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Dodgers: The Case For Ross Stripling As A Playoff Starter

A holistic approach gives Stripling the nod.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 14: Ross Stripling #68 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on April 14, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

This is a short series where we identify number 4 starting pitcher options for the Dodgers’ postseason roster, and make the argument for individuals. 

With the very possible reality that Rich Hill will not be available as the Dodgers’ fourth starter in the playoffs, who should fill that spot? Dodgers Nation has taken a look at this from many perspectives. This article will take a holistic approach to why Ross Stripling is best suited for the spot. We cannot just look at that one spot but how the bullpen options will be impacted.

The Case For Stripling

Our own Blake Williams wrote an excellent overview of all the fourth starter options. He spoke about some “undeserved hate” that Stripling gets. I’ve mostly felt that is because his fastball sits 90-92 MPH so he doesn’t seem to scare anybody. When he was at his best in the first half of 2018 he was sitting 92-94 MPH before the tank emptied on him the second half of that season. His fall from 2018 All-Star has soured more than a few fans on Stripling.

Just Two Times Around The Order, Please

The fourth starter needs to be prepared to go two times through the order, which is four to five innings. Currently, Stripling is being limited to three innings but there is still enough time (2-3 more starts) to stretch him out to five. Any other opponent the Dodgers play will have the same basic requirements for their fourth starter. There are other candidates that can match this requirement but we’ll talk about that later.

Pitch Mix

I prefer Ross Stripling as a starter because of his pitch mix. According to FanGraphs Stripling throws 38% fastballs, 18% sliders, 29% curveballs and 15% changeups. In the playoffs he will need to utilize all four pitch types right out of the box to battle a playoff team. As a starter he has more time to warm up and get a feel for all of his pitches. When he comes out of the bullpen there is a better chance that one or more of his pitches is not fully working, which weakens his effectiveness. Since he doesn’t have the elite fastball that makes him much more hittable when the batters have less options to worry about.

Bullpen

Dodgers
CINCINNATI, OH – MAY 18: Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on in the first inning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 18, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 4-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The candidates mentioned in Blake’s article, other than Ross Stripling are Kenta Maeda, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. He also mentioned a “Bullpen Game”. To be honest, all of these guys are capable of making a start and doing well. However, I think all of them are weapons for the bullpen. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

  • Kenta Maeda: He has already been fully transitioned to the bullpen and I think he’s eliminated from being a post-season starter.
  • Julio Urías: He’s not in the rotation at the moment and Dave Roberts tried him in a high leverage on Saturday night against the Mets. I think he is on track to be a reliever.
  • Tony Gonsolin: I think his stuff plays up in the bullpen as he has a great split-fingered fastball. That is a pitch I’d really like to have available for multiple games in key situations. However, he is still in the rotation so it could be that he is the main completion for Stripling. Our Marshall Garvey makes the argument for him here.
  • Dustin May: He has also been used in the bullpen instead of starting. His last four appearances have all been in the bullpen, with the last three being pretty good. It looks like the Dodgers are looking hard at him being in the bullpen. Of all the options he probably is closest to not being on the playoff roster.
  • Bullpen Game: Planning one of these in a five game series isn’t so bad because there is a travel day after game four. However, in a seven game series game five is the day after game four as part of three games in a row. Planning a bullpen game when you might already have an unplanned need (see 2017 World Series) seems like a bad idea. Any reliever that goes two innings in a game is probably not available the next day.

More at Dodgers Nation


Stripling or Gonsolin

Based on what we see with the rotation over the next week it looks like the Dodgers are down to Stripling or Gonsolin. I feel good with either option as the starter but the advantages of Stripling in the rotation along with the advantages of Gonsolin in the bullpen makes it clear to me. Stripling has playoff experience and has a good pitch mix that works as a starter. Gonsolin has a nice pitch mix also, but he can be dominant in the pen with just a fastball and splitter.

Final Thoughts

When I take a holistic look at the pitching staff I see Ross Stripling as the fourth starter for the playoffs. With only 11 games left in the regular season it seems the Dodgers have already eliminated Maeda, Urías and May from rotation consideration. They could have Stripling and Gonsolin go three innings each but that eliminates them from being a bullpen option in too many games. They need to pick one and I’d go with Stripling in the rotation and Gonsolin in the bullpen for the reasons all stated above. The goal is to have the strongest overall pitching staff not just the focus on the fourth starter. Of course, our fingers are crossed for Rich Hill.

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

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