June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

A look at the top rotations in Dodgers history

With the signing of Trevor Bauer on Friday, plus the expected return of David Price, the 2021 Dodgers rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler will, on paper, be one of the franchise’s best ever. How will it compare with great Dodgers rotations of the past?

A good way to compare rotations from different periods in baseball history is to use the ERA+ stat. What that does is compare an ERA to the league average ERA that season and convert it into a number. If a pitcher or team has an ERA+ of 100, then they are exactly the league average. If it is 110, then they are 10% better than average, 90 is 10% worse, and so on.

If you added Trevor Bauer to last season’s Dodgers rotation, their top four starters of Bauer (276), Kershaw (196), Buehler (124) and Dustin May (165) would have an approximate ERA+ of 180. Last season was only 60 games, so that number is more than likely deceptively high. Here’s a look at some other top Dodgers rotations, using the ERA+ for the top four starters:

1916 Brooklyn Robins: Jeff Pfeffer (141), Larry Cheney (140), Sherry Smith (115), Rube Marquard (171). The first Dodgers team to advance to the World Series, where they lost to the Boston Red Sox and their star pitcher, Babe Ruth.

1930 Brooklyn Robins: Dazzy Vance (189), Watty Clark (118), Jumbo Elliott (125), Ray Phelps (120). Vance is the most overlooked great pitcher in team history. This team led the National League until August, when it faded to a fourth-place finish.

1955 Brooklyn Dodgers: Don Newcombe (128), Billy Loes (114), Carl Erskine (108), Johnny Podres (103). Won the first World Series title in team history.

1965: Sandy Koufax (160), Don Drysdale (118), Claude Osteen (117), Johnny Podres (95). The last World Series title for the Koufax-Drysdale duo.

1977: Burt Hooton (147), Tommy John (138), Don Sutton (121), Doug Rau (112). You could also go with the 1976 team, which had the same four. The 1977 team advanced to the World Series, where they lost to the New York Yankees.

1985: Orel Hershiser (171), Fernando Valenzuela (141), Bob Welch (150), Jerry Reuss (119). Valenzuela was near the end of his prime, and Hershiser was at the start of his. It resulted in a loss in the NLCS to Jack Clark and the St. Louis Cardinals.

1996: Hideo Nomo (122), Ismael Valdez (117), Ramon Martinez (114), Pedro Astacio (113). Wild-card team lost to Atlanta in the NLDS.

2015: Zack Greinke (222), Clayton Kershaw (173), Mike Bolsinger (102), Brett Anderson (100). Granted, Bolsinger and Anderson aren’t standouts, but it’s hard to leave out a rotation featuring two Cy Young candidates.

2019: Hyun-Jin Ryu (179), Rich Hill (169), Clayton Kershaw (137), Walker Buehler (127). Just two seasons ago, and this team lost to Washington in the NLDS.