Do Dodgers Have Four Aces in the Hole?

Zack Greinke had been the clear ace of the Kansas City Royals staff even before his sensational 2009 season. Moving to Milwaukee a couple of years later, he was the ace there as well, and in his limited time with the Angels, he matched 20-game winner Jered Weaver pitch-for-pitch. Upon his signing by the Dodgers, he was positioned behind baseball’s very best, Clayton Kershaw, but he recorded another tremendous season in 2013, and had he not missed time due to the injury to his non-pitching shoulder suffered in last April’s brawl with San Diego, he would have had stats just about as good. With Kershaw injured now, Greinke has been even better, and is now in position to break a 100-year-old record for effectiveness.

As reports are that Kershaw is likely to be returning to the Dodgers’ rotation in another two weeks, that will give the team dual aces. But are there ever more on that starting staff?

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Local reporters have been quick to raise second-year starter Hyun-Jin Ryu to that lofty position, and the idea is not so far-fetched. 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA last year as a rookie, Ryu has had an auspicious start to 2014. He has started five games so far this year, and has been unscored upon and almost unhitable in four of them, pitching 26 innings, allowing only 11 hits and six walks, while striking out 23 in those games. In that fifth game he was, however, clobbered by the Giants, giving up six earned runs in only two innings. For the young season, he is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00. Certainly “Ace” numbers.

Josh Beckett has bee an ace for much of his career, having lead both the Boston Red Sox and Miami fka Florida Marlins to world titles, in 2003 and 2007 respectively His 2007 season was amazing, winning 20 regular season games and then compiling on of the great post seasons on record, going 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA. Injuries have derailed him over the past two seasons, but after missing most of last year he underwent major surgery this off-season, and his start to 2014 has been close to brilliant, with more than flashes of the form he exhibited in the finest past seasons. At 33, if healthy, he has plenty of innings left, and might well again be the ace he once was.

Dan Haren has been the “almost” ace for several teams. In Arizona, he was terrific, but not quite the pitcher that then was Diamondbacks’ ace Brandon Webb. Though some commentators said he was THE guy on the starting staff, and despite one really great season, Haren was never quite the ace on the Angels’ staff that featured Jered Weaver. Back further in his Oakland years, he WAS the ace,

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but by default, as the only competition on the starting staff, and by competition, guys who went out and took their turn for the three years that Haren on was on the team, were to very below average pitchers, Joe Blanton and Barry Zito.

After poor 2012 and 2013 seasons for the Angels and Nationals, the Dodgers laid out $10 M for the free agent Haren this off season, and so far he has been a pleasant surprise, starting the season 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Of course, in his four starts, the Dodgers have scored 24 runs.

No one knows how Kershaw will fare upon his return. Besides the questions of his back injury there is still also the lingering questions of last year’s ominous playoff experience. But, if he falters in any way from his throne, the Dodgers have several successors, waiting and lurking for a designation of “Ace”.

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