Clayton Kershaw gets the majority of the attention nationally when it comes to the Dodgers starting rotation, and rightfully so. At the age of 26 Kershaw has multiple Cy Young Awards with a second place finish sandwiched in between. Over the past three seasons he’s been the most consistent starting pitcher in all of Major League Baseball. Kershaw’s greatness helps elevate the Dodgers starting rotation, when completely healthy, to arguably the most dominant group in all of baseball. This season though, Kershaw has been injured. In his absence the Dodgers rotation hasn’t skipped a beat. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke all boast ERA’s below three, with both Haren and Greinke among the lead leaders in earned run average, to go with a combined 9-0 record. After sweeping the Minnesota Twins the Dodgers are now just a half game behind the San Francisco Giants for the top record in the NL West. This performance owes greatly to the success of the rotation, particularly Greinke. Zack Greinke is no secret amongst national baseball fans. The thirty-year-old right-hander, who the Dodgers signed to a massive free agent contract prior to last season, has a Cy Young Award of his own. With Kershaw out Greinke has been the dominant starter the Dodgers needed.
Is Greinke the early favorite for the National League Cy Young Award?
Greinke is not the only player off to a fast start. Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson, Johnny Cueto and Dan Haren are all off to impressive starts. None of the aforementioned list has accomplished what Greinke has over his last 18 starts. Including the postseason Greinke has won 18 of his last 21 decisions. In his last 21 starts the right-hander has pitched at least five innings and given up two runs or less. This streak is the longest in nearly a century, since 1917. It’s indicative of the incredibly consistency that Greinke has displayed during his time as a Los Angeles Dodger. In two seasons as a Dodger Greinke has a combined record of 20-4. Baseball writers often refer to top starting pitchers as “stoppers”, not in the sense of that they are closers, but pitchers who can be relied on to provide a quality start, often in the midst of a team’s losing streak or coming off of a loss. Greinke has been a true stopper this season. Of his five wins, four have come following a Dodgers loss. His ability to consistently turn around potential losing streaks has increased his value and should be a real factor in the early ranking of Cy Young contenders.
The Dodgers should get Kershaw back soon, after a second minor league rehabilitation start. When Kershaw returns Los Angeles will once again have the lefty/righty combination that harkens back to the days of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. When Kershaw returns he’ll join a starting rotation that’s been firing on all cylinders of late. Dan Haren, who’s signing many questioned, has been tremendous and seems to have reclaimed the form that made him a top starter over the past decade. Hyun-Jin Ryu continues to evolve into an elite left-hander, while Josh Beckett is showing signs of the form that made him a perennial Cy Young Award candidate in the American League.
They’ve all pitched well but the ace so far this season for the Dodgers has been Zack Greinke. If he keeps up his form the Dodgers may have another Cy Young Award winner to add to the long list of great Dodger starting pitchers.
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