Were some Los Angeles Dodgers fans trying to remain optimistic about the team's pitching staff heading into 2023? Absolutely! There were reasons to believe, but there certainly weren't any reasons to be overly confident.
Tyler Anderson was gone. Walker Buehler was out for the season. Dustin May was entering his first full season following Tommy John surgery. Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw (again) were entering contract years. The bullpen saw zero upgrades. The front office was still banking on production from oft-injured pitchers to maximize the unit's potential.
As it turns out, there are the fewest possible reasons to be excited about at this very moment. Kershaw is fully healthy and having a really good campaign thus far and top prospect Bobby Miller is emerging as a future ace.
Otherwise? Urías was having a poor showing before he landed on the IL with a hamstring injury that's now become an extended absence. May's surgically-repaired elbow has him on the 60-day IL after just nine starts. Noah Syndergaard has been one of the worst offseason signings. Michael Grove and Gavin Stone haven't helped this team one bit. Ryan Pepiot still has yet to debut as he works his way back from injury. Tony Gonsolin has been more and more underwhelming. And that's just the rotation!
In the bullpen, Alex Vesia can no longer be trusted. Brusdar Graterol continues to languish and fail to reach his potential. Yency Almonte has largely been a liability. Caleb Ferguson has been continuously used in high-leverage spots despite failing spectacularly. Phil Bickford has done the opposite of bounce back. This team is still waiting on the conributions from injured relievers such as Blake Treinen, Daniel Hudson, Jimmy Nelson and JP Feyereisen. The flyer they took on Alex Reyes burned them, as he's now out for the entire season.
This is undoubtedly a worst-case scenario, but did Andrew Friedman really think this many uncertainties and variables would've prevented him from doing heavy lifting at the trade deadline?
Andrew Friedman seems like he wasn't prepared for worst-case Dodgers scenario
Here's what he told Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic (subscription required):
"In spring training, I did not expect that in July we would aggressively be looking for pitching. With the injuries and where we are, I think that focus has shifted. There’s no question that (pursuing pitching) is more likely than it was in March."- Andrew Friedman, The Athletic
Not only did the Dodgers lose some pitching, but they also lost key offensive players, which inherently suggested they probably would've needed more pitching at the deadline if they had remained in contention. The answer, more times than not, is more pitching.
Friedman, manager Dave Roberts and pitching coach Mark Prior continue to talk about how the pitching staff has not thrown the ball well ... but it's directly their fault! Friedman didn't do enough on the player acquisition side; Roberts hasn't done the best job of putting guys in the right spots; and Prior, for as good as he is, may have finally met his match this year with far too many reclamation projects to handle at once.
Every team can blame injuries. What matters is the depth behind the front lines and the coaching. But now everything's been exposed because the depth has been so bad that it's affected everyone's job from the top down.
The Dodgers have the worst bullpen ERA in the NL. The pitching staff's collective 4.66 ERA is 25th in MLB. Think that's solely on the players? When only the Nationals, Reds, Royals, Rockies and A's are behind you, it's evident that there's a larger problem at play.
Let's just hope Friedman hasn't lost his mojo ever since the Trevor Bauer signing because things have mostly -- for the Dodgers' standards -- gone down hill since then.