Although it’s been awhile since we’ve taken a look at the starting rotation of the Dodgers as a whole, the unit is far and away the best on the Senior Circuit with a 3.31 ERA, if you’re into that sort of stat. Even in terms of WHIP and OBPA, Dodgers starters still comfortably lead the NL pack. If we look at how good the Los Angeles rotation is on a broader scale, there are certainly several groups in the American League which may be better, but that’s something the club can consider later in the season, if the team is indeed able to clinch a spot in the postseason.
As it stands now, the five-man crew consists of Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler, all of whom appear to be hitting their strides as of late. Ross Stripling, who was one of the more effective starters in the first half of the year, is on the shelf with some sort of toe injury, although it appears he will be rejoining the rotation during the upcoming road trip.
Kershaw has undoubtedly resumed his spot as staff ace. He has started seven contests since returning from the DL with a lower back strain, and he has an ERA of 2.23 and a WHIP below 1.00 during that time. The consistency of his velocity, which appeared to be a problem throughout the early stages of the season, is now holding its course, despite the four-seam not being quite where it was in years past. Regardless, Kersh is the headliner of the unit and will spearhead a playoff rotation, should the club get that far.
Consequently, it’s tough to say who’s next in line, as each member of the remaining quartet has shown flashes of promise in recent weeks. Thinking along those lines, if all four pitch up to their potential during the fall months, the Dodgers will be tough to beat, especially when considering the strength of their offense. However, Hill, Wood and Maeda have been known to hit some bad spots at inopportune times (just like the majority of other MLB pitchers), and everybody knows just how important quality pitching is during the fall months.
Wood’s ERA is 3.58 for the year, but he has shown how good he can be lately, as made evident by a solid outing on Friday night against the World Champion Astros. He was pulled from the game early with issues involving cramps and was eventually sent to the 10-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left adductor, a muscle in the groin area. Command seemed to be an issued as of late, as he has allowed 14 walks over his last five starts. Still, Wood could be one of the big three in a prospective playoff rotation, but it will all depend on his health and his performance down the stretch of the regular season.
Hill appears to be healthy despite having dealt with his perennial blister problems earlier in the year. The veteran southpaw allowed one earned run on six hits and a walk while striking out four over six innings in Wednesday’s win over the Brewers. Hill has been excellent over his last three starts, allowing just two earned runs while striking out 23 in 19 innings to lower his ERA on the year to 3.63. That mark is even better since he returned from the disabled list in mid-June— a 2.36 ERA over 49-2/3 innings. In some senses, Hill and Wood are similar in terms of effectiveness, at least when it comes to the numbers on paper.
Lately, Maeda has been dominant, aside from his last start against the Brewers. He took took the loss in that contest after giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four over 4-2/3 innings. Before the loss, he had tallied a 2.34 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and a 10.8 K/9. The majority of the damage was done on a two-out, three-run homer off the bat of Eric Thames in the third inning, but a high pitch count—102 pitches over 4-2/3 frames—also contributed to the righty’s early exit. Maeda owns a 3.48 ERA through 18 starts this year, but his career-best 3.13 FIP and 10.9 K/9 are great signs, although his success as a reliever in the playoffs last year may play heavily into any postseason decisions. He will take the mound in Saturday’s contest against Houston.
Buehler, who may have the best pure talent of the group sans Kershaw, took the hard-luck loss against the Brewers on Tuesday, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven opposing batters. He surrendered one run in the third inning on a pair of two-out hits, but that was the only damage done. The offense, however, couldn’t pick him up, as the lineup managed just two hits total in the 1-0 defeat. The rookie has struggled some over the past two months, but he wrapped up July with a 17:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16-2/3 innings and will take a respectable 3.65 ERA and 1.06 WHIP into Sunday’s series finale against the Astros.
Both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Urias continue to rehab successfully, but chances are extremely slim that either will fit into the club’s rotation plans during the remainder of the year. Nevertheless, kipper Dave Roberts has already mentioned that Urias could be a factor in the bullpen in September and beyond.