May 13, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starter Carlos Frias (77) delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers have a rotation problem, not a Yimi Garcia problem, not a Pedro Baez injury problem, not a Chris Hatcher has been thoroughly BABIP’d problem, not an AJ Ellis problem, it’s a rotation problem. And it might not be what you expect either
Is that good? That seems good. And actually, of course that’s good. stellar run prevention from your back end starters with acceptable strikeout per 9 rates, and good command/control figures is all you can really ask for from those two guys, right? Well, on the contrary, those two starters might not be doing their jobs, and for a very specific reason.
They aren’t giving the Dodgers innings.
Carlos Frias has started 3 games and tossed a total of 16.1 innings in those starts (5.4 innings per start), Bolsinger has started twice and thrown 11.1 innings (5.55 innings a start). The only one who’s pitched into the 6th inning was Frias (his last start against the Marlins). So add in Frias’ stark platoon splits (.377 wOBA allowed vs left handed batters vs a .233 wOBA allowed vs right handed batters), and then remember that Bolsinger’s two pitch approach likely makes both of them relievers long term, and it’s easy to see the skepticism at the back end of the rotation.
It should be noted, that Brett Anderson, for all his flaws as far as staying on the field is concerned, has recovered nicely since his iffy start (3 total runs allowed in May), health will let him be a valuable member of the rotation and hopefully with that comes success in the 6th, 7th, and crosses fingers* 8th innings, but overworking the bullpen is a risk that you run when there are two relievers at the back end of the rotation trying to eat innings.
The rationale behind rostering the Bartolo Colon‘s, the healthy Bronson Arroyo‘s, the Roberto Hernandez‘s of the world is simple, innings eaten are innings that don’t need to be pitched by a bullpen that shouldn’t be overworked. The always good Mike Petriello laid out a great argument against the need for a Colon, essentially saying that as long as the innings were filled out, who cares how it gets done? Quality>Quantity, right? I sympathize with it, but the crucial point has to be the bullpen. The Dodgers are only 19th in innings pitched by the bullpen with 104 so the reliance hasn’t been that bad, but if they are getting few innings from their back end, that figure will start to rise, and that can only hurt the team.
So how is this problem fixed? Well Zach Lee could be an option, he has a much improved 3.09 K/BB at AAA and a 2.70 ERA (though a more ugly 4.27 FIP in his 7 starts). He’s always been a starter, threw 150 innings as recently as last season, and might be able to handle the rigors of an MLB season more easily than a Bolsinger, but the FIP is something that might have to improve before any decisions to call him up are made. This isn’t even touching on the fact that he started the season behind Frias, Bolsinger, and Wieland.
Finally the option that is most realistic, but also unlikely at this point, would be a trade. The first reason it’s so unlikely is that it’s May and nobody gives up in May. The second is more practical, it’s the second wild card. Lets start with the fact that the Brewers and their .343 winning% are only 6.5 games out of the 2nd wild card. You’ll note that that’s a fewer game than the Dodgers were back last season when they won the NL West. One hot streak, and teams become buyers real quick.
So the team that has Johnny Cueto on their team (and to a lesser extent, Mike Leake) is only half a game behind the 2nd wild card, the team that has Cole Hamels has been asking for apparently unreasonable returns since last year, the only team that publicly said they would sell at this point has nothing the Dodgers could use, and the team that might be willing to sell off good pitchers has Billy Beane as their GM and who knows what he’d be asking for in return for Scott Kazmir at this point.
They’re in a holding pattern at this point, the obvious prize is Cueto, but who knows what he would command if the Reds ever decide to sell. Mike Leake is the best option on the market in my opinion, but he isn’t getting moved until closer to the trade deadline (especially considering that the all star game is in Cincinnati this year). Hamels probably isn’t going to be a Dodger without Urias or Seager, and if Kasten has made anything clear, it’s that his intentions are to call those players up at some point. The best bet might be Scott Kazmir, but overpaying for an oft injured 3ish starter isn’t an ideal move on May 16th.
Who knows how this’ll play out. They will trade for somebody, they will fix the rotation, it is just a matter of when they do so. That might be an issue with the production they’re getting from Bolsinger and Frias.