The Dodgers starting pitching rotation will once again be a strength even in a shortened 60 game season. Los Angeles boasts a stable of starters with young flame throwers, Walker Buelher, Julio Urias, and Dustin May, productive veterans, Alex Wood and Ross Stripling, and last, but not least, Clayton Kershaw.
One starter that won’t be taking the bump this year for the Dodgers is David Price. Price, acquired in the Mookie Betts trade with the Boston Red Sox this offseason, announced on July 4th that he will sit out the 2020 MLB season due to COVID-19 health concerns.
How does the Dodgers rotation look without the 2012 AL Cy Young Winner?
- 2019 ERA: 3.03
- WHIP: 1.04
- ERA+: 137
- Record: 16-5
For at least one more year, the Dodgers starting rotation begins with Kershaw. In a world where everyone is adjusting to a new normal, Kershaw is adjusting to his – decreased fastball velocity. Perhaps his visit this offseason to the fabled Driveline pitching laboratory fixes his most important tool. If not, Kershaw proved that he can still post a top-10 ERA by using his slider more and his fastball less. This key adjustment produced a sub-3.00 ERA over his last 13 starts in 2019.
The second act of Kershaw’s doesn’t hold ERA Titles and Cy Young Awards, but that isn’t what the Dodgers need with such a talented staff. They need an effective and healthy Clayton Kershaw to punctuate a Hall of Fame career with a World Series ring crescendo.
- ERA: 3.26
- WHIP: 1.04
- ERA+: 127
- Record: 14-4
Currently, the only right handed starter in the rotation, Buehler’s 2019 postseason performance (0.71 ERA in 12.2 IP) more than offset a slight regression during the regular season. Buehler is the 2010 LeBron James to Kershaw’s Dwayne Wade. Buehler is the better pitcher at this point in his career and everyone knows it, but it’s still Kershaw’s team and everyone respects it.
15 of his 16 strikeouts were swinging, tied for the 2nd-most by any starter in a game in the last 10 seasons. pic.twitter.com/6m1bNSqK02
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 22, 2019
A 2019 All-Star at 24 years old, the eternally self-confident Buehler still has yet to reach his peak. His postseason success (2.72 ERA), fastball velocity (96.8 AVG MPH) and impressive five-pitch mix (fastball, cutter, sinker curve, slider, and curveball) have put him in the superior class of starting pitchers amongst names like DeGrom, Cole, and Scherzer.
Expect more great things from Buehler in 2020 and beyond.
- ERA: 2.49
- WHIP: 1.08
- ERA+: 167
- Record: 4-3
The time has finally come for the Dodgers to take the training wheels off and get Urias rolling as a starter for a “full” season. The road has been long and challenging for the 23-year-old Urias: multiple eye surgeries, shoulder surgery in 2017, and a 20 game suspension last year for violating the league’s domestic violence policy.
With all that now behind him, Urias must prove he’s a legitimate, number three starter with upside. The pedigree has always been there and one can only imagine how many phone calls Team President Andrew Friedman has received from teams trying to trade for a young, dynamite southpaw.
Julio. Urías. pic.twitter.com/KeORj6H5U8
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 10, 2019
Urias has never pitched more than 79 innings in a season but in a 60 game regular season, the Dodgers don’t need 220 innings out of him. Hell, even if he averaged 7 innings per start, which seems unlikely given the circumstances, he’d finish right around 84 IP.
For the first time, the Dodgers have coupled the Mexican phenom’s superb repertoire with unfettered opportunity.
- ERA: 5.80
- WHIP: 1.40
- ERA+: 79
- Record: 1-3
Wood’s return to the Dodgers feels like a college freshman who comes back home with a new appreciation for home cooked food after months of chowing in the cafeteria. After posting career numbers with the Dodgers, highlighted by a 2017 All-Star appearance, Friedman jettisoned Wood to Cincinnati in 2018.
Injuries completely derailed Wood’s 2019 season and torpedoed his value leading up to his 2020 free agency. The situation made for a perfect Friedman cocktail of reclamation and familiarity garnished with a team friendly contract (1 Year/$4M plus $6M in bonus incentives). Although not officially stated, Friedman and Roberts promised Wood a spot in the rotation before he signed on the cheap.
Wood is a high ceiling-low floor pitcher. The Dodgers are familiar with Wood’s roller coaster of an ERA and there’s an understanding that if he underperforms, he will lose his spot in the rotation.
- ERA: 3.47
- WHIP: 1.14
- ERA+: 119
- Record: 4-4
Queue the controversy. The Dodgers fifth rotation spot remains up in the air as of right now, but Stripling has earned the opportunity. The 30-year-old swingman has done everything the Dodgers and Dave Roberts have asked over the last four years: long relief, spot starts, and everything in between. Through all of it, he’s always been a team player even after the failed Angels trade.
This isn’t a charity case. The talent is there – a career 3.51 ERA and 2018 All-Star selection to boot. Youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will have their moment in the sun as starters, maybe even this year if COVID-19 rears it’s ugly head, but Strip deserves the final spot in the rotation come Opening Day.