.

Ronald Belisario (A+)

I mean, A for still being in the country. A for not being in prison. A for still being alive, probably. A for not being injured. A-plus for not only being on the team, but for being an invaluable member of the bullpen. I’m both terrified by his .176 BABIP and fascinated that his bowling ball heater results in such poor contact that it’s the third lowest figure in baseball. Good to have you back, you big weirdo.

Jamey Wright (B)

We had absolutely no expectations for Wright coming in, and the fact that he’s actually been able to get some whiffs in while keeping his ERA and FIP in the 3s is a pretty nice payoff on a zero-cost deal. So why only a B? He’s still walking 5.05 per nine. That can’t possibly end well.

Todd Coffey (C-)

Pretty sure that when Coffey was signed, expectations were a bit higher than “4.66 ERA, weeks missed to knee surgery, season-ending Tommy John surgery before the All-Star break”, and when you put it that way, it doesn’t look great. Still, of the ten earned runs he gave up this year, six came in games he was clearly injured in, and before his arm blew up in his last outing, he’d gone ten straight (and 15 of 16) without giving up an earned run. I’m actually kind of sorry to see him go.

Matt Guerrier (inc.)

We’re at the point where we don’t really expect to see him back this year, right? Even if we do, will it matter? Can’t say I’ve really even missed him. What a disaster of a signing that could have in no way been predicted.

Mike MacDougal (inc., but nah, F)

I’m not sure whether to praise Colletti for swallowing his pride and cutting MacDougal barely a month into a guaranteed contract or sadly shake my head that the deal was ever handed out in the first place. Bet you can guess which way I’m leaning. By the way, MacDougal’s been so bad that he just got cut from the Cubs Triple-A team after getting lit up in 19 games there.

Shawn Tolleson (inc.)

I don’t want to put too much importance on 5.2 innings… so I won’t. I’ll say this, though; while it seems clear that maybe Tolleson wasn’t as ready for the bigs as we all thought, there’s absolutely talent there. He’s not to be counted on for this year, but I’m excited to see what he can bring for the future.

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