Walker Buehler's done for the year as his comeback from Tommy John surgery was halted. Julio Urías will never pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers again. Clayton Kershaw is pitching compromised and it's unclear if he'll return to ace-like form before the end of the season.
So ... Bobby Miller for Game 1 of the team's first playoff series? What once sounded like an insane idea that would heap too much pressure on the rookie is now beginning to possess the most logic. Because what other options do the Dodgers have?
Even if they preferred a more veteran option, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are done for the year and Lance Lynn has proven to be too much of a wild card since his acquisition. The Dodgers are as limited as can be in this department.
And finally, there's the "stuff" argument. Miller's ascension has proven, even with guys like Urías and Gonsolin in the fold, that he has the requisite arsenal for Game 1 or do-or-die scenarios. He has a blazing fastball, a knee-buckling curveball, and a changeup that disappears. Nobody on the current staff can match his electricity. And Dontrelle Willis believes in him!
That's why it makes us feel better saying it aloud after Eno Sarris of The Athletic wrote about the possibility of Miller starting Game 1 of the NLDS in his latest mailbag (subscription required).
Might Dodgers consider starting Bobby Miller in Game 1 of a playoff series?
Think of the other scenarios. Let's start with Kershaw, who's been unable to pitch more than five innings since coming off the injured list a month ago. The Dodgers skipped his most recent start and pushed him back 10 days. His velocity is down. Manager Dave Roberts said he's still battling through the shoulder issue that landed him on the IL while pitching coach Mark Prior says the left-hander is working through his mechanics and timing, which were impacted by the injury.
At this point, any Kershaw start is in peril of lasting fewer than five innings. That would put the bullpen in a massive bind to kick off any playoff series, which would then place more pressure on Miller/Lynn to ensure they go 6+ in their outings to keep the Dodgers in a good position.
Here's what Sarris said on the matter:
"You know what? I might start Miller in Game 1. Some might balk at the pressure of giving a rookie a Game 1 start, but the playoffs are a rubicon anyway — if they lose that first game, will he feel much less pressure in Game 2? And if Clayton Kershaw is still throwing 88, is it possible Miller gives you the best chance of winning right away? And isn’t Miller more likely to be able to go twice or go on short rest later in the series? Might Miller go longer than Kershaw at this point, leaving your bullpen in better shape for the next game?"- Eno Sarris, The Athletic
As for Lynn, he can't be trusted to face the order a third time through, especially if you're looking to gain a 1-0 edge or stave off elimination, making him a more logical piece to use later in a series against an inferior pitcher. Dodgers fans love his fire and veteran experience, but he's very much the third-best starter on this staff and it isn't really close.
Roberts and Andrew Friedman need to consider all of these factors when setting up the postseason roster/rotation. Miller might be young and lack playoff mettle, but what's indicated thus far he wouldn't be up for a larger stage? He's already starred while the Dodgers have been in turmoil. Despite approaching his career high in innings pitched, he's yet to show a single sign of slowing down.