Los Angeles Dodgers: What’s going on with Julio Urias?

Thomas Carannante
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 21: Julio Urias #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on as Jake Cronenworth #9 of the San Diego Padres rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun during the fifth inning of a game at PETCO Park on June 21, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 21: Julio Urias #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on as Jake Cronenworth #9 of the San Diego Padres rounds the bases after hitting a two-run homerun during the fifth inning of a game at PETCO Park on June 21, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias won a spot in the rotation out of spring training. He took that promotion in stride, going 7-1 in his first 10 starts and maintaining a 3.03 ERA.

But it’s been a completely different story in his last five outings, during which he’s only logged one quality start while getting absolutely clobbered in two others.

He’s made it through six innings just once. His average strikeouts per game dropped by two. He’s issued four more walks in five fewer games compared to that blistering run through May 23.

Now? He owns a 3.99 ERA thanks to 18 earned runs across his last 25.2 innings of work.

He still has respectable numbers (a 1.07 WHIP, too), but it’s clear something’s off.

What’s going on with the 24-year-old?

Dodgers starter Julio Urias has been struggling as of late.

Is it because he’s already eclipsed a career-high in innings pitched? Heading into 2021, Urias had never thrown more than 79.2 frames in a single season. He’s now at 88. But manager Dave Roberts doesn’t think there’s an issue with his workload.

Or could it be the fact he’s faced a top-11 offense four times out of those five games? His previous best outings came against the Rockies, Mariners, Diamondbacks and Brewers, all of whom rank in the middle of the pack or lower in terms of runs scored.

Could the “sticky stuff” crackdown have had an effect on the youngster? Perhaps. There has been a noticeable drop in his RPMs, but that’s been the case with a lot of pitchers.

What else?

Maybe teams have finally jumped on his three-pitch mix. His four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball aren’t exactly mind-bending pitches. Perhaps he needs to refine his sinker or slider into a formidable fourth weapon.

After all, if you look at Urias’ Baseball Savant page, he’s in the “poor” category for max exit velocity (15th percentile), expected batting average (36th percentile), expected slugging percentage (36th percentile) and barrel percentage (48th percentile). When he gets hit, he gets hit hard, and that was evident before this stretch of poor play.

Now, it’s just gotten even worse.

It would make the most sense to assume that all of the above factors are hampering the lefty in some capacity. It’s doubtful any particular one can be pinpointed and deemed the primary issue.

That makes Urias’ slide all the more concerning. It cannot necessarily be figured out at the moment. The Dodgers can’t really afford to have another question mark in the rotation after the loss of Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin’s struggles/injury issues.

What was once the undisputed best starting rotation in MLB now suddenly has more cracks than anyone could’ve believed.

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