In early March, when it seemed like the Dodgers might play 100 games I wrote an article about how their pitching depth would be a huge advantage.
Now that the season will be just 60 games we’ll update much of that content for the new season. There really is no better team more equipped to excel in a short season than the Dodgers, especially in the pitching department.
Roster Sizes and Plans
- First two weeks – 30 players
- Second two weeks – 28 players
- Rest of the season, including post-season – 26 player
Dave Roberts said the #Dodgers are planning to begin the regular season with a 5-man starting rotation. He added that he doesn't anticipate starting pitchers going beyond 4 innings per game during their first turn through the rotation. @MLB @MLBNetwork @MLBNetworkRadio
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 24, 2020
It looks like the Dodgers will use the first two weeks to build up some endurance for their starting pitching.
The Innings Limit Is Gone
One concern the Dodgers had for the 2020 season was making sure that the younger pitchers would still have limited innings. Those innings limits have already been imposed with the suspension of the season. My best guess was that Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías, and Dustin May would be limited to 150 innings in 2020.
So, they would still be limited to 150 innings but they wouldn’t need to be held back. There will be no need to be forced to limit them artificially. If they are ready to be in the rotation, then there are no artificial bullpen demotions or fake injuries to limit them.
A Lighter Load For Buehler, Kershaw, and Price
Walker Buehler threw a career-high of 193 innings in 2019 that included the playoffs. One of my worries going into 2020 was that Buehler might have some struggles due to his previous seasons’ workload. That is no longer a concern.
Both Clayton Kershaw and David Price have a lot of innings on them. Both also have plenty of extra innings due to pitching deep into the playoffs on many occasions. This season, they will get a forced rest. Rather than getting ready for seven months of baseball, it will probably be closer to five months.
Wood and Stripling’s Velocity
In 2017, Alex Wood had an amazing first half of the season as he made the All-Star team. He was regularly sitting 92-93 MPH during that time before he slowed down soon after the All-Star game. The last part of the season saw Wood fall down to the 4th starter spot in the playoff rotation.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 26, 2018
Ross Stripling followed a similar path in 2018 as he helped carry the starting rotation through plenty of injuries. He was also sitting at around 92-93 MPH and made the All-Star team. By the time of the All-Star game, he seemed to be slowing down already. Strip was on a path to easily set a career-high in innings by quite a bit, but things soon fell apart. He even described it himself when he said he was “gassed” in interviews. Stripling ended the season by not even making the post-season roster.
With a shortened season and some more extra rest due to the delay, could we see the best of Alex Wood and Ross Stripling? With the depth that can help conserve them and their past successes, why not?
Depth, Depth, Depth!
Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May! That is eight starters without any real limits over a 60 game season and the playoffs. Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Caleb Ferguson, Dennis Santana, Scott Alexander, Adam Kolarek, and Jimmy Nelson! That is a loaded bullpen when you consider Stripling and Gonsolin could also be factors.
By my count, the Dodgers have 18 major league pitchers with only 13 spots when the rosters go down to 26. As the Dodgers have their starters on a plan that starts them at 4 innings in their first start, I would expect other starters like Stripling, Gonsolin, and May to take up some of those extra innings. It is also possible they could add a minor league starter like Josiah Gray or Edwin Uceta to throw 2-3 innings to back up a starter. By pairing the main five starters with these other starters it allows the bullpen to also come along slowly.
There will be absolutely no excuse for rushing any of the pitchers.
While most teams will be forced to rush pitchers into shape or panic for injuries or COVID-19 illness, the Dodgers should be in excellent shape. It will certainly be interesting to see who the Dodgers have on their taxi squad. They will be able to add 20 other players that will be working out and ready to contribute. It also would not surprise me if there was an imbalance of pitching on that squad.
I’d much rather be writing about the strength of the pitching staff over a 162 game season, but that is no longer the reality. Orel Hershiser thinks the overall team is in great shape to adjust to the new season. So, the hand dealt us all for the baseball season isn’t what we want, but the Dodgers winning a World Series would still be wonderful. I was 17 when the Dodgers won the strike-shortened 1981 World Series, and it was still awesome. Let’s hope the season is able to kick off in 2020 and that the Dodgers can use their built-in advantages to bring home the championship. I, for one, will welcome going to my first World Series parade, even if I have to wear a mask.