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Los Angeles Dodgers

Can Dodgers trust their current rotation come playoff time?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Alex Wood (57) pitches in the first inning during the game between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 19, 2017, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire)
(David Dennis/Icon Sportswire)

Here is a short list of categories the Dodgers’ starting pitchers don’t lead the majors in: walks allowed (fourth), strikeouts (fifth), K-to-BB percentage (fourth), K per 9 (sixth) and hits allowed (second). They literally lead the world in every other significant pitching category, including ERA, WHIP, total bases, home runs allowed, opponent’s batting average and opponent’s OBP.

In fact, they are the only rotation in baseball that has allowed fewer than 200 runs so far. They’re the only staff to allow fewer than 700 total bases. Fewer than 60 homers. A sub-.300 OBP. An opponent’s batting average in the .220’s.

All that is to say, the Dodgers’ rotation has been remarkable in the first half of 2017. With projected Nos. 2 and 3 Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda struggling for much of the first half, it’s even more incredible to see what they’re doing as a unit. Thanks to All-Star Alex Wood (10-0, 1.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 97 K in 80.2 IP) and upstart Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 3.12, 1.13), the Dodgers haven’t needed Hill and Maeda’s usual greatness.

The first few months of 2017 aside, Wood and McCarthy have been fairly ordinary, yet high-potential pitchers. It may just be that they’ve finally come into their own at the same time, which would be ideal for the Dodgers. But it may also be that they’re going to stumble in the second half or succumb to the DL for the umpteenth time in their respective careers.

If that happens, are the Dodgers prepared to trust their current rotation in the playoffs? Clayton Kershaw is doing his thing and to Maeda and Hill’s credit, they both showed signs of recovery at the end of the first half. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been serviceable at the back end, and the team does expect whatever shell of Scott Kazmir still exists to make an eventual return.

On paper, that tells us that the Dodgers have posted an unbelievable first half that may not be repeatable in the second half and in October. This is a familiar theme that has haunted the team in past Octobers, when they couldn’t trust any starters to put together a dominant outing after Kershaw. Zack Greinke was there for a while. Hill can be ace-like on any given day. But, is what they have enough now? Or will the team look to add one more impact arm before the deadline?

They’ve been linked to Justin Verlander, Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana and Gerrit Cole, among other starters. But it remains to be seen if they will actually make a move for another starting pitcher when they have six currently, one on his way back and a few minor league options (not to mention long-relief/starting pitcher hybrids like Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart).

This is more about succeeding in October, and none of those available names necessarily make the Dodgers that much better in the playoffs. At least not for the cost most of them would take to acquire. Farhan Zaidi recently told reporters that he sees top prospect Alex Verdugo as another Urias, Seager, Pederson or Bellinger – meaning it’s going to take a lot to move him in a trade.

And if they aren’t willing to trade their top prospect, it doesn’t seem likely that they can snag a top starting pitcher in return. As with most any rotation, there are question marks. Whether Wood and McCarthy can stay healthy and continue pitching this well. Whether Hill and Maeda will see improvement in the second half. Whether any of them can pitch effectively behind Kershaw in the postseason.

So, come October, they may very well be stuck with what they have. Luckily, what they have now is the best in baseball, and shows no signs of slowing down.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Paul Wooten

    Jul 12, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Both Wood and Hill, behind Kershaw, give the Dodgers a Trio that can dominate any given Game.

    Kershaw has quit throwing the first pitch fastball inside to every hitter, and he will no longer be giving up 4 home runs in a game. I expect a 2nd half like Arrieta had in 2015 out of Kersh, because if he can lead this team to the WS Crown, he can opt out and will likely receive the biggest contract even given in baseball, even if that status only lasts until Harper and maybe Machado become FA in 2018.

    Wood has his Fastball back, and his curve and change are both above average. Hill has that Curve back, the one with the huge spin rate that not many can hit.

    If these three pitch to their best, a fourth starter can lose every start in the postseason and it may not matter. But McCarthy gives them a good option. When healthy and with command he may be one of the top 3 4th starters in baseball.

    So I expect a big offer for JD Martinez, another talented RH hitter to help the Dodgers beat left-handers.

    That move alone could help them match the Astros lineup, which I see them playing in the WS.

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