The Dodgers have finally climbed over the .500 mark with a 7-3 win over the Atlanta Braves on Friday evening at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are back in the race and have now won 16 of their last 21 games. The way they are doing it is quite unbelievable. The Dodgers are winning games, without a pitching staff.
That’s right; the Dodgers no longer have a pitching staff any longer. Don’t believe me? Look at the last couple of weeks. Let’s first check the starting rotation which is currently being held together by several rookies, some duct tape and hope. The rotation consists of rookie Walker Buehler, Reliever turned starter Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, and a wing and a prayer. Now Buehler was removed from Friday’s game after 5.1 innings because he was experiencing pain in his ribs. If he goes down the Dodgers will be seriously hosed.
The Dodgers have run out of options. For the record, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Julio Urias, and Hyun-jin Ryu are all on the disabled list. None of them are due back anytime soon. Scratch that, Maeda is a possibility to return in the next week or two, but who knows. The Staff is basically comprised of Buehler, Stripling, Wood, Jansen and some minor league journeymen.
When the Dodger starters have toed the rubber they’ve performed well. The Dodger’s starting rotation has limited opposing hitters to a .235 batting average against and place sixth in MLB with a 3.51 ERA. What stands out most is the Dodger starters have allowed the least amount of walks (87) in all of baseball.
Unfortunately the Dodger starters have provided the club with the least amount of length of any team in MLB. The Dodgers have gotten just 320.1 innings from their starters, which ranks them 29 out of the 30 major league teams. In comparison, the Dodger relievers have tossed 251 frames which is the third most in baseball. The relievers have overall pitched better over the course of this current hot streak, but still rank below average (17 out of 30 clubs) with a 4.05 ERA.
The lack of innings from the rotation is putting a huge strain on the bullpen and on the pitching staff in general. Journeymen Relievers are shuffled on and off the roster at a dizzying pace. Tony Cingrani has already been placed back on the disabled list, as has rookie Dennis Santana. The club has been forced to pilfer the Oklahoma City roster and it won’t be long before they’ll have to dip into the Tulsa roster.
The primary reason the Dodgers have been winning games is because the bats have finally awakened. If you’re scoring eight runs a game then you’re probably going to win on most nights. This is not going to last long. At some point the bats are going to cool down and the Dodgers will need an actual real pitching staff with healthy pitchers that provide innings.
Some of the new school guys will tell you this is great. They’ll explain that this is what Baseball is moving towards. They’ll tell you that starting pitching is overrated and obsolete. Nobody uses starting pitchers anymore they’ll say. You just have a pitching staff and play match-ups throughout the game. It’s ground breaking and revolutionary.
Unfortunately the side effect of this strategy are more blown arms, more injuries and tears on your pillow. You get an exhausted bullpen within a few days. It’s not a sustainable long term strategy for success. Dustin Nosler agrees with this as well, giving us an incredible stat.
Dodgers relief pitchers have pitched 54 innings in their last 10 games. The starters have pitched 35 innings.
That is a workload this bullpen — any bullpen — cannot sustain. The Dodgers’ bullpen wasn’t particularly good before this heavy workload, and to expect these guys to continue to pitch anywhere near this much and still be effective is a recipe for disaster.
It’s not entirely by blueprint. After all Dodger management is not at fault for all of these pitchers going down at the same time. Although the usage can play a huge part. Innings, length and health are a big part of a winning baseball club.
The Dodgers can’t go on like this for much longer. They’re going to have to find some pitchers who can give them some reliable innings. Don’t believe the hype. Starting pitching is still the name of the game. Let’s hope the Dodgers can find some before it’s too late.