The Los Angeles Dodgers starting staff has been run through a gauntlet of attrition during the 2023 season. Either injury or off-field issues have depleted the rotation.
As a result of their pitching woes, the Dodgers have had to rely on their organizational depth and have had a youth movement this summer.
Bobby Miller, Emmett Sheehan and Michael Grove have combined to make 40 starts, totaling 218 innings, so far. The three pitchers are combined average age of 24 with Miller and Sheehan making their rookie debuts this season and Grove having debuted in 2022.
Throw in Ryan Pepiot, who had 36 innings to his name and won a starting spot out of Spring Training, but was injured until September, and the Dodgers go into October with a starting staff lacking in experience.
I say throw the kids in the fire and see where the chips fall.
Throughout their history, the Dodgers have had to rely on young pitching in the postseason. In 1955, Johnny Podres was only 22 when he was named the first World Series MVP, leading the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only championship.
Fernando Valenzuela capped off his brilliant rookie season in 1981 by going 4-0 in the postseason en route to helping the Dodgers win a World Series. Even recently former Dodgers Hyun Jin-Ryu and Kenta Maeda made big postseason starts in their rookie campaigns.
No, the Dodgers won't start an all-rookie staff in the postseason, as trade acquisition Lance Lynn and staff patriarch Clayton Kershaw will still be in the mix. But barring an injury in a three- or four-game series, some combination of the youngsters could be starting.
The one youngster guaranteed to get a shot is Bobby Miller, who could be a Game 1 or 2 starter in the NLDS. Miller, the Dodgers' first-round pick in the 2020, has really settled in after hitting a few bumps in the road following his hot start to his rookie season.
Miller has 10 wins and, despite a 4.02 ERA, has pitched into the sixth inning over his last seven starts, which includes an impressive 3-1 win over the National League-best Atlanta Braves.
MIller stymied the Braves for seven innings, giving up one run on just three hits to salvage a win in the four-game series. He uses a combination of his fastball and cutter to complement his breaking pitches, and can bring the heat upwards of 100 MPH when needed.
Sheehan and Grove have struggled as of late and may find themselves providing long relief out of the bullpen or off the postseason roster altogether, but Ryan Pepiot has shown some brilliance as of late, giving up just four runs over his three starts. He feels like an emergency fourth starter or the first guy out of the bullpen if something happens to whoever takes the ball in Games 1-3.
Either by necessity or by design, the Dodgers starting pitching in October is going to be young and inexperienced. Crazier things have happened, but if the young pitchers embrace the moment, they may just shine bright enough to lead the team to a dream postseason. Worst case? They're better prepared for 2024 and beyond.