Dodgers Spot Starts Becoming a Factor as Season Unfolds


Heading into the 2015 season, Dodger fans knew they were in for a grand voyage with regards to their starting rotation. Like Charles Darwin on the Beagle or James Cook on the Endeavour …or Gilligan on the Minnow, this long journey has potential for greatness while being filled with so many unknowns. Hyun-jin Ryu, who started the season on the DL, threw a brief bullpen session Sunday in San Diego of about 20 pitches, but there is still no set timetable for his return to live action.

Due to Ryu’s absence in the rotation, the Dodgers have now relied three times on call-ups from the Triple-A squad in Oklahoma City.

David Huff (April 14 vs Mariners) 4IP, 7H, 4ER, 2K, 1BB – No Decision

Mike Bolsinger (April 23 at Giants) 5.2IP, 5H, 1ER, 5K, 2BB – No Decision

Scott Baker (April 26 at Padres) 7IP, 4H, 3ER, 6K, 2BB – Loss

In a SportsNetLA interview prior to Sunday’s game, Dodgers Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt claimed Baker was a “command guy with some pitches, change up, slider, will mix in a curve ball every now and then.” The 33-year-old right-hander looked wobbly early, but soon settled into a decent rhythm, going 7 innings and only giving up 4 hits and 3 runs. The downside was that the LA offense was held to just 1 run in a losing effort.

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Relying on a spot starter to be pulled up from the minors is part and parcel of a long Major League season, but the Dodgers could be relying lot more on their triple-A arms in the coming weeks. The First 5 were dealt another blow in Game 2 of the Padres series when Brandon McCarthy left in the 6th inning with elbow tightness. There’s no definitive verdict on McCarthy’s injury yet, but if he’s out for any extended period of time it could prompt the Dodgers to begin using 2 fill-ins in their rotation. The Dodgers have only one off day over their next 20 games so using their schedule to help alleviate any potential skipped starts won’t be an option to them as it was the first three weeks of the season.

So how long until either Zach Lee and Joe Wieland are called up? Will Scott Baker earn himself another start with Sunday’s performance? Maybe Bolsinger gets another opportunity after a good game in San Francisco?

After Sunday’s game, when asked if he was satisfied of the three spot starts so far this season, Don Mattingly replied in the affirmative because all three pitchers “gave us a chance to win.” The Dodgers are averaging nearly 5 runs/game this season (see table below), but in the three spot starts the offense has amassed a grand total of only 9 runs with 6 of those coming in Huff’s start alone. It’s true these spot starters are at least giving the Dodgers a chance to win, but improved run support will be a must if they expect to convert more of these chances into victories.

Dodger Offense

Comparing the first 17 games of last year and this year:

                                 2014      2015

Record                    10-7       11-6

Runs/Game           4.1          4.9

Team OPS              .242       .275

Home Runs            18           25

Extra Base Hits    58          71

If they end up continuing to rely on a spot start or two through each pass of the rotation, the Dodgers will have to continue tallying these sorts of numbers if they wish to remain atop the NL West.