Considering all the obstacles the Dodgers have faced over the course of the 2018 season, starting pitching has not been one of them. Sure, there have been quite a few injuries, but each hurdle prompted somebody new to step into the group and perform admirably. Heck, even young righty Brock Stewart deserves some kudos for the hundreds of thousands of frequent-flyer miles he racked up before the All-Star break.
For those who still trust ERA, the Los Angeles starters lead the National League pack with a 3.15 mark with the Diamondbacks trailing in second place at 3.35 and the Braves in third at 3.55. The Dodgers are also ranked in first with a 1.12 combined WHIP, but perhaps the most impressive stat is that they lead the entire NL in OBPA with a .284 mark—the next closest starting staff is the Diamondbacks at .301.
Personally, I’ve felt the Dodgers’ starting rotation as being strong from the onset of the season, despite not a single member of the crew breaking the double-digit plateau in wins. However, I’m still not quite sure they have the firepower to advance deeply into the postseason, if they do indeed clinch a berth in the playoffs. Nevertheless, it’s never to early to look ahead, especially if the club finds itself in a do-or-die scenario, like a tie-breaking situation at the end of the regular season or one-and-done Wild Card game. In any of these cases, the squad would want to send one of their best arms to the hill. And, if a NLDS was in the picture, management would need to choose the best four arms and determine an order for them to appear.
That being said, here’s how I would rank the arms in the current rotation mix of the Dodgers, thus creating a starting order for a potential postseason run.
(Ace) Clayton Kershaw—As long as he’s healthy, Clayton Kershaw‘s regular-season stats would be irrelevant, because he’s far and away the best option the Dodgers have. Despite only having seven wins, five-hard-luck losses and 10 no-decisions, he has still thrown strongly this year when he was injury-free, as made evident by his sub-2.50 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. There are very few pitchers across baseball who would slot ahead of Kersh in any do-or-die scenario.
(No. 2) Walker Buehler—Admittedly, there’s a lot of daylight between CK and the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter, but I’m going with Walker Buehler here based mostly on pure ability. Believe it or not, his 0.97 WHIP leads the entire starting rotation, and his ERA is more than respectable at 2.52. His head is as cool as they come, and he appears to be maturing and learning the game with each of his outings.
(No. 3) Hyun-Jin Ryu—As we move into the No. 3 starting spot, this is where the rest of the group starts to blend together. Still, I think lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu has done enough to separate himself, even if just looking at his numbers post-injury. Since his return to the starting five on August 15, Ryu has posted an impressive 2.19 ERA with 31 punchouts and just two walks over five starts. More importantly, his off-speed arsenal seems to be as dominant as ever.
(No. 4) Rich Hill—Veteran Rich Hill has certainly has his moments, but just when he blows the world away with a stellar start, he seems to follow it up with a somewhat poor outing. The good news is that he appears to have his blister issues under control, but the bad news is that his ERA is above 3.75 and his WHIP is above 1.20, ranking him towards the bottom of the Los Angeles rotation. The only reason I have him here is that I believe the other three options may be much more valuable in relief roles instead of Hill.
(T-5) Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling—Any one member of this trio is a very capable starter, although Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling are past the point of being stretched out properly to provide decent length. In a do-or-die game, all the arms may be available in relief, though, and even in a playoff scenario, only the best four will be selected as starters. Over numerous stretches in his career, Alex Wood has thrived out of the bullpen. He has made a total of 37 career relief appearances, posting a 2.53 ERA with 50 strikeouts over 46-1/3 innings pitched.
Even though there’s still plenty of baseball to be played—with no guarantees for postseason passes—questions like these are lingering in the minds of the management crew as we speak. If the Dodgers are indeed able to punch a ticket to the 2018 playoffs, starting pitching will definitely be one of their strongest suits.