Health and ineffectiveness has decimated the Dodgers pitching staff of late so who exactly will get the call come October?
Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson. That’s how it was supposed to play out right? Replace last year’s top heavy rotation with more talented pitchers throughout the staff and let October baseball do its thing once you get there. Well as we speak the above rotation looks like this: Injured, Injured, #GOAT, Injured, Injured. Oh and Brandon McCarthy and Mike Bolsinger? McCarthy is on the phantom trying to fight a case of the yips after a promising return from Tommy John Surgery, while Bolsinger is no longer in the organisation after missing most of the season with an oblique strain.
So as it stands, the Dodgers are preparing for what will likely be an NLDS showdown against Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals with Kenta Maeda and….. Kenta Maeda?
Well thankfully it’s not all bad, SuperAce Clayton Kershaw is expected back Friday against Don Mattingly (Old Friend Alert) in Miami. Similarly, Friedman & co traded for then AL Cy Young candidate Rich Hill who, despite dealing with what must be the most persistent blister of all time, has been outstanding in his two outings in Dodger blue.
So, baseball Gods permitting, so far the Dodgers playoff rotation looks like this: Kershaw, Hill, Maeda and…? This is where it gets interesting.
If you’re chosen strategy in Game 4 is to start the proven veteran on short rest, turn to page… Well just read the next paragraph.
In past years, standard procedure has been to start Kershaw on short rest in Game 4. However, with Kershaw pitching through a herniated disk in his back that’s likely ill-advised. The Dodgers could instead give Rich Hill the usual rental treatment (Hill is a Free Agent at year’s end) and start him in Games 1 and 4 but given the Front Office has expressed a desire to re-sign the left-hander, burning him in October is probably not the best idea. As such, the Dodgers will likely opt for another pitcher in Game 4.
If you’re preferred starter is an injured veteran, then this one’s for you.
After a tough start to the season Scott Kazmir quietly became a rock for the Dodgers rotation in June and July (3.83, 3.08 FIP respectively). However, a neck injury in August begun to impede his delivery and forced him to the DL. Kazmir suffered a setback in his rehab outing Wednesday which may put a playoff start in jeopardy.
Brandon McCarthy looked great in his first 5 outings after Tommy John and looked to be the answer to the Dodgers pitching woes. However, seemingly out of nowhere, this happened.
It just makes your stomach sink to see a pitcher going through that but after giving up 10 runs in his last rehab start, it’s hard to see McCarthy’s sinker/cutter combo in Game 4.
Brett Anderson has been pitching on regular rest on a rehab assignment after a herniated disk of his own. His last outing was one to forget (2IP, 5R, 1K) but Anderson and his super low spin rate fastball have been extremely effective as recently as last season so a healthy Anderson is perhaps an option here.
Meanwhile still in the category of injured veteran arms, Alex Wood appears to be destined to return in a LOOGY role and Ryu’s labrum is likely to end the talented Korean southpaw’s season yet again.
If electric young rookies are your preferred option for the 4th starter, read on.
Here is where I think the most interesting options lie. Ex-teen phenom Julio Urias has been brilliant since getting his feet wet in May. The addition of a plus slider on top of what was already an above average fastball, curveball and change-up has been the difference maker here and shows his ability to adjust on the fly. However, at just 20 years old and never having thrown more than 90 innings, the Dodgers are extremely cognizant of his workload. At 113 innings already this year, it will be interesting to see how the Front Office manage Urias.
Similarly, Ross Stripling has been a solid contributor out of the #5 spot in the rotation for much of the year. However, lacking a plus pitch starting Stripling against the likes of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy is a daunting proposition.
Finally, Jose De Leon looked exceptional in his major league debut Sunday. Admittedly, it was against the bottom dwelling Padres but the fastball and change up showed plenty of life, with feel for a breaking ball. With Kazmir out for at least one more start, De Leon may have a real chance at pitching his way into the playoff rotation.
As you can see, it’s murky waters setting this years playoff rotation. There may not be a clear candidate to round out the Dodgers rotation in October, however, with the amount of depth currently in the organization whoever takes the ball in Game 4 is going to be well deserving.