Commentary

Dodgers pitching should be strength

Updated: March 29, 2011, 11:27 AM ET
By Jon Weisman | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki KurodaGetty ImagesClayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda are standout starters.

Designed to be the strength of the team, the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff should be one of the league's best. It's vulnerable to injuries, but then again, what staff isn't?


STARTERS

Clayton Kershaw

The undisputed ace of the staff at age 23, Kershaw could parlay a 2010 second half in which he improved to 6.6 innings and three walks per start into a Cy Young campaign.


Chad Billingsley

He entered 2010 with a target on his back. After a bounce-back season, he enters 2011 with the wind at his back. Still only 26, Billingsley has some things to prove, but a growing confidence and maturity have bred renewed optimism.


Ted Lilly

If the Dodgers hadn't fallen out of the pennant race, a 3.52 ERA might have made Lilly a midseason hero a la Steve Finley. Lilly can make an even bigger impact now, but his rate of home runs allowed is a concern.


Hiroki Kuroda

He put together his finest season as a Dodger at age 35. Is it too much to ask one of the most beloved members of this year's team to defy the injury gods and Father Time for a second straight year?


RELIEVERS

Jon Garland

Take 2 for Garland as a Dodger begins with a rare trip to the disabled list. The 31-year-old local product has been above-average for most of his career, but must adjust to leaving pitcher-friendly Petco Park.


RELIEVERS

Jonathan Broxton

Broxton's 2011 begins under a microscope that even Chad Billingsley would find remarkable, his 9.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio through June 26 last year a distant memory. He used to fly low on the radar until October, but fan patience this year: zero.


Hong-Chih Kuo

Coming off an extraordinary year, expectations for Kuo are at their highest -- and that includes his ability to stay healthy as well as his performance. The Dodgers might still do well to beware of overworking him.


Matt Guerrier

His new three-year, $12 million contract drew concern from the sabermetric crowd worried that a 32-year-old middle reliever can't make that work over the long haul. It could be paranoia, or it could be the second coming of George Sherrill.


Kenley Jansen

The 2010 wunderkind allowed two runs and 28 runners in 27 innings while striking out 41, setting an unmatchable standard for 2011. Nevertheless, most seem to believe the 23-year-old is the real deal, a top reliever in the making.


Blake Hawksworth

The Dodgers hope that Hawksworth's return to full-time bullpen duty marks a return to his 2009 form, when he allowed only 45 baserunners in 40 innings. In 2010, opponents slugged nearly .500 against him.


Mike MacDougal

The biggest worry with MacDougal is control: He hasn't walked fewer than 5.8 batters every nine innings since 2006. The 34-year-old could be the reliever to go once Vicente Padilla returns to full strength.


Scott Elbert

Two outs. That's the sum total of Elbert's lost 2010. But a kernel of excitement emerged over the way the 2004 first-round pick looked during parts of spring training that hasn't been felt in some time.

MORE DODGERS ROSTER ANALYSIS: Infield »  Outfield »

Jon Weisman is author of the Dodger Thoughts blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Jon Weisman

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Jon Weisman is the author of Dodger Thoughts and a TV editor and writer for Variety.

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