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Where's that national love for the Dodgers rotation?

December 22, 2010 |  4:03 pm

Are you just loving that Dodgers rotation? Thinking it’s the key to the team’s potential turnaround?

Clearly the offense isn’t going to scare anyone, so the rotation had better be impressive.

Alas, it doesn’t appear to be getting a lot of love nationally. More of a polite nod. A certain, almost begrudging recognition.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the respected national baseball writer, has compiled his list of the current top 10 rotations in baseball (Insider status required) and the Dodgers came in … tied for 10th.

That kind of review should get the turnstiles swirling. Some people are just so hard to impress.

Now, it would be impossible to argue with Olney’s No.1 choice. The Philadelphia Phillies figure to have one of the great rotations of the past 10 years with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and presumably,  Kyle Kendrick.

And, OK, the Giants are impressive -- and sans Barry Zito -- young and pretty scary. Also, of course, in the same division as the Dodgers.

After that top two, however, things get pretty subjective and open to serious debate. Olney has three other National League rotations ranked ahead of the Dodgers -- Milwaukee (6), Atlanta (8a) and St. Louis (8b).

Now, you can make a good argument for each, but for me, in that latter group the Dodgers come out on top. Most of Olney’s rotations only go one through four, and the Dodgers are solid to potentially great with Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland.

There are the required amount of "ifs"connected to the L.A. rotation for it to rise to elite status. If Kershaw and Billingsley can continue to improve and mature. If Lilly can approach the starter who first arrived in Los Angeles. If Kuroda and Garland can stay healthy.

Yet after the top two, every rotation has its share of ifs. Each has its typical uncertainties.

Last season the Dodgers’ starting rotation finished 10th in the majors in earned-run average (3.99). And they are certainly improved over that group, which did not have a settled rotation until Lilly arrived on July 31.

And should/when injury strike the rotation, it has Vicente Padilla able to step in.

That should earn a higher review than tied for 10th. Not that the Dodgers can really complain. Given their overall disappointment last season, believers will not be lining up quickly.

There will be more to come on this, of course. More too from Olney,  who has sent out a mass e-mail to baseball talent evaluators asking for their top five rotations. He expects to publish those results on Thursday.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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