Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Dodgers' Reinforcements


The Dodgers' began the season with a rotation consisting of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Noah Syndergaard. With Buehler beginning the year on the IL, the hope was that those five would stay strong and occasional depth options like Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove would pick up slack if need be. 

None of those main six got to start more than 22 games this year. I had a whole post earlier in the year about Kershaw's impossible quest to start a full season of games again but he's only gonna top out at 24 or so. Everybody missed time, in a few cases [May and Gonsolin primarily] right as they were getting good. Some of these guys were ultimately cooked by the mentality of trying to strike everybody out, which is why Thor is currently unemployed and Gonsolin screwed up his arm again. As for Urias...all he had to do was stay out of trouble and continue being a valid starting option as the others wilted, and he still managed to screw that up. What had began as another strong year turned into a heel turn that he'll never come back from. 

Currently only Kershaw remains, and the contingency plans are only partially intact; Grove is injured, after a decent go of things, while Pepiot is actually doing really well so far. A few further contingency plans, such as Andre Jackson, are no longer with the team. And the Dodgers are instead going ahead with a rotation that consists of Kershaw, Lance Lynn, rookie Bobby Miller, rookie Emmett Sheehan, and a mixture of Pepiot and rookie Gavin Stone. That is a very inexperienced starting rotation for a team looking at a playoff spot.

And yet, judging by the 1st place finish, it has worked. Miller has been the biggest success of the rookie bunch, going 10-3 with 99 Ks and a 4.02 ERA in 19 starts. Sheehan's been hit a bit more but seems to be a decent enough innings-eater. Pepiot has shown he's got the stuff this year, but the Dodgers are really keen on limiting his innings, sending him back to Triple-A whenever they can and not fully committing to him as a starter. I assume it's because he's been such an impressive prospect that they don't wanna screw him up like they have all their other injured homegrown guys, but Pepiot is 25. They're wasting his development by playing keepaway with his ownership. And if they think that the second they commit to him fully he'll get injured, they need to face that there's a problem with their current method.

Meanwhile, Kershaw's still excellent, and is 12-4 with a 2.52 ERA, classic stuff for the maestro. And Lance Lynn is also reaching peak levels, he's 6-2 with 37 Ks in 9 starts. Somehow only having those two veterans supervising the kids seems to be working, especially if the lineup has people like Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Will Smith and J.D. Martinez teeing off. This is the strength of the Dodgers for you, they can succeed even while all else seems to fail.

I think the Dodgers still factor favorably into the playoff picture, and will still be a favorite despite some of their pitching issues. I don't think they'll go all the way, but they definitely will threaten to, and with Betts and Freeman hitting like they are, they likely won't go down without a fight.

Coming Tomorrow- Last season in Seattle, I feared he'd lost his way. Ultimately he just needed a better fit, or a better team.

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