Perhaps the more relative question is exactly how good has the Dodgers‘ rotation been lately?
If you missed Bill Plunkett’s early-morning column in the OC Register on Saturday, he provided a very concise, but accurate, summary.
“Dodgers’ starters have a 5.67 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over the past four games while averaging less than five innings per start. The last Dodgers starter to pitch into the sixth inning was Walker Buehler on Aug. 27 (nine games ago) in San Diego.”
As far as the projected playoff starters go over that same time frame, Buehler’s ERA is 4.50, Clayton Kershaw‘s is 5.73 and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who at one point not long ago was considered an NL Cy Young favorite, has an ERA of 9.95.
In the series opener against division rival San Francisco on Friday night, Kersh managed to survive just four full innings on a whopping 99 pitches. He ended up surrendering three earned run on seven hits and three walks.
“Just a frustrating game. Really frustrating all around,” Kersh told Plunkett after the game. “I don’t take much from it except frustration, I guess.”
When considering the current trend of the rotation, many fans are left wondering if the pitching staff has left their best performances behind them or if they’ll be able to find a way to kick things back into gear in the postseason at the beginning of October.
Even when including the most recent starts noted above, the Dodgers, by far, have the most effective numbers in the National League for the entirety of the 2019 season. The combined ERA for Dodgers starting pitchers this year is 3.16. After a bunch of daylight, the Nationals are in second place with a 3.60 mark, and the Mets are in third at 3.95.
Ryu, Kershaw and Buehler are all in the Top 11 of qualified NL starters when it comes to ERA for the entire season. Ryu is still the league’s leader with a 2.45 mark. Kershaw is in seventh at 3.06 and Buehler 11th at 3.48.
And, if you’re looking really far ahead, that 3.16 mark for Dodgers starters is also the best in baseball. The Rays are in second at 3.48 and the Astros trail the Nationals in fourth place with a starting pitching ERA of 3.60.
One thing the management crew of the Dodgers has been trying to do lately is employ the strategy of extra rest to its rotation, especially Ryu and Kershaw. Ryu will be passed over entirely next week while Kersh is believed to be on a six-day type of turn.
If you didn’t already know, Kershaw has never been a big fan of extra rest.
“It’s not ideal, obviously. More than anything you just want to stay in that rhythm,” Kershaw said at the start of the 2019 season. “One day of extra rest every once in a while is fine, but obviously you have to understand the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do. It’s set up better for everybody, so just kind of roll with it and go on.”
Regardless of what Kershaw thinks, it will be interesting to see which rotation appears at the onset of the playoffs—the crew that dominated the first 4-1/2 months of the regular season or the group that has struggled mightily over the last few weeks.