If you didn’t have a chance on Sunday to scour the internet for the latest news about the Dodgers, there was a story published this weekend by Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com discussing each big league team’s single-most indispensable player that I found especially interesting.
Admittedly, before I even scrolled down to the section featuring the National League West, the first two players who popped into my mind for the Dodgers were Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts, based on the prospective thoughts of which players would replace them in the outfield in the event of one of their absences.
So, when I saw Castrovince opine that Walker Buehler was the most crucial to the success of the Dodgers, I was a bit surprised. However, once I took a few moments to consider the structure of the Los Angeles starting rotation, the listing made a lot of sense.
If there is a postseason in 2020—and if the Dodgers make it there—Buehler would undoubtedly be the most essential piece to a potential World Championship puzzle.
In the 2019 National League Division Series against the Nationals, Buehler deservedly lined up as the Game 1 starter, not just because he had the most talent among all the Los Angeles starting pitchers, but because he was also throwing the best at that point in the season.
In the first game at home, the young righty tossed an even six shutout innings on 100 pitches, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out eight. And, who could forget the Game 5 decider, when Buehler put his squad in a position to advance to the NLCS after throwing 6-2/3 frames of one run ball.
I’m not one who typically likes to Monday-morning quarterback, but should the Dodgers again come up against a heavily talented opposing pitching staff with offense at a premium, there would be a lot of responsibility that falls on Buehler’s shoulders, especially since the rest of the Los Angeles rotation is probably ranked just a little bit better than average.
While he’s indeed a bit behind the curve right now as far as being stretched out goes, there’s no question he’d likely be the club’s most valuable piece should the team advance to the playoffs this fall.
Speaking of Bellinger, I took a peek at the Steamer projection pages on Fangraphs this weekend for the first time this summer, and what I saw wasn’t very surprising.
Bellinger is projected to appear in 56 games while hitting a very respectable .287/.386/.585 with 15 long balls, 11 doubles and 44 RBI over the shortened 60-game season.
Based on his track record, these numbers seem to be about right for the 25-year-old superstar. With regards to the home run ratios, Bellinger hit a long ball for every 14.04 plate appearances during his MVP campaign in 2019. According to Steamer this season, the slugger is projected to hit a home run in every 15.53 PA.
If you’re one of those stat guys who still likes to follow the traditional numbers and might be curious what the upcoming season holds, those 15 homers and 44 RBI just might be the gold standard among the game’s top players.