In a typical year, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a feared pitching staff -- specifically featuring their starting rotation -- heading into the postseason. Though more often than not they've been let down by some of their bigger names, it's still always better to have the support and hope for the best rather than ... have a skeleton crew and also hope for the best?
Because the latter scenario is what the 2023 Dodgers are experiencing right now. They have 70% of Clayton Kershaw, a rookie in Bobby Miller, and a mixed bag with Lance Lynn as their rotation heading into October. Though Ryan Pepiot and Emmet Sheehan represent lightning bolt multi-inning options, they have limited MLB experience and no playoff experience. Ryan Yarbrough is a nice commodity to have, but not as a featured pitcher in need of securing a win.
As a result of the dysfunction that's both been unexpected and their own doing, the Dodgers will have an "unconventional" postseason plan, which, even without knowing the details, sounds frightening for a fan ready to sit down and watch any given playoff baseball game.
But now that we know some of the details thanks to MLB reporter Alden Gonzalez (subscription required), Dodgers fans really need to brace for either a disappointing playoff exit or a run for the ages that will be an unrelenting, stress-inducing experience.
3 concerns about Dodgers expected postseason pitching plan
Kershaw not going three times through the order?
A lot of fans probably already knew this, but Gonzalez reported it's unexpected Kershaw faces an opposing order three times through, which will more often than not limit him to 4-5 innings of work. And while we absolutely adore Kershaw, his postseason track record might suggest a danger zone of 2-3 innings here and there.
Kershaw's ailing shoulder is very much holding him back, which explains why he's decreasing his fastball usage and hasn't thrown more than 84 pitches in a single outing since coming off the IL on Aug. 10.
This, realistically, leaves Miller and Lynn as the only two options to deliver six-plus innings in a playoff start. And let's say Kershaw goes five shutout in a best-case scenario with the Dodgers locked in a scoreless tie. Who follows him to keep the Dodgers on track?
The playoffs very much force managers into corners and force them to use whoever is available, but having to piggyback Kershaw starts when you know there's a likelihood for one bullpen game as well as one blowup start really puts immense pressure on the team's relievers.