With Rich Hill suffering another injury, his chances of make the postseason roster as the fourth starter could be in jeopardy.
Who will step up in Rich Hill’s absence?https://t.co/iNRTCsTQX5
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) September 13, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.