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Dodgers: What if Rich Hill is Done for the Season

The Dodgers have solid replacements who could take the ball in game four.

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 05: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin (46) throws a pitch during a MLB game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 5, 2019 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Rich Hill suffering another injury, his chances of make the postseason roster as the fourth starter could be in jeopardy.

Although he hasn’t been ruled out, the Dodgers would be wise to prepare for the worst. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who they could give the ball to in a potential game four.

Kenta Maeda

Maeda is probably the safest choice to potentially replace Hill in the rotation. He has started 20+ games in each of the past four seasons but hasn’t started a playoff game since 2016.

In his career as a starter, Maeda owns a 3.92 ERA in 546 2/3 innings pitched, making him a very good back of the rotation starter. He’s thrown his fair share of gems but he isn’t consistent enough to make fans want to see him start a playoff game.

This season, Maeda has started 26 games and posted a 4.14 ERA in those starts.

Moving him to the rotation also weakens their bullpen. The expectation is Maeda will be a high leverage reliever in the postseason, which is a role he has excelled in.

The theme of weakening the bullpen is going to be common so it isn’t something to dwell on too much.

Julio Urias

Urias probably has the most upside of all the options here. The problem is he hasn’t started much since his injury and that could limit his usage. He’ll give you the best three to four innings but likely isn’t ever going six or seven.

Over the past four seasons, Urias owns a 3.66 ERA as a starter but it has come in only 123 total innings. In eight starts this season, he has a 3.26 ERA in 30 1/3 innings.

Even as the most talented option for the role, the Dodgers would probably benefit most from him in the bullpen. He’s one of their best three relievers and having him multiple times in a series is better than having him once or twice for a few innings.

Tony Gonsolin

Gonsolin might be the sweet spot of upside and safety but he’s also one of their best relief options.

He has started six games this season, pitching to a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings. In those starts, he has held batters to a .192/.261/.346 line. He would be a great choice to be the fourth starter. However, like with Urias, he’s probably more valuable out of the pen than as a fourth starter.

With three-plus pitches and the composure of a relaxed cat, Gonsolin is built for a multi-inning and high leverage bullpen role. Having him available multiple games could be so much more valuable than having him for six innings one game.

He’s the best option for the fourth rotation spot and one of their best options out of the pen. They just need to unleash him in the playoffs, because cats usually don’t like being leashed.

Ross Stripling

Stripling gets a lot of undeserved hate as a back of the rotation starter and solid bullpen arm. He’s filled in nicely wherever they needed him and he was even named an All-Star last season.

In 14 starts this year, he has pitched to a 3.36 ERA over 67 innings. His FIP is a respectable 3.86 and he has held batters to a .243/.280/.426 slash line.

The concern with Stripling is his stuff has declined and usually, great stuff plays up in October. But even with the decline, he has been solid.

However, there’s still a stigma around him that he’s not worthy of a rotation spot. I’ll be honest, I went into this thinking it would be easy to say why he doesn’t deserve the chance. After looking at the numbers, I now believe he, at the very least, deserves consideration.

Stripling still an unlikely choice since he isn’t stretched out to start, but he wouldn’t be a bad option to start a game four, especially since using him as a starter wouldn’t weaken the pen.

Dustin May

May has loads of upside but he also comes with tons of risk. He has elite stuff that could play up in October but he’s still developing all-around.

In four starts this season (22 1/3 innings), May has a 2.82 ERA while holding batters to a .247/.281/.341 line.

He is also one of the options who wouldn’t weaken the pen by moving him. He’s struggled in a small sample as a reliever, posting an ERA just south of 12.

He’s probably my favorite option due to the stuff and upside, but the risk does worry me. I’d also be cautious of giving him a start on the road.

Bullpen Game

A game featuring three of four of these guys might be the most likely scenario, depending on how much the bullpen has been used leading up to game four.

It’s a strategy that can be really effective but it does tire out more relievers, which might not be ideal with up to three games left.

If they decide to do this, giving May the “start” would probably be the best way to do it. It allows Gonsolin and Urias to be used earlier in the series if needed and allows them to play the matchups the rest of the way.

Something like May for three or four innings, Urias for two, Maeda or Gonsolin for two, and the rest of the bullpen for one or two would likely work really well.

Closing Opinion

The Dodgers have a few good choices to replace Hill if he can’t make it back in time. My choice right now would be to give May the start and have a multi-inning guy ready to go after a few innings of May.

If they don’t want to give May the start on the road, Stripling should be the guy to get the ball, even if it’s just as an opener. It wouldn’t weaken the pen and he has been a solid fill-in whenever they’ve needed him.

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

8 Comments

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  1. Stripling or Gonsolin would get my vote, Blake. Stripling does have more pitching experience, but Gonsolin showed me a lot when he threw against the Yankees and their formidable lineup. At present I am more concerned with my first three starters, especially if we get into the WS and have to play in Houston. Our men need to be on top of their games. We will be facing an elite pitching crew also : Cole, Verlander and Greinke. If we need a #4, I like Gonsolin with Strips to follow. Go Blue!!!

  2. I actually agree with this guy—Maybe start Strippling for 2 or 3 innings then May for 2 or 3 innings–hopefully thats 6 innings then lets see who is then ready–That could actually work—The Astros have the best pitching but the Yankees are simply powerful if healthy–I do think we have a chance—Lets just win it all

    • “Gonsolin or May”. There you go, I agree.

      Hill’s finished for the year, they shouldn’t be wasting time & energy on him until maybe next spring.
      It will be one injury after the other for Hill at his age.
      If he’s not just released, at best he’s a spot starter next year. Maybe even trade bait, if anyone wants an injury prone, older pitcher.
      Too bad, but:
      ‘We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play, we just don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.’

  3. Tony G and May are clearly better than Hill. Hill is the luckiest pitcher ever always hurt and kinda wimpy as he gave up the ball to Roberts in Game 3 vs Boston not wanting to stay in the game. He was literally stepping towards the dugout before Roberts got there. He’s has a phony tough guy approach.

  4. A lot also depends on how the rest of the pitching staff, starters, relievers fare in the first 3 games of the Division Series. Things could change if Ryu, CK and Buehler have rough outings and have to be pulled earlier than desired.

  5. No Maeda (as starter) and no Stripling. Maeda would start nibbling in a high pressure situation and beat himself and Stripling gets torched by power hitters. I would go with the bullpen game but not use too many of them. Start with Urias maybe get 2-3 innings then go with Maeda who will attack with his best stuff for 2 innings then take it from there

  6. Agree with your synopsis, Blake. I think Gonsolin or Stripling are the best options, too. Gonsolin has actually pitched against 3 playoff teams with good success against St Louis and the Braves in the NL, plus the Yankees. Odd, since he has only pitched in 8 games. Like you, I would be uneasy pitching May at this point. But then we come to Stripling. He has had playoff experience and would be great for a couple innings as an opener, like you say. Especially against a righty heavy club. If we have a game where we get a 4 or 5 run lead, then would be a great time to give May the ball and be ready batter by batter just in case. Too bad about Rich. He had a great couple years for us when he was healthy. Like to see him get that one last shot.

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