For some odd reason, Ryan Pepiot's last sterling outing featured an opener in front of him. The Los Angeles Dodgers have utilized an opener nine times this season. Caleb Ferguson has gotten five of them, while Brusdar Graterol, Shelby Miller, Alex Vesia and Victor González all have gotten one.
Doing this in the regular season in the name of strategy? Rotation preservation? Sure. Doing this in the postseason because ... why? Please no.
Remember in 2020 when the Dodgers used Dustin May in Game 5 of the 2020 NLCS? He got knocked around, but LA ended up winning. How about Corey Knebel in Game 1 of the 2021 NLCS? Joe Kelly in Game 5? All of them gave up one or more runs in the first inning.
With the way playoff momentum shifts drastically, that's why an opener is a terrible idea for the Dodgers to deploy this October, especially with the pitching staff as frail as it seems. LA needs as much length at the start as possible in order to use their most important relievers when it matters most. Unless it's an absolute necessity, this shouldn't be part of LA's plan.
With Ryan Pepiot emerging as a legitimate option and Ryan Yarbrough always a good fallback as a crafty lefty who can give you 4-6 innings, the Dodgers should avoid using an opener if they can, because too much can go wrong.
Dodgers' concerning use of openers could lead to unsavory postseason trend
Let's look at the evidence this year through play on Wednesday, Sept. 20:
- Caleb Ferguson, 9/19 - 1 IP, 1 ER, 1H
- Shelby Miller, 9/17 - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H
- Caleb Ferguson, 8/27 - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB
- Caleb Ferguson, 8/24 - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H
- Caleb Ferguson, 8/19 - 1 IP, 0 ER, 2 H
- Alex Vesia, 7/8 - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H
- Brusdar Graterol, 6/21 - 2 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB
- Caleb Ferguson, 6/11 - 1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H
- Victor Gonzalez, 6/9 - 0.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB
The Dodgers only lost two of those games. But that's not the point. Most of these came out of necessity due to injuries to the pitching staff in the midst of a grueling regular season when Dave Roberts needed to exhaust every option to ensure his team could weather the storm.
Most of them also came against inferior opponents with the exception of the Phillies (they lost those two games), Marlins and Mariners. The Angels (2), Marlins (1), Guardians (1), Red Sox (1) and Tigers (1) were the others.
Maybe if they're facing a couple of inferior offenses, like the Brewers or D-backs, it'd be alright, but we wouldn't mess with the Cubs, Braves, Phillies or any AL team. Once one of those games goes sideways, it'll be mayhem, and the Dodgers would be smart to avoid potential situations like that with the odds already stacked against them.