One of the reasons the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros this year was due to the lack of a big game pitcher. The definition of a big game pitcher is a veteran with postseason experience; preferably World Series experience that steps up in those must win games. A fierce competitor that can be trusted with the ball in a game 7 or an elimination game.
Guys like John Lackey, Madison Bumgarner, or Jon Lester immediately come to my mind. The Dodgers thought that Yu Darvish was the guy. But he was not, evident by his astronomical World Series ERA and poor postseason performances. Clayton Kershaw could be that guy at times, but he’s had his troubles in the postseason as well. The rest of the Dodger’s starting rotation is good, (I.E. Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, etc. ) but none of those guys can be considered big game pitchers. Again all of those guys are great pitchers, but being a big game pitcher is an entirely different thing and it can’t be quantified with a stat or formula.
The Dodgers need that guy in the rotation once the postseason starts. Since they don’t have one on their roster they’ll have to acquire one via trade or free agency. There are a few out there on the open market and some of them could be acquired for cheap.
One such name that stands out is right hander Jake Arrieta. He’s had some great individual performances over the past three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Of course his 11-strikeout complete game shutout over the Pirates in the 2015 National League Wild Card game was one of the greatest performances of his postseason career. His 2016 World Series performance was other worldly.
Arrieta was 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his two Fall Classic starts against Cleveland. In those outings he struck out 15, walked 6 and allowed just three earned runs on five hits across 11.1 innings pitched. Overall Arrieta has a 5-3 record with a 3.08 career postseason ERA in 52.2 innings pitched. Arrieta has struck out 66 and has allowed just 6.2 hits per nine in his nine career postseason starts. The Dodgers should seriously consider bringing him into the fray.
Another intriguing option is veteran and fat man C.C. Sabathia. While he may be fatter than you can imagine, he’s been one of the better postseason performers in MLB history. He’s done it for decades with the Yankees and once again came through for the Yanks in the 2017 Postseason helping to get the Yankees to within a game of the World Series.
Back in 2009 Sabathia was the Yankees ace and won the ALCS MVP award when he posted a 1.13 ERA against the Angels. He allowed just two earned runs and struck out 12 over 16 frames in two starts during that series. In the 2012 ALDS against Baltimore he was 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA striking out 16 and walking just 3 in 17.2 innings pitched. He allowed just three earned runs in that series.
He was great in the 2017 postseason as well. He struck out 14 against three walks in 9.2 innings pitched in New York’s five game playoff win over the Indians. Sabathia posted a 0.96 ERA in two starts against Houston in the ALCS. While he did issue 7 walks, he only allowed one earned run on eight hits over 9.1 innings. Overall Sabathia is 10-6 with a 4.20 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 22 playoff starts. Sabathia may be 37-years old but he did provide the Yankees with some solid work during the regular season as well. He won 14 games, posted a 3.69 ERA and struck out 7.3 per nine over 148.2 innings pitched.
Those are just two examples of big game pitchers that have the experience and the competitive fire to come through when their clubs need them most in October. The Dodgers came so close to winning the championship in 2017. They have an extremely talented roster. If they had a Lester, or a Sabathia type of starter they would have won the World Series. Honestly it’s the one thing they lack on what could be considered one of the finest rosters in Dodger history.
The Dodgers need a big game pitcher. If they go out and get one of those guys they will without a doubt win the World Series in 2018. I guarantee it.