Ross Stripling pitched his third season for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. He was drafted by the team in the 9th round of the 2011 first-year player draft.
Regular Season Recap
Like his fellow starter-turned-reliever (when necessary) Kenta Maeda, Stripling’s 2018 season was a tale of two halves. However, Stripling’s first and second halves couldn’t have been more opposite.
Through the grueling morass of a first half that saw the team match their worst ever start of 16-26, there were three players that carried them: Matt Kemp, Max Muncy and Ross Stripling. Even knowing the unpredictable nature of baseball itself, no one could have envisioned a scenario where these three men stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Stripling may have been the most surprising of all, if for no other reason than the fact that he was easily the best starter in the rotation. That’s even weirder considering he started the year in the bullpen, only joining the rotation at the end of April due to injuries to other starters.
“Chicken Strip” was absolutely dominant in his new capacity, earning a spot on the N.L. All-Star Team for his efforts.
When he took the mound at the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C., Stripling possessed a sterling 8-3 record and 2.92 ERA. However, in a game that saw many of baseball’s best pitchers surrender home runs, Stripling was taken deep by none other than Houston sluggers Alex Bregman and George Springer. These home runs, of course, were utterly meaningless. But it was admittedly aggravating for Dodger fans to have our fun disrupted by Bregman and Springer *again*.
Nevertheless, that disastrous ASG performance proved a harbinger of what was to come in the second half of the season. In mid-August, he hit the disabled list with lower back inflammation. After returning, he was ineffective, losing his last three starts. By the end of the season, he had posted an unsightly 6.41 ERA in the second half.
His regular season totals accumulated to an 8-6 record, with a 3.02 ERA and 136 strikeouts.
How’d He Do in October?
Nothing…quite literally. Despite some bullpen shuffling for the NLCS and World Series rosters, Stripling never got a chance in October 2018. He wasn’t the only capable player to not see action, but given he was an All-Star in July, it was a disappointing end to what was an incredible season. For what it’s worth, he did cite a pitch-tipping habit as the cause of his second half struggles, but it wasn’t enough to earn Roberts’ trust to turn it around in October.
What Lies Ahead
Stripling remains under team control for 2019. However, with a veritable glut of starting pitchers and a bullpen in need of upgrading, he looks like an odd man out in both scenarios. Considering how Stripling faltered enough in the second half to watch the playoffs from the bench, it’s hard to envision him as anything more than a depth piece next season. A more likely outcome is being used as a trade chip. Whatever becomes of his baseball future, at least he’ll always have his stockbroking career.
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