“Quarter notes and Hank’s half time
Are poundin’ on this heart of mine
Song to song, I pass my time
With these speakers on ten”
Watching the playoffs this year, one can’t help but wonder if the way the pitching staffs were handled would be the new wave of the future. No starting pitcher in the World Series made it to the seventh inning this year, and that had never been done before. Managers were going to their bullpen earlier and earlier, sometimes bringing their closer in as early as the seventh inning. If the Dodgers were to go to this type of thinking, what would the pitching staff look like?
The Dodgers bullpen ranked number one last season. They logged more innings than any other, too, mainly as a result of the injuries that plagued the starting rotation. Kenley Jansen was stellar, coming in earlier and throwing more pitches than normal while maintaining his efficiency. But the Dodgers would still need a bridge to Kenley (if they re-sign him) from the starting pitcher. No relief pitcher would be able to withstand the rigors of coming in and doing twice the work they had been used to during the regular season. We saw that in Andrew Miller, who seemed human again in Game 7 of the WS.
The Indians tried to get three wins on the back of Corey Kluber, and the third time wasn’t the charm. Fatigue affected him, and the third time a batter sees a pitcher in such a short amount of time, the advantage goes to the batter no matter how good the pitcher may be. Clayton Kershaw has a well-documented history in the playoffs, and it would be unfair and unwise to put him in such a position that he feels it’s him or nothing again.
The Cubs also had the use of four competent starting pitchers. The Dodgers this season had to rely on Kershaw and Rich Hill and Jansen, and hope one other person would show up. The Dodgers have shown interest in resigning Rich Hill, and as long as he avoids blister problems, he would be a great number three or four starter. Kenta Maeda will also be there for the third or fourth spot. The rest of the starting pitchers from last year are up in the air now for multiple reasons, be it youth, injury or a better offer somewhere else. Julio Urias could see more time in the majors, but he wouldn’t be ready to take the number two spot behind Kershaw just yet. The free agent market for starting pitchers this offseason is slim pickins. A true number two pitcher would most likely have to some to the Dodgers through a trade, and as Friedman wants to keep as many prospects as possible, I don’t that that would happen. The Dodgers had to talked with Arizona about reacquiring Zack Greinke — could that still be on the table, with a different management team in Arizona? Probably not, but nothing would surprise me.
As far as relief pitchers go, Mark Melancon is a free agent this year — he pitched 71.1 innings last season with both Pittsburgh and Washington and carried a 1.65 era. Re-sign Kenley, sign Melancon for the eighth and keep Blanton and Grant Dayton for the seventh and I think you’ve got a pretty decent bullpen going. But for the Dodgers to finally get over the hump and make it to the world series, they definitely need a more viable option behind Kershaw. I don’t know that with the track record of Friedman and company that they will go out of their way to do so, but maybe four straight years of falling just short of the prize will spur them to make a big move. Stay tuned.