The West is not clinched yet. The Dodgers still have a division heavy schedule in September, including seven games against the second-place Diamondbacks to conquer before they can turn their attention to the Division Series and beyond. That being said, it’s not too early to begin planning for a potential postseason run. Don Mattingly, who could be managing the Dodgers in October for the first time as skipper, should begin to consider giving some of his players some crucial rest going down the stretch in anticipation of the playoffs. The 162-game regular season is a long and grueling marathon, and the Dodgers will need to strategically put themselves in the best position possible in order so that their potential postseason roster is fresh and ready to go once September comes to a close. One of the most important areas in which Mattingly should find extra rest for is the starting pitching rotation namely the Dodgers top three hurlers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu.
Zack Greinke made 122 pitches in his last start on Monday versus the Cubs. Don Mattingly left Greinke in the game so that he
Clayton Kershaw has pitched more innings this season than any other pitcher in the MLB. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
would have a shot at the complete game. Although Greinke probably assured Mattingly that he was okay to start the ninth inning in this particular game, the Dodger manager should have put the team’s best interest before Greinke’s individual opportunity. Greinke tired out, and he ended up having to be pulled anyways with one out remaining in the inning after the right-hander allowed two runs which erased the shutout. At this point in the season, Mattingly should have used his bullpen for the final inning instead of extending Greinke. There was no need to risk injury and tack on more innings on his arm in order to go for the CG against a non-contender like the Cubs.
- Clayton Kershaw 204 IP 28 GS
- Hyun-jin Ryu 160 2/3 IP 25 GS
- Zack Greinke 141 2/3 IP 22 GS
Clayton Kershaw leads the entire MLB in innings pitched. Ryu is 23rd in the league, and Greinke is ranked 40th after missing time due to his broken collarbone. If Mattingly should find an extra rest day or some innings saved for anyone it should definitely be Kershaw. The Cy Young Award candidate has been marvelous over his 28 starts with a MLB best 1.72 ERA, but as the season beings to wind down it would be highly beneficial for the Dodgers to give Kershaw some relief so to speak. After New York’s Matt Harvey succumbed to a partial tear in his elbow just recently (Harvey had pitched 178 1/3 innings prior to his season coming to an end) it terrifies me to overwork Kershaw. Harvey’s injury seemed to be one that was bothering him for awhile, but it is unclear whether the stress of those innings this season created a worsening of the injury or actually caused the tear. We not only want Kershaw to be fresh and ready for the postseason, but we want our ace to be healthy for years to come.
Zack Grienke made 122 pitches in his last start. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
With a much-needed off day this Thursday, and two more in September (9/5 & 9/23), the Dodgers could use these days to reshuffle their rotation if they choose to. They could also use additional starting pitchers once rosters expand on Sunday in order to inject more time off for their rotation next month. Some possible names which could be used as a sixth starter are Stephen Fife, Matt Magill, and now the newest Dodger who will be joining the team when it becomes official on Thursday, Edinson Volquez. Volquez could be taking the spot of Chris Capuano in the Dodger rotation, unless they plan to go with six arms through September which could benefit their top of the rotation going down the stretch, Stephen Fife, who seemed to be a candidate for a September call-up will be making his next start for Albuquerque on Thursday. It seems as if Fife’s reoccurring shoulder bursitis may be a concern for the Dodgers although there is no indication that he is injured right now. The Isotopes used Fife out of the bullpen briefly, and this seemed to throw off Fife’s psyche a bit, and he has been working to return to form as a starter. With the addition of Volquez, this may mean that Fife will not be called up. Matt Magill, who struggled mightily in his brief call-up with the Dodgers earlier in the season, could be another possible September spot starter. He started 6 games for the Dodgers while going 0-2 with a 6.51 ERA during that span. In AAA this season, he has fared much better starting 15 games and posting a 5-2 record with a 3.49 ERA in 80 innings of work.
The Dodgers could also use Chris Capuano out of the bullpen as a long-relief arm if they slot Volquez into his spot in the rotation. Perhaps Capuano could spell some relief for the starters and allow Mattingly more flexibility to take out his potential postseason starters a bit earlier from their final starts of the season if the Dodgers find themselves clinching the division. There’s no reason to start Kershaw, Greinke, or Ryu for some of those final games if the Dodgers should already have taken the N.L. West crown.
Of course nothing is in the bag yet. The Dodgers still will need to fend off the Snakes in September in order to win the division.
Edinson Volquez will join the Dodgers pitching staff. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
They will need Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu for some of these key games against Arizona in the coming weeks. Yet Mattingly should be looking ahead and strategizing now in order to put himself in the best possible position so that his team is the strongest it can be for the playoffs. It would be ideal for the Dodgers to clinch the division sooner rather than later of course. As much as I am frightened to see Edinson Volquez start for the Dodgers, I would be happy to see him start that final game versus the Rockies come September 29th if that meant the Dodgers had already popped that champagne and become the Western Division champions.