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The Dodgers Were Right to Start Ryu in Game One, But It’s Not Why You Think

Dodgers
Oct 3, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher and game one starter Hyun-Jin Ryu listens to a question during a press conference prior to the team workout before game one of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sportsu

When the Dodgers announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu was going to be starting Game 1 of the NLDS, it definitely dropped the jaws of many fans. After all, this was Clayton Kershaw’s spot. He’s supposed to start your postseason run. He’s done it in every playoff opener for the Dodgers since 2009. It’s something we Dodger fans have come to expect and look forward to. It’s like Christmas morning… or being stuck on the 405 for hours on end.

Not to say that people were disappointed by the news, just surprised. In fact, many fans liked the decision. But many also seemed to get the wrong impression about the move.

A common notion was that the Dodgers were simply going with the “hot hand” by starting Ryu in Game 1, and that he had somehow leapfrogged over Kershaw in the rotation. That, however, is probably not the reason at all.

If you really look at everything, it appears the Dodgers would simply like to give Kershaw an extra day of rest. He pitched on Saturday in San Francisco, while Ryu last pitched on Friday. So, Ryu is plenty rested, and an extra day for Kershaw would make sense, especially when you consider the implications for the rest of the series.

In the first round of the playoffs, there’s an extra travel day between Games 4 & 5. That’s often the reason why teams who have two really good starters at the top of their rotation go with their Game 1 starter on short rest for Game 4. Because you can bring back your Game 2 starter on regular rest for a possible Game 5, and maximize your aces.

This is a concept that Dodgers fans know well, and have seen often over the years with Kershaw and whoever the #2 guy was, whether it be Zack Greinke, Rich Hill, or whoever.

Getting back to this year’s decision though, you can see that Kershaw will still be available to start a possible Game 5. It doesn’t matter whether he pitches Game 1 or 2. He’ll be on regular rest either way.

There’s no doubt Ryu has pitched well down the stretch, posting a 1.50 ERA since the start of September. Kershaw, on the other hand, put up a 3.89 ERA during that same timeframe, his worst month of the season.

But before we take a month or two worth of stats, and start making claims that “we have a new ace,” we should all pump the breaks a little. This move simply seems like a way to give Kershaw a much needed extra day of rest, and nothing more.

Now, if there does happen to be a Game 5 against Atlanta, and Dave Roberts goes with Ryu for that game, then there may be some controversy and something to talk about. But I don’t see that happening unless Ryu is brilliant in Game 1, and Kershaw is downright terrible in Game 2. Even then, I’m not sure.

I mean, would you want to try to tell Clayton Kershaw he’s not pitching a Game 5 when he’s fully rested and ready to go? Good luck with that.

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Written by Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.

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  1. What if he allows 5 runs in the first inning??? Maybe you should wait until he pitches to make such pronouncements?

    • Well, Ryu was great after all, surprise surprise! This front office has the cajones to tell Kershaw he’s not pitching game one and if he doesn’t pitch well in game two I forsee them calling on Ryu. This is a march back to the WS and mot getting there because they were afraid to hurt someones feelings would be unacceptable. We all know that as Clayton gets older and the young guns get better he will slide down the rotation.

  2. I think another, if not the main reason is, Ryu’s ERA @ Dodger Stadium this season is a tick over 1.00. In the playoffs you want to have him pitch as many, if not all his games at Dodger Stadium. Add that to the two things mentioned and it;s a no brainer.

    1. Ryu is hot
    2. equal days rest
    3. Ryu doing his Koufax impression!

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