When the Dodgers announced their roster for the NLDS, it was as expected; yet many people are upset right-handed Tony Gonsolin was left off the team.
The final bullpen spots likely came down to Gonsolin, fellow rookie Dustin May, left-hander Caleb Ferguson, and right-hander Ross Stripling. The Dodgers elected to go with May and Stripling to fill out their pen.
Feels like they decided on Stripling just because he’s a veteran and not because he’s the best option.
— Blake (@ByBlakeWilliams) October 3, 2019
With Rich Hill available out of the pen early in the NLDS, along with Julio Urias and Adam Kolarek, the Dodgers weren’t in need of another southpaw. This made Ferguson an easy choice to be left off.
Since the day of May’s debut, the Dodgers have been grooming him to be a high leverage reliever for them. His first few appearances out of the bullpen were less than ideal — including a line drive to the head — but he has turned it around recently. In Sept., May threw 10 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with 15 strikeouts and one walk. He has the potential to be a relief ace for them in Oct., there would’ve been no defense for not including him.
The choice causing the most controversy is Stripling over Gonsolin.
With Stripling, Roberts announced he would be on the postseason roster multiple times in the past few weeks. He also pitched well in Sept., throwing 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA, 17 strikeouts and a .246 wOBA against. It was a continuation of his solid season where he pitched 90 2/3 innings with a 3.57 ERA. He isn’t the most exciting option but he has proven he can get the job done.
As for Gonsolin, he has done nothing but impresses since his debut. In 40 innings, he holds a 2.93 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 15 walks. In 12 Sept. innings, Gonsolin allowed four runs on five hits with 15 strikeouts. He flashed the stuff that made him one of the Dodgers’ highest-ranked prospects. Gonsolin would have made the team almost any other season.
So why did the Dodgers chose Stripling over May? By the numbers, Stripling was the better pitcher.
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As you can see, Stripling struck out more hitters, walked fewer hitters and posted the lower hard-hit percentage. He also has more experience and a longer track record of being a good pitcher. That doesn’t matter much in Oct., but it is something to consider.
The deciding factor likely came down to their pitch mixes. Stripling’s out pitch is his curveball while Gonsolin relies on his splitter. This season, the Nationals were the fifth-best team in baseball against splitters, posting a .303 wOBA against them. Against curveballs, they were ranked 17th with a .274 wOBA.
The argument for Gonsolin is his stuff is among the best on the Dodgers’ staff. Elite stuff tends to play up in Oct. more than it does in the regular season and their numbers were close enough where taking the guy with the elite pitch mix might have been the better choice.
The Dodgers could be keeping Gonsolin stretched out to be their fourth starter in case Hill gets injured again. His usage declined a lot when Hill came back and they never gave him a real chance to prove he can be a bullpen weapon, When Stripling came back from his injury, they were set on using him in a relief role. Having Gonsolin ready to start a game could prove to be valuable.
Personally, I still would’ve taken Gonsolin over Stripling because I believe he is the type of pitcher who could make a big impact in October. He has the mentality and the ability to be a high leverage arm. Stripling is pretty much a middle of the rotation starter or long reliever for this team. If he sees any high leverage innings, something has gone wrong.
So was the choice to go with Stripling over Gonsolin the right one? Let us know in the comments below.