It was mostly a very Rich Hill kind of outing on Sunday. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ lone lefty starter baffled the Miami Marlins for five innings, burning through 92 pitches while allowing a single run, as his team went on to win 3-2. It was the ninth straight win for the juggernaut Dodgers, who are threatening to reach 70 victories before they even reach 30 losses. They just don’t seem to lose anymore.
Hill has been the poster boy for baseball’s surge in blister problems over the past couple of seasons, during which he’s gone on the disabled list four different times because of the nettlesome malady. The issue has kept Hill’s innings total low, and not just because of the DL stays. He’s now pitched five innings or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts, though he had gone seven in three straight outings prior to Sunday.
An unfortunate offshoot of Hill’s low innings total is that it skews just how well he’s pitched overall. Hill has had two poor outings, giving up five runs in four innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 24 and seven runs in four innings against the Cleveland Indians on June 15. Because of those bombs, his season ERA remains an artificially high 3.55 even after Sunday’s performance.
But since, Hill has hit a stretch of good health and longer outings. Let’s ponder the possibilities here. Take out the two bad outings and Hill’s ERA this season is 2.25 — only a bit higher than last year’s 2.12 mark between L.A. and Oakland.
Now think about this: If Hill is pitching at that level and you’ve got Clayton Kershaw, who has been at that level since birth, and Alex Wood, who has allowed three runs over the past month, just how good is that playoff rotation stacking up?
We often look at teams, such as the San Francisco Giants in years past, as being a greater threat in October than in the regular season because the postseason format allows their starting pitching to paper over shortcomings elsewhere, and often to dominant effect. But these Dodgers … don’t have any apparent shortcomings to paper over.
Hill is about the most un-scary guy you’d ever meet. But if he stays off the DL, he makes the Dodgers truly frightening.
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