For as much time as we spent discussing the seemingly anemic offense of the Dodgers, we probably spent an equal amount of time—especially during Summer Camp—talking about the club’s starting rotation.
For fans who had a glimpse of Clayton Kershaw throwing in the Freeway Series opener on Friday night, they saw exactly how good the Dodgers’ rotation has the potential to be. Kersh threw a season-high seven innings, which topped the effort of his 2020 debut when he threw 5-2/3 frames of three-hit ball against the Diamondbacks.
Sandwiched in between those two starts, though, was Kershaw’s outing against the Giants when he served up four earned runs on seven hits—three of which were long balls—reminding onlookers of his susceptibility to the long ball and revealing that he was certainly not untouchable. However, the fact that he has been topping out at 94 MPH on the radar gun regularly suggests he might be approaching his old form.
The chief determining factor of how far the Dodgers go this year may conceivably lie on the shoulders of Walker Buehler. Among the six starters the Dodgers have rotated this season, Buehler has the highest ERA at 4.40 and has issued a team-high eight walks after having limited action during camp. Nevertheless, those who know the young righty realize how good he can be, particularly in the playoffs.
Of course, most pundits will say that it’s still a bit to early to look towards the postseason, but there’s no question front offices across the majors are doing just that, right at this second. With the 2020 trade deadline rolling around in just two weeks, teams will need to figure out which upgrades they need to make—if any—to prepare themselves for the stretch run of 2020.
The big question is, does the rotation of the Dodgers have enough talent to go the distance without any major additions?
We all know what Kersh and Buehler can do (if they’re healthy), but how does the remainder of the supporting cast fit into the picture?
Believe it or not, lefty Julio Urias has the lowest ERA among all the teams starters and has the second-most innings pitched, but some pundits may have him on the fringe of a prospective four-man postseason rotation. Ross Stripling has been the workhorse of the team’s starting crew so far this season, but there have been a handful of innings when his effectiveness has completely backfired. Realistically, Dustin May might have the best pure stuff on the entire Los Angeles staff, but the main concern right now lies with how long it will take before he can put everything together during an outing and string several of those outings together.
Statistic-wise, despite leading the entire majors in team ERA, the collective starting rotation of the Dodgers is second in the National League and third in the majors with a 3.12 ERA behind the Indians and the Cubs.
On paper, it’s tough to imagine that a starting trio of Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks could stand up to any three the Dodgers roll out, but we’ll see how the Chicago crew looks by the time October rolls around. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez have been standing tall in Colorado, but we’re all aware of the toll Coors Field can take on a starting arm with a little mileage.
With Stephen Strasburg headed to the injured list with a nerve injury in his hand, the Nats’ rotation is in the middle of the pack with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin carrying the load, although many of us know exactly how far two quality pitchers can carry a team through the postseason if they’re indeed healthy.
To answer the question posed in the title, the Dodgers’ rotation is the envy of a good portion of their rival clubs across the league, and there’s no doubt that their starting five is as good as any in the majors. The problem right now is trying to determine if it’s decent enough to carry the team to a World Championship without any upgrades.
Especially if the offense decides to go to sleep for any extended period of time.