Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on a Prospective Playoff Rotation

While we all know that there’s a very good chance the Dodgers walk away with the National League’s top playoff seed, what we don’t know is how the team will put together its starting playoff rotation.

And, while there are just seven games remaining on the regular season schedule, there’s a lot that can happen between now and September 30—the opening day of the NL playoffs.

Daily, we hear all the “if the season ended today” scenarios. Sunday’s version would have a prospectively No. 1 seeded Dodgers pitted against the eighth-seeded Reds, who currently sit in third place in the Central with a 26-27 record.

The opening round will be a best-of-three series. As it stands, the Dodgers still haven’t made a commitment to the three pitchers they would use in such a series, but it might be safe to say that the rotation setup could depend on how righty Walker Buehler comes out of his start on Thursday against Oakland.

Still on the injured list with a blister problem, Buehler survived a 90-pitch simulated game at the team’s alternate site on Saturday. According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Buehler threw 75 of those 90 pitches with the blister uncovered.

Some pundits are referring to Buehler’s return on Thursday as a final tuneup before the postseason. However, in theory, the Thursday start might be an audition of sorts for October.

Should Buehler impress against the Athletics, there’s no question he would slot in behind staff ace Clayton Kershaw as the No. 2 starter in the opening series. Should there be any type of setback, though, there might be some difficult decisions in order.

Even if Buehler comes out of his Thursday start unscathed, the Dodgers will still need to decide who they will send to the hill for a potential Game 3. Conceivably, it could be any one of Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias or Dustin May, if Buehler is indeed good to go.

All three of the aforementioned arms have a limited amount of MLB experience throwing in relief, so it goes without saying that at least one of the three will be appearing out of the bullpen in October. Based on the way all three have been pitching lately, for the rotation I’d think I’d choose Gonsolin, who has put up a miniscule 1.51 ERA over the 35-1/3 innings he has thrown this season.

Nevertheless, a prospective rotation order could be built based on the actual playoff opponent. For example, the Reds have hit just .208 this season against southpaw pitching, which could premise a Urias inclusion with both may and Gonsolin throwing in relief. I’ve always believed in throwing your best three arms regardless of the playoff opponent, but we all know how similar types of logistics have played roles in past postseason decisions made by Dodgers management.

In the meantime, the Dodgers will play one more game in Denver before returning home to face the Athletics for a three-game set starting on Tuesday. Los Angeles will finish the season at Dodger Stadium with three contests against the Angels beginning September 25.

Mookie Betts Shining Amid Another MVP Race

While many fans of the Dodgers had a general idea about the measure of talent Mookie Betts brought with him over the winter, some did not believe he would make an immediate, MVP-type of impact.

After all, he would be playing in a new league perhaps best known for its elevated level of pitching. Obviously, there would be adjustments. Then, there was the whole abbreviated season thing with crazy implications to spring training.

In fact, it did take a bit of time for Betts to adjust to the pitching on the senior circuit. Over his first 37 plate appearances of the 2020 campaign, the 2018 American League MVP hit a paltry .206/.270/.265 with just two extra-base hits. Certainly, very unMookie-like.

However, from the eighth game through the present, Betts has hit .327/.402/.679 with 16 bombs, seven doubles and 36 RBI, primarily hitting out of the leadoff spot after skipper Dave Roberts initially tried hitting him in the two-hole at the beginning of the season.

If we use that magical 2.7 variable we’ve heard so much about this year, that would equate to about 43 homers and 97 RBI from a leadoff hitter. And, there’s still eight more games to be played.

As it stands, Betts is the clear leader in the National League with a 3.3 WAR. Entering Sunday’s games, his 16 long balls are tied with Manny Machado for first in the league.

And he’s just not doing it with his bat. Betts’ savvy and speed on the basepaths have seemingly created runs galore. His range is unparalleled, even though it’s his first season patrolling the tricky confines of the Dodger Stadium outfield. What’s more, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say his arm is among the top guns in the majors.

The Dodgers have had two players—deservedly three if you count Matt Kemp in 2011—bring home the NL MVP trophy since Kirk Gibson won the award and the club secured its last World Championship in 1988.

Nevertheless, both Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw would have traded their respective MVP awards in a heartbeat for a coveted World Series trophy.

Betts is no different.

After Friday’s game against the Rockies, Betts shared a few words about himself being an MVP frontrunner with Bill Plunkett of the OC Register.

“I don’t pay any attention to it,” Betts said on Friday. I’m just doing what I can to win a World Series. I am who I am. Those things I think come from playing the game. You can’t think about those things and think about the game as well. I just have one goal and that’s to win the World Series. Whatever comes, comes.”

Normally, words like those are spoken by players as being “appropriate to say,” but coming from Betts’ mouth, it’s not hard to detect a sense of genuineness and humility.

And, he meant it from the very first day he arrived.

“I’m here to win some rings and bring rings back to Los Angeles,” Betts said back on the day his contract became official. “That’s all I’m focused on.”

Indeed, he is.

Dodgers Extend Division Lead Over Padres, Clinch Playoff Berth

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(USA TODAY Sports photo)

In what was perhaps their most meaningful series so far this season, the Dodgers handled rival San Diego in the three-game set two games to one, re-stretching their division lead to 3-1/2 games. In the process, they were the first major league club to clinch a berth in the 2020 postseason.

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4 Things to Watch During Final Weeks of Regular Season

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(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Before the beginning of Sunday’s games, the Dodgers still had the best record in the majors at 32-14. They sat in front of NL West rival San Diego by a full three games, and their inclusion in the 2020 postseason playoff picture is imminent. However, there’s been a ton of discussions about potential home field advantage and what it might mean in the postseason.

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on the State of the Starting Rotation

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(Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Without question, as the 2020 playoffs rapidly approach, the biggest roster issue currently on the minds of Dodgers fans everywhere is the state of the starting pitching rotation.

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Dodgers Injury Notes: Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez, Justin Turner and More

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Currently sitting with both the best record and best run differential in the majors, the Dodgers may soon be receiving an energetic boost with regards to several players returning from the injured list.

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Dodgers Prospect Watch: A Closer Look at Jake Vogel

(Kevin Chang/Los Angeles Times)

If you’re a frequent reader of this site, you’ll know that we’re pretty big on player prospects, as we typically feature one or more of the budding stars on a weekly basis. However, because of the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season, a lot of emphasis has seemingly been taken off of player development. Nevertheless, to keep the juices flowing, we’ve still been showcasing some of the best prospects who are still active as part of the Dodgers‘ 60-man player pool.

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Dodgers Roster: What Lies Ahead for Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez?

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(Getty Images photo)

Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson, both of whom have been very instrumental in the Dodgers’ success in recent years, aren’t just facing roster consequences with regards to the playoffs, but they’re also conceivably playing for their upcoming contracts in 2020.

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Dodgers Roster: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not Heading into Final Month of Regular Season

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From a timing perspective, it’s very odd seeing the MLB trade deadline pass with only one-third of the regular season remaining to be played. As it stands, the Dodgers are in fantastic standing statistically heading into the final month of the 2020 campaign. Nevertheless, we all know how meaningless numbers can be, especially once the postseason hits full stride in October.

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Will Dodgers Make Move in Final Moments of Trade Deadline?

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(AP Photo)

Most years, the final 24 hours leading up to the MLB trade deadline would be filled with many fans sitting on the edges of their seats, wondering if their favorite squad would make a move to improve their roster.

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