The 2019 Dodgers are Built for a Six-Man Rotation

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 08: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up in the bullpen before the start of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on June 8, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 08: Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers warms up in the bullpen before the start of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on June 8, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Julio Urias is sure giving the Dodgers something to think about.  Last week, Ken Gurnick reported that Dodgers Manager, Dave Roberts said “the door’s open”.

This was following an outing on Wednesday where Urias pitched a perfect inning against the Oakland A’s.  Roberts of course, was referring to Urias’s performance thus far as warranting consideration for a spot on the five-man starting rotation.  My question is, why use a five-man rotation at all?  Why not switch to six?

So far this Spring, the Dodgers projected five-man rotation has been expected to be:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Rich Hill
  3. Walker Buehler
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Kenta Maeda

No doubt this is a strong rotation filled with some of the games best pitchers, but while most people see dominance, what I see is more like this:

  1. Injury prone in recent years and too competitive to allow proper recovery.
  2. Aging and blister prone
  3. Tommy John recovering pitcher who pitched 137 innings in 2018
  4. A pitcher who Roberts has previously said is better with an extra days
  5. Same as above

I’m not being pessimistic, I’m merely looking at the history.  As impressive as the rotation seems at first glance, you can see there are still some potential cracks in this rotation.  Here’s a closer look at those cracks and the case for a sixth starter in the rotation.

Injury Prevention

Clayton Kershaw hasn’t managed to avoid the DL since 2013.  He tends to try rushing back from his ailments and the Dodgers get him at less than 100%.  Kershaw is not old by any means but clearly has become more injury prone as his career has progressed.

Rich Hill has suffered from blister issues every year that he has been in a Dodger uniform and that has landed him in the DL each year.  At 38, the wicked curve ball thrower isn’t likely to avoid a stint on the DL at some point this season.  An extra day’s rest between starts could certainly help keep them healthier or allow for more recovery time.

The No Inning Restriction Inning Restriction/Performance Improvement

Now, the remaining three starters don’t need extra time between starts, but could certainly benefit from them.  Walker Buehler has openly stated that he hopes to pitch 200 innings this year and while the Dodgers have said he won’t be on any kind of innings restriction, I have to think this would be a great way to restrict his innings without formally restricting his innings.

Lastly, Dave Roberts has publicly stated in the past that Ryu and Maeda are better when given an extra day of rest.  All three could greatly benefit from the extra day of rest.

Post Season Play

Additionally, the Dodgers have been pretty successful the past three years and as a result, played a total of 173 games in 2016, 177 in 2017, and 179 in 2018; when you count the added postseason games.  Post season games are often played on short rest, more emotionally and physically taxing, and leave you with a shorter offseason to recover, let alone improve.

With the Dodgers poised to win the National League West Division for the seventh consecutive year and once again playing beyond the regular season, now is the perfect time to begin a six-man rotation.  The Dodgers have at three potential starters in Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, and Brock Stewart.  So who’s best suited to be that sixth man?

Julio Urias has the confidence and appears to have regained the pre-surgery abilities that made him a top prospect that he was just 16 years old.  He certainly has the ability to shoulder the sixth-man role and, in my opinion, is the clear choice for the sixth spot.

Ross Stripling was downright dominant in the first half of 2018, boasting a 2.08 ERA, 8-2 record, and just a 1.08 WHIP.  The second half, however, he saw his effectiveness wane to 6.41 ERA, 0-4 record, and a 1.57 WHIP.  Stripling has taken ownership of his weaker second half, stating fatigue was the culprit.  Becoming the sixth starter would limit his innings and preserve him for prolonged success.  He could definitely be the sixth starter, but I’m ready to see what the “Teenager” can do.

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Brock Stewart has shown glimpses of promise in the three years that he has bobbed up and down between the minor and big league levels, his consistency just hasn’t quite been there.  Adding him as the sixth man could build his confidence and level him out, but I think he actually might be better in long relief or pressure situation roles to work on that confidence and consistency.

There is no doubt in my mind that this Dodgers team is built for a six-man rotation.  They have the pitching depth and with the Dodgers constantly reaching the postseason, they have the need.  A six-man rotation distributes the work, gives additional rest, and allows the youth to grow.  Letting all three of those potential sixth-man starters spin their wheels in AAA to make consistent starts or even putting them in the bullpen wouldn’t benefit them or the Dodgers.

Sixth Man?

Perhaps, I’ve grown accustomed to the Friedman Era, but I think another potentially great solution could be a six-man platoon rotation.  Let Urias and Stripling share the sixth-man spot.  Both are ready for the starting rotation, but could clearly benefit from an extra day’s rest.

Next. Verdugo and Garcia impressing early this spring. dark

The fact that one’s a lefty and one’s righty would only add to that platoon versatility, as either one would be ready to go at any given time when their spot came up for the proper match up against an opponent.  There’s no need to boot any of the projected five starters out of the rotation to make room, they’re all proven, add the sixth spot.