As we enter the 2018 season, baseball is undergoing another subtle transformation. More teams are utilizing a sixth starting pitcher throughout the season. The Dodgers were one of the teams to employ this strategy last year. Look for the Dodgers to continue to manage their starting rotation this way in 2018, as they have several candidates who are MLB rotation-ready.
Ahhh, the days of old. For those of you old enough to remember 1988, Orel Hershiser led the league with 15 complete games, 8 shutouts, and 267 innings! Of course, over the years complete games have become a rarity. Now, the novel concept of a “sixth starter” is beginning to catch on in MLB. MLB clubs watch their starters’ workloads closer and closer every year. In 2017, the new 10 Day Disabled List provided MLB managers a tool through which a starting pitcher’s workload can be manipulated.
Utilizing the 10 Day Disabled List allows teams to carry a sixth starter and provide extra rest to the rotation. Together with scheduled days off, Dave Roberts was able to provide extra rest to several veterans in the rotation with injury histories, thus minimizing their exposure to injury risk. Last year the Dodgers appeared to have more starting pitching depth then they knew what to do with. The 10 Day Disabled List enabled the Dodgers to keep everybody relatively fresh. This is in turn will also affect bullpen usage in a positive way, as starters may start to go deeper into games with more rest in between starts, thus easing the burden on the bullpen.
This strategy will also alleviate most durability concerns for today’s breed of starting pitcher. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the organization has a deep pool of starting pitching, both on the 40 man roster, and in the minor leagues, that line up behind the projected starting five of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun Jin Ryu. Let’s look at the candidates for the sixth starter gig that are on the Dodgers 40-man roster.