Heading into Monday’s game, the Los Angeles Dodgers are only one game out of first place in the National League West behind the San Francisco Giants, and two games ahead of the San Diego Padres who are in third place.
The climb back towards the top of the division has seemed slow and arduous, hampered by way too many injuries, some bad outings by the bullpen, and the continued success of the Giants who refuse to regress to what everyone thought they would be as a team this year.
Both the Giants and the Padres have better team ERAs than the Dodgers, with the Padres’ being the best in the Major Leagues. The Padres also lead the Majors in strikeouts, WHIP, and batting average against. However, the Dodgers are an incredibly close second in WHIP and BAA, and sixth in ERA.
These are the current numbers as of Monday, June 14th. On Monday or Tuesday, Major League Baseball is expected to hand down a memo about how it will handle its Sticky Substance Abuse Issue going forward.
Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted Monday morning that since the League announced that they would be cracking down on pitchers’ use of grip-aiding substances, batting average as a whole across the league has gone up .014 from .236 to .247.
Last Monday, we talked about what might happen with Dodger pitching specifically. We showed some charts of Dodgers pitchers who have seen their spin rates fall since the announcement of the crackdown on June 5.
Clayton Kershaw’s spin rate had been down, but his last outing was a good rebound for him. After having given up five runs in his previous two starts, he went six full, shutout innings with nine strikeouts against the Texas Rangers. Walker Buehler is still pitching well enough to not have a loss in his last 26 games. Kenley Jansen is also still getting the job done: Sunday afternoon, he came into a no-outs bases loaded jam and after giving up a quick ambush hit, got the next three outs leaving the bases loaded.
Trevor Bauer, however, has not fared well since the crackdown. In his most recent outing on Saturday, Bauer went 6.1 innings, allowing nine hits, six runs, four earned runs, with two walks and eight strikeouts. He’s lost both his starts since the June 5 crackdown and has allowed seven earned runs in his last two games. His spin rates were again down significantly.
All pitchers can go through rough patches. As mentioned, Kershaw had back-to-back outings where he gave up five runs and had one game where he couldn’t make it out of the first inning. Kershaw also has a career worth of stellar outings, three Cy Youngs, and an MVP as well as a World Series ring, and has pitched for 14 seasons.
But Bauer has made his fortune calling out, and using, whatever substance to increase his pitching ability. One would assume the Dodgers’ front office did their due diligence about this very thing, and one wonders if they were certain enough that he would still be a $40 million pitcher without using a substance, or that the League wouldn’t look too carefully into it.
With Bauer being so outspoken about the use of a sticky substance increasing spin rate, it’s widely assumed that other teams and umpires will be more vigilant in watching what the right hander uses, or doesn’t use, to pitch. The checking of pitchers’ hands is expected to be random and sporadic, and only if things seem blatant.
So, there is no doubt that Bauer will be scrutinized, fairly or unfairly, for the next month or two if not the remainder of his time with the Dodgers. As stated in reference to Kershaw, pitchers can go through rough patches. Bauer may very well figure things out, and be that pitcher for which the Dodgers paid extremely good money. Or, he may just revert to his 2016-2019 self, where he was closer to a 4.50 ERA pitcher. Bauer has definitely been an innings eater, so regardless of runs allowed, he’s a relief for the bullpen—when his pitch count is not getting too high.
As a fan of the team, it is with hope that Bauer figures out whatever is going on with him at the moment, temporary blip or another sticky issue. It’s something to definitely keep an eye on over the next few weeks and beyond.