The Los Angeles Dodgers have dropped five of their last six and all of a sudden appear to be in a perilous situation with the playoffs approaching. The days of going 24-5 in August are over and now reality has set in.
Julio Urías' arrest undoubtedly brought bad energy upon the clubhouse. Clayton Kershaw's lingering shoulder issue can't have anybody confident about his longevity the rest of the way. Lance Lynn reverting back to his White Sox self has been a troubling development.
Though the bullpen has improved admirably (now ninth in MLB with a 3.75 ERA after ranking dead last in the NL a couple months ago), it's about to be taxed at the worst possible time as the rotation limps over the final month of the season.
Dodgers fans are trying to remain confident, though. Can't blame them. This is one of the most lethal offenses in the league and, outside of the Braves, there isn't really a team that strikes fear within the fanbase.
Then again, when the playoffs arrive, the competition is immediately elevated. The Dodgers will be facing the best offenses in the NL ... and they have no pitching. So trying to rationalize a three-man rotation of Kershaw, Bobby Miller and Walker Buehler is grasping for straws.
Dodgers fans' wishful thinking won't change troubling postseason reality
Kershaw is a legend, but if he's compromised, he can't be viewed as an ace playoff option. He hasn't been the team's Game 1 starter since 2019. Now he's going to take on the burden with a shoulder that isn't 100%?
Bobby Miller is amazing, but he's a rookie with 94.2 innings of major league experience. Relying on him to take on No. 2 starter duties, even against a struggling offense such as the Brewers' unit, is a tall ask. He was supposed to be a luxury to lengthen the rotation -- not a featured option with the pressure of securing a win early on in a series.
And Walker Buehler? Come on. The guy hasn't pitched since last June and is coming off Tommy John surgery. If he returns before the end of the year, he'll be coming out of the bullpen because he probably won't be able to exceed three innings on the mound. All he's been doing over the last year is rehabbing.
Oh yeah, and now he's out for the season ... so that's not even possible anymore (and it wasn't possible to begin with if this is where the Dodgers finally landed on his status).
As for the coping from the trade deadline ... we'd agree the Dodgers certainly didn't have the most favorable of situations. No front office wants to overpay when resources are scarce and competition is high. But the options were there. They could've had Jordan Montgomery, Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer if they chose to apply more pressure. Instead the Rangers (twice) and Astros won the bidding. They let the Phillies acquire Michael Lorenzen without much of a fight.
They came away with Lance Lynn and were confident of the status quo remaining for two months, despite question marks surrounding Kershaw's health, Tony Gonsolin's overall performance, and even Urías' struggles before he was placed on administrative leave.
The Dodgers could've done better. They didn't. And that's OK because they didn't want to compromise their future or put the payroll in a bad spot. But let's not pretend they're all of a sudden "fine" for an NLDS against any of the Brewers, Phillies, Cubs or Marlins. Let's not pretend they had no recourse at the deadline. Andrew Friedman opted to remain strategic, and now he may have to pay for it with a dud to end 2023.