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Five Bold Starting Pitcher Predictions for 2019

Will the Dodgers starting five falter this year?

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Welcome to Starting Pitcher Week! Join us all week long for information on starters, and come back around for relievers next week.

1 . For the first time in 10 years, the Dodgers are not in the top six in the league in ERA.

Justification: I wanted to lead with a strong foot and I feel like this one is certainly bold enough. The Dodgers have the deepest pitching staff in the league, boasting Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-jin Ryu, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias just to mention a few. I’m piecing this one out:

  • I think Walker Buehler hits a sophomore slump (but long-term is a great pitcher)
  • Rich Hill is 38 years old
  • Clayton Kershaw has gone from a 1.69 in 2016 to a 2.73 last year as his ERA gets worse each year
  • Kenta Maeda regresses every other year so far, so he’s due for a 4.00+ ERA
  • Julio Urias is still largely untested at the professional level
  • Hyun-jin Ryu is oft-injured and rarely plays an entire season

Two consecutive years in the World Series has left fatigue and a need to let up on the regular season—and focus more on the playoffs (not outspokenly but subconsciously). Oh, and the continual added talent at the bat allows them to let off the accelerator a bit on the pitching side. Honestly, I think the Dodgers have a down year this year.

2. We see one of the Top 10 pitchers go down to Tommy John: Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jacob DeGrom, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Blake Snell or Trevor Bauer.

Justification: I felt like the top names went mostly untouched after a few years of big names being out for the year. 2014 had 130 pitchers, 2015 had 143, 2016 had 122, 100 in 2017, and only 75 last year. I feel like the trend is likely due to more knowledge and preparation, but we are so used to seeing someone go down. I think we see one name on that list go down this year (and derail someone’s fantasy season).

3. A starting pitcher has four complete games pitched, up 2X from the most any pitcher had last season.

Justification: No one did this last year. Most likely candidates are Max Scherzer, Mike Foltynewicz, Jacob deGrom, Jose Berrios, and Jameson Taillon. Reason: as the scales are tilting top-heavy, I think a handful of teams in the middle (maybe slightly above middle) will rely on a hot hand to make sure they get a win. This could come from the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets or Pittsburgh Pirates. Quite honestly, this is more of a gut feeling than anything else.

4. Miles Mikolas wins 15+ games AGAIN this year.

Justification: after a handful of starts in 2012-2014, he spent three years with the Japanese league Yomiuri Giants. Back in the MLB last year at the age of 29, he had an 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 200.2 IP, 1.071 WHIP and 6.5 SO/9. He had the highest zone percentage among MLB qualified pitchers (landing 48% in the strike zone). He started 32 games and he walked just 29 batters all season. It was certainly out of the blue but all metrics point to continued success from him.

5. Mike Clevinger is a Top 10 Starting Pitcher.

Justification: From my previous rankings and bold predictions you can tell that I’m expecting a number of Indians star players to regress this year (specifically Francisco Lindor and Ramirez). On the flip side, I think Mike Clevinger is going to shine. First, Cleveland has a good pitching staff who has cultivated Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco over the years to get better and better. Last year they made history with four pitchers who each had 200 strikeouts. Clevinger has improved his ERA each year (from 5.26 in 2016 down to 3.02 last year), his games started (10 in 2016 to 32 last year), his BB/9 (4.9 in 2016 to 3 in 2018), his HR/9 (1.4 in 2016 to 0.9 in 2018) and his WHIP (1.491 in 2016 to 1.15 in 2018).

As a pitching staff, Cleveland’s last three years:

  • 2016 ERA 3.84 (two starting pitchers under 3.50 ERA)
  • 2017 ERA 3.30 (three starting pitchers under 3.50 ERA)
  • 2018. ERA: 3.77 (this is even with the closers collapsing early in the season (four starting pitchers under 3.50 ERA)

And that’s it for bold predictions. In case you missed the Top 40, check that out here. See you tomorrow for continuing starting pitcher week!