Dodgers 25-Man Roster: Trying to Optimize the Starting Rotation

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Seemingly, the starting rotation of the Dodgers continues to get healthier. Many fans of the team were curious to know how management would handle an overcrowded starting five, and they got their answer when Rich Hill was relegated to the bullpen just days before the All-Star break. Now, with the rotation appearing to be at full strength, followers are contemplating whether or not there’s enough firepower to make some noise in the playoffs.

Hill was assigned to relief duty when the club finally reinstated young righty Walker Buehler, who made his return from a rib microfracture in the opener of a three-game set against the Angels on Friday. Pundits thought this was the move the Dodgers would make, although the team showed hints of possibly utilizing a six-man rotation through the break. Apparently, though, it was Hill who was the most inconsistent of the entire crew, especially when considering his most recent start when he gave up four runs and took the loss against the Padres on Tuesday. Yet, by no means has Hill been throwing horribly—the situation is a perfect example of just how well the other members of the crew have been pitching.

Alex Wood, who was facing scrutiny from many critics in the early portion of the season, will take the mound on Saturday opposite Angels’ lefty Andrew Heaney. After going 1-5 with a 4.43 ERA over his first 13 starts, Wood has since posted a 4-0 record with a 2.64 ERA over his last five appearances, giving the impression of being close to where he was at this time last season.

On Wednesday, righty Kenta Maeda struck out nine batters for the fourth game in a row as the Dodgers walked away with a 4-2 victory over the Padres. Over those four games, Maeda’s ERA is a minuscule 1.64, which has now shrunk to 3.13 on the year.

But, while both Wood and Maeda have shown over the last few seasons that they are fantastic relief options, it was Hill who was given a bit of a so-called breather because he has been out-performed by the others.

And many followers of the club were holding their collective breath watching staff ace Clayton Kershaw throw after his return to the rotation from a lower-back strain. That is, up until his most recent start against the Padres on Monday, when he tossed 89 pitches, resulting in six scoreless innings and a victory. Kersh now appears to have no restrictions or limits, as he’s 2-0 in the four starts since his return with a 2.25 ERA. But perhaps more importantly, the velocity on his four-seam continues to rise. He was sitting right around 92 MPH on Monday, which could be a sign that the three-time Cy Young Award winner may be returning to his former self.

Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest starting pitching story in 2018 has been the emergence of right-hander Ross Stripling. His first-half has been so impressive that he was selected to the National League All-Star squad on Wednesday. After Thursday’s victory against San Diego, the 28-year-old is 8-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 108 punchouts over 95-1/3 innings of work.

“It’s been a crazy season,” Stripling said after being told about his inclusion to the NL All-Star roster. “Still a long ways to go. But to be an All-Star midway through is special, and something that I’ll remember forever.”

Furthermore, lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu is still progressing nicely after having thrown 25 pitches off the mound at Dodger Stadium on Friday. And lefty Julio Urias isn’t far behind.

Regardless, as far as optimizing the rotation goes, fans are probably looking at the club’s best available options right there—Kershaw, Stripling, Maeda, Wood and Buehler. If  everyone’s healthy and throwing to their potential, many followers of the team believe that particular starting five is good enough to take the team deep into the playoffs, even without any help in the form of an addition at the summer trade deadlines.

In the meantime, with some DL stints and several rest periods being allotted, there will indeed be a few roster changes during the stretch run of the season; however, whether or not the aforementioned starting rotation has enough strength to get the job done remains to be seen.


11 thoughts on “Dodgers 25-Man Roster: Trying to Optimize the Starting Rotation

  1. I don’t care what the Dodgers end up doing with their rotation as long as both Buehler and Stripling remain in it for the duration of the 2nd half this season. And the very moment Ryu comes back from his rehab assignment, Wood needs to be the one sent back to the pen where his apparent lack of durability as a starter will no longer be questioned anymore. Personally, I can’t wait for the Dodgers to finally plug up that 8th-inning void vacated by Morrow this past winter. Last year proved once and for all that a lock-down bullpen is far more important than a full hand of aces in today’s game.Just ask Houston and Cleveland about it right now, lol…


  2. Just watched Kenley give up the game winning homer again. He’s had periods this year when he’s been the old Kenley, but he’s also had performances where he looks like he can’t be trusted. Usually those performances are accompanied by reduced velo and often times bad command. That leads me to believe it’s something mechanical but it also leads me to believe we need to trade for a very good closer and have both he and Kenley available because we simply can’t depend on Kenley this year to be invincible. And the success of the bullpen as now constructed depends on Kenley’s being invincible.


      1. You have a pretty dry sense of humor Dennis so I’m not sure if you’re kidding, but you really think that Baez is superior to Goeddel, Floro or Chargois? I think I’d rather have any of those guys right now. Cingrani absolutely, Fields……………..maybe. Petey, no thank you. All of this just goes to show how badly we need a couple more really good bullpen guys, especially with Kenley showing reduced velo again tonight and giving up the game winner.


      2. I got a chuckle out of it. Don’t know if humor was intended, but for me it resulted.

        I enjoyed the game. We had opportunity for a walk-off a few times and swallowed an olive. Clutch we don’t appear to be. We can at times bludgeon, but we don’t appear surgical. My opinion.

        I think we need an every day middle of the lineup. We need a consistent #3 hitter. And we need Jansen to do what he’s paid to do and lockdown late inning relievers before him. Losing Seager was an enormous blow to this lineup. Replacing him is actually possible, but, for 3 months? Doesn’t feel FAZian to me.

        For what it’s worth I’ve always felt Baez has the stuff for that job. He’s gifted. He also appears to be something of a butterhead. He may not be mentally equipped for the job. I don’t KNOW that, but he’s had the stuff for a few years now and is yet to really step up.


      3. Every day middle of the lineup. That’s normally JT’s role but as mentioned before, I don’t think we can count on him to do it on an every day basis this year, so yes, I agree, we need a mid-lineup bat……………………..after we get a couple of high-end relievers and if that still leaves us something with which to go after Machado or someone else to fill that role. I think you’re right about Baez’s natural ability but I really do think a change of scenery to a lower stress atmosphere would do him a world of good, for example, Miami, Tampa, San Diego, etc.


      4. I follow you on Baez Jeff. Makes sense to me.

        Seager is gone and Turner isn’t the same guy. It’s still possible he will return to form, but what if he doesn’t? We came up short WITH those guys rocking last year. And Jansen? I just noticed there is a new post on him so I’ll check that out but at this point in time it feels to me like we may have seen the best of him. And that’s true with Kershaw too. The best starter in the game, one of the best closers and they didn’t get it done leading up to this year. Do they have enough in the tank for one more run? We all hope so.


      1. I’m not trying to answer for Keith, Scoop, but I’m speaking up on behalf of all Marlins fans (of which I am not one), when I remind you that Miami has won approximately 50% more games this year than either Baltimore or K.C. Or are we saying that those two teams are AA? 🙂


  3. Yeah scoop that’s a good spot for him, he can be part of that realmutto trade, that Manuel is trying to make.


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