Rich Hill was the big surprise of last year. The 37-year-old journey man who at one point in his career spent time playing for the Independent League had a career year last year posting a 2.12 ERA. The Dodgers took a gamble on the age and signed him to a 3 year $48 million deal in the offseason. In the beginning of the season the investment was not looking too good. He suffered with blisters and failed to pitch more than 5 innings until June 26th. Through those first nine starts he had an ERA of 4.73 and a FIP of 5.19 with 40 innings pitched. Since then he has turned things around pitching 21 innings in his last 3 starts with a 1.71 ERA and 1.90 FIP and 27 strikeouts. Throughout the season, Hill is inducing weak contact the 3rd most among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched. What has really been impressive so far is ironically his stamina in games. Taking all the pitchers who have faced at least 30 batters, I looked at affective velocity and ERA of pitchers going through the order for the 3rd time or more in a game. Notice the point in red way on the left. Rich his has the best ERA in the entire group when facing the order for the 3rd or 4th time. It is odd that one of the oldest starters in baseball actually improves as the game progresses. We are used to seeing elite pitchers like Verlander years ago, throw faster in the later innings, but Rich Hill is not a power arm like Verlander was. Here is his pitch distribution from his first two times through the lineup and then from three or more times:
It is noticeable the he goes to his cut fastball more the 3rd time through the order. It is not a large sample size, but it is noticeable.
As I am typing this, Hill is pitching a great game already having 6 strikeouts through the first 3 innings against the Marlins. As the Dodgers continue to dominate baseball and strive for a World Series, they hope that Hill can continue his success. As long as his blister issues are behind him he should be fine.