Compared to Last Year, the Dodgers’ 2018 Rotation Is Better Suited for Playoffs

(Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Even with nine games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Dodgers still have plenty of work to do before they begin preparing for any type of playoff appearance. Still, the club is experiencing success in just about all aspects of play right now, but lately, it’s been the starting pitching that’s been the most effective and dominant.

Last year’s playoff rotation consisted of the primary trio of Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Rich Hill, with Alex Wood as the fourth. At that point in time, Hyun-Jin Ryu was just beginning to get healthy, yet he was still overlooked for a spot on the 2017 playoff roster. Darvish was having all sorts of problems—one game he would tip every single pitch he was throwing and the next his mechanics would be a pure mess. In turn, the opposing teams who did their homework on Darvish found no problem with capitalizing on his weaknesses. Kershaw was the leader of the crew, and Hill was his typical inconsistent self, having only surrendered five earned runs in four outings; but he didn’t last more than five innings of any of the four starts he made.

After Game 7, many folks argued that it was the starting pitching—especially the presence of Darvish—was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Los Angeles.

The 2018 version, however, is a different story. Kershaw is still Kershaw, albeit with a slightly slower heater. Ryu is pitching the best baseball of his life—whether or not the fact that he’s in his walk year has anything to do with it is anybody’s guess. But the biggest difference is the presence of one Walker Buehler, who, like it or not, may emerge as the club’s new ace at some point during his 2019 campaign.

Through 21 starts and 124-2/3 innings pitched this season, Buehler has a 2.74 ERA, a 0.979 WHIP, a 10.3 K/9 and a 3.0 WAR. Although he had a similar strikeout rate, Darvish had a 3.86 ERA, a 1.163 WHIP and a 0.6 WAR for his 2017 regular season campaign. I think it’s safe to say that Buehler is miles ahead of where Darvish was last year, and the beauty of it is that Buehler seems to be getting better every single time he takes the mound.

A little over a week ago, I put together a quick story ranking the arms in the Dodgers’ current starting five. I had Kershaw as the No. 1, Buehler as the two and Ryu as the No. 3—and I’m still sticking to that ranking. As good as Buehler’s been, Kersh is still the ace of this team right now, and he certainly deserves to be the primary option if the team does indeed make a playoff push this year.

Currently, many pundits have the Cubs as the favorites to run the gamut in the National League playoffs, but I’m not so sure they have the better rotation, at least when it comes to their Top 3. One would guess the Chicago big three is Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Kyle Hendricks (with Jose Quintana waiting in the wings); but every single member of that particular trio has an ERA above 3.40 for the season. Hamels has a 2.42 ERA since arriving in Chicago, but he has a 3.90 mark for the year and a 5.18 mark for the month of September.

As far as the Dodgers go, nobody in the group of Kershaw, Buehler and Ryu has an ERA above Buehler’s mark of 2.74. As a matter of fact, Kersh has a mark of 2.45 and Ryu has a ridiculous figure of 2.18. What’s even more impressive is that Ryu has given up just two earned runs over his last four starts. On paper, the Dodgers seem to have the Cubs—and everybody else, for that matter—beat, at least in terms of the Top 3.

While it’s a bit foolish to look ahead, it’s probably safe to say that the Dodgers match-up with the best clubs in the NL when it comes to starting pitching. Not many clubs who will be around for the postseason can make that same claim, as they will need to depend on other aspects of their games to find success.

For the Dodgers, though, their bullpen and their anemic offense are completely different stories.


10 thoughts on “Compared to Last Year, the Dodgers’ 2018 Rotation Is Better Suited for Playoffs

  1. Dennis, I remember earlier in the season that you were concerned about the Dodgers starting pitching. Do I remember correctly that you felt the rotation could get them to the playoffs but not all the way to the World Series, or did you just say that you didn’t think we could WIN a World Series with this rotation? When you made the comment, I don’t think any of us thought that Buehler and Ryu would be pitching quite this well in mid September. Hopefully they can continue all the way through the playoffs.

      1. I could see them working their way through any of the potential playoff opponents in the NL, but the AL is a whole different story. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Dodger-Yankee World Series, but I think the Red Sox, Astros and Indians are all better than the Yanks. Of course, it’s also possible that the Boys in Blue lose all of their remaining games and don’t even make the playoffs. Very unlikely, but this team has shown me it can do just about anything…………..…..positive or negative.

  2. Anybody know about a innings limit on Buehler? Whatever it is, I hope he is allowed to go over it. He’s the #2 the rest of the way.

    I admit I have had pitching concerns all year. Still do. I don’t much care for the hospital ward shopping strategies FAZ chooses to employ, but I figured run differential, our mighty Pythagorean Power, would carry the team. If we hit, we can play with anybody. Will we continue to mash through to November? Absolutely! Maybe. I kinda doubt it. These guys clout as a team, and they slump as a team. Wouldn’t surprise me if they take a few days off against the lowly Padres.

    Anybody know the details of Puig’s contract? A friend just told me he could choose arbitration or free agency in ‘19. If true, I find that odd. Somebody, not likely the Dodgers (Mets? Phillies?) would offer him 6 years, taking him to age 33. I see Machado in NY and Kershaw opting out. Maybe too early to be talking ‘19.

    1. I could be very wrong here, but I think the decision on Puig rests entirely with the team. Arbitration or non-tender (which they obviously won’t do). I don’t think he can opt out. Dennis, Manuel? Please correct me if I’m wrong about this.

    2. Friedman said Buehler is fine to go the rest of the way, especially since he had those several weeks of rest for his rib injury. I think they were eyeballing 150 in the spring, but it looks like he could go slightly above that with a reasonable playoff run.

      1. That’s how I read it too Dennis. I’d like to see him go 7 twice in 3 different series’ in October. If we see that he will be well over 150 innings.

        The language I was sent on Puig read “may opt in to arbitration once he earns 3 years of Major League service time”. I have never seen that so I don’t know if it’s accurate or how to interpret it if it is.

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