Other than 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and the reliable, if unspectacular, Ted Lilly, the Dodgers were uncertain what to expect from the enigmatic Chad Billingsley, free agent acquisition Aaron Harang (who revived his once-promising career in San Diego last season), and Chris Capuano, who’s coming off his first full season after a second Tommy John surgery in 2009.
The San Francisco Giants, following a disappointing 2011 in which they failed to make the playoffs after winning the World Series in 2010, had hopes of recapturing the NL West crown, with starting pitching being the least of their concerns.
The Giants gave lucrative contract extensions to two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and potential future Cy Young winner Matt Cain this offseason, locking up the two young guns for the next two and five years respectively. If that weren’t enough, 22-year-old Madison Bumgarner proved that he was worth the hype with a spectacular 2011 campaign. They even got a surprisingly strong season out of journeyman Ryan Vogelsong, who returned to the Majors after a few seasons in Japan.
If you read my preseason position-by-position comparison between the Dodgers and Giants, you’ll know that starting pitching may have been the biggest disparity between the two teams, with San Francisco having a sizable advantage. Fast forward five weeks into the season and it appears that what was once perceived as an area of concern for Los Angeles, may indeed be a position of strength.
The Dodgers are currently second in the National League in starters’ era (2.94) behind the Washington Nationals. Their rotation is also second in wins (13), last in losses (4), third in strikeouts (146), and second in opponent’s batting average against (.213).
By comparison, the Giants’ starters are eleventh in wins (9), eleventh in losses (9), fifth in era (3.11), fifth in strikeouts, and fourth in BAA (.221).
It’s not that San Francisco has been bad, but that Los Angeles has simply been better.
The pitching statistics tell most of the story of why Los Angeles currently holds a five game lead over San Francisco in the NL West standings. Here are three primary reasons why the Dodgers’ starting rotation may be better than the Giants’ over the long haul.