It’s that time of the year again. Let’s look at exactly how the Dodgers’ rotation is shaping up as the real season begins.
The Dodgers have been fairly productive this last week or so. The team has won six of their last seven, they’ve surpassed 100 wins and they’ve clinched home-field advantage through at least the NLCS.
They will have a chance to clinch home-field throughout the entire postseason in the next day or two. If the sweep Colorado, they will tie the franchise record for most victories in a season.
The rotation looks relatively healthy. Chris Taylor’s knee injury doesn’t seem too serious. Yasmani Grandal, Logan Forsythe and Curtis Granderson, have shown signs of breaking out of their extended slumps. Corey Seager, though still a bit sore in the elbow, has really kicked it up a notch or two offensively. Just in time too.
Suddenly, aside from the Roberts and Puig kerfuffle, things aren’t looking so terrible. Baseball is funny like that, especially this year. Now, with the playoffs about a week away, all the Dodgers have to do (BESIDES STAYING HEALTHY) is figure out what their rotation will look like for the postseason.
Kershaw and Darvish seem to have sorted out any momentary problems they had during that difficult stretch and have recently pitched very well. Even with missing about of month of action, Kershaw is still tied for the major league lead in victories. Darvish has been stellar his last three starts and has put up another 200-plus strikeout season.
Rich Hill has been just about as good as the Dodgers were hoping this year. The 37-year-old southpaw will finish the year with an ERA of 3.32 and an impressive 166 strikeouts in 130 innings. Haven’t heard much about any recent major blister issues. His strong second half should have fans feeling confident when he takes the mound as the #3 in the playoffs.
Plus you have All-Star and 16-game winner Alex Wood to slot into either the rotation or bullpen as the team sees fit. That decision figures to be heavily influenced by the next start Hyun-Jin Ryu makes Friday. The Dodgers would like to see Ryu come back strong after getting clocked with a line drive in the forearm during his last start.
This is particularly the case since Wood’s velocity, and general effectiveness have diminished as the season has progressed. His ERA hovers close to 4.00 in his last 70 innings.
However, Wood could become a dynamite weapon out of the pen in the right scenario. With all the talk and the short first round format, I’d be surprised if Wood isn’t in the bullpen to start the playoffs.
Ryu has received little credit in putting together a solid overall bounce-back campaign. This is mostly due to him not being one to regularly light up the radar gun. Kenta Maeda has proven a quality # 5 but will see only bullpen duty in the playoffs unless an injury occurs.
On paper, the rotation of Kershaw, Darvish, Hill and one of Ryu/Wood (with the odd man out becoming a striker out of the pen) is looking pretty good. However, I have a better idea of what to do with that paper given the nature of the playoffs. Anything can happen.
Given that the Dodger’s first-round opponent is still to be determined let’s take a close look at the biggest threat the Dodgers will face in the playoffs. Themselves. Specifically, the makeup of their top two starters.
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Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish have a couple of things in common with each other. They are both bonafide All-Stars. They both possess perhaps the two best pitching repertories in the entire sport. They are headed to the postseason.
They are about to face an unbelievable amount of pressure in about a week. That’s because the two of them have been accused of collapsing under pressure under the brightest of lights.
The numbers seem to back up that sentiment. Yu Darvish has an ERA over 5.00 in his lone two postseason appearances, accumulating seven earned runs in 11 innings. Clayton Kershaw has actually done well the past couple of postseasons given his injuries and being pitched into the ground.
However, until he wins the World Series, his legacy will always be tarnished by postseason misery. They will both have another chance to change any unflattering narratives very soon.
Again, on paper, the Dodger’s playoff rotation looks stellar. However, it remains to be seen if the Dodger’s top two starters can conquer their demons of the past to lead the club to a World Series victory.
Given the depth behind the starters this year, it looks like their best chance to do so in about three decades. Especially since Clayton Kershaw probably won’t be pitching on short rest.
In the end, the Dodger’s hopes figure to all come down on the shoulders of the top two in the rotation. Here’s to hoping those hopes won’t weigh too heavy this time around.