Walker Buehler Should Have Gotten The Opening Day Start For Dodgers

Opening Day is mostly ceremonial. You don’t have to win on opening day to win the World Series. It isn’t mandatory, yet it’s something that makes us feel good. It’s nice to get that first win out of the way after the first game of the season. On the flip side, losing on opening day can set the season off on the wrong foot. Opening day losses can be pretty depressing.

Opening day is less than a week away, and the Dodgers have tabbed southpaw Hyun-jin Ryu to make the start. Clayton Kershaw’s bum shoulder will prevent him from making the nod and despite Oscar’s Wish for Dick Mountain AKA Rich Hill to take the mound, he won’t be able to either. Hill’s sprained MCL will put him on ice or more appropriately named injured list to start the season. This means Ryu and Ross Stripling will get the ball in the opening series against the Snakes. Kenta Maeda will be in there somewhere as well with Walker Buehler probably pitching the final game of the series.

The Dodgers don’t have a fifth starter as the early spring injuries has quickly depleted the staff. The logical move would be to let Julio Urias take that spot. But the Dodgers have once again relied upon a weak and conservative strategy for the pitching staff. They want to hold Urias back to “save” him for later in the season. They want to limit his innings which in my opinion prevents him from building arm strength and developing into a frontline starter who can pitch deep into games. If you know the Dodgers management like I do, we can all expect for there to be no fifth starter. They’ll skip the turn using scheduled off-days in the calendar, or worse use bullpen games. Gross.

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Getting back to the original point of this article, and I apologize for taking too long to get to it, walker Buehler should have gotten the opening day start. Sometimes traditional approaches are the best ones. The traditional approach is to start your best starter on opening day. That allows the rest of the rotation to line up correctly. That’s why Kershaw gets those starts every year, until he was physically unable to. The next best guy on the staff is Buehler.

Which is why I don’t understand why management didn’t immediately get Buehler ready once they learned of Kershaw’s shoulder problems? Instead they sat him around and only recently has he even started pitching in exhibition games. It makes little sense to me to hold guys back for games that are five or six months away. Sure you want your best starters well rested for the stretch drive and playoffs, but you got to get there first.

I like Ryu. He’s a good pitcher and when healthy has proven he’s a big game hurler. He does well under pressure. However in the pecking order, he’s about third or fourth behind, Kershaw, Buehler, and Urias. Why start your fourth best starter when you can start your second best? It’s a very passive approach.

I would like to see the Dodgers have some more balance with the pitching staff management and game strategies this year. There’s nothing wrong with new-school analytics based approaches as long as they are also balanced with traditional common sense strategies as well.

Common sense and logic says that Buehler is a better pitcher right now than Ryu. He may not have the experience and the matchups and numbers may point to Ryu too, but Buehler is clearly one of the Dodger’s best pitchers. Walker Buehler should be taking the hill on opening day with Ryu or Urias starting the second or third game. Unfortunately the Dodgers didn’t get him prepared in time. Talk about a glass of spilled milk. Here’s hoping the Korean warrior pitches deep into the Chavez Ravine day on Thursday afternoon.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic Cheap MLB Tickets

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37 thoughts on “Walker Buehler Should Have Gotten The Opening Day Start For Dodgers

  1. Well,

    Season has not even started and the Dodgers starting rotation is not ready. Rich Hill and Kershaw to IL, Buelher “might” be ready? I do not think it would be wise to have him open the season. He has pitched very little in SP. so in reality, the Dodgers only have 1/2 a starting rotation.

    Ryu inked to start opening day?… Day after getting pounded in a spring training game? I do not think he is worthy of the honor.

    All the while, Kenta Maeda has not even been mentioned…. he has been the most consistant pitcher on the staff, even willing to sacrifice starting to fill the void in the BP for the team, and do a darn good job of it too. A valuable workhorse year after year, who deserves some respect.

    Urias, too, has not been mentioned… Dodger Brass not willing to let him take off his training pants and insist on continuing to potty train the kid.

    IMO, Maeda or Urias should get the nod…. I would prefer Maeda over Ryu.

  2. I would not pitch Buehler in the opener. He has not pitched enough and cannot stretch out enough to be able to go deep into the game. Ryu has had one bad outing, so I am not judging his being ready by that one game. Most of his games he has been very efficient and has looked pretty good. Maeda also got knocked around a little. Urias too. But the way they treat players now and the preparation for the season is so much different than it used to be. They are going with 5 starters, Ryu, Stripling, Maeda, Buehler and Urias. Urias is penciled in to start the first game of the Giants series. The roster is pretty much set. There is 1 spot in the pen to be filled and right now it looks like it is going to a long man such as Stewart or Santana. That was the reason Santana started yesterday’s game since Gonsolin was ill. It is what it is. 4 1/2 years into the reign of Andy the strange, we all pretty much know how things are going to go. They are very cautious with all of their arms. Urias has pitched about 30 innings over the last 2 years and is considered a vital piece down the road. Going from 30 to 160 plus is not going to happen with these people in charge. They have said all along that he will see from 90 to 110 innings this year. He is young still, under team control, so they can pretty much do as they like. The days of the 250 plus inning work horse are gone. Ryu gives them 5 solid innings opening day in Dodger Stadium, where he is damn good, they will be very happy. Of more concern would be the lack of production from some major pieces of the offense so far. Muncy has not hit at all and has no homers. Taylor has struck out 20 times and Von Scoyoc has not seemed to have an impact on that all or nothing swing of his. Bellinger even though he has 3 HR’s, has not been consistent in his at bats. Pederson also is not making a lot of contact. The good news is that Barnes, Kike, Turner, Pollock have looked great Barnes is leading the team in RBI’s. Verdugo has been ok. Nothing spectacular though. The only surprise player was Miller and he was released. My prediction is they will struggle on offense again unless Muncy and Pederson pick it up mainly because they are penciled in as starters at their present positions. Taylor lost the starting job to Kike, so he does not look to be starting as much as he did last year when he led the NL in strikeouts. Players like him should not be leading the league in K’s. They have not won a game in spring in a week. Now they are at Anaheim for 2 and then finish spring at the Ravine. A day off and it all starts all over again.

    1. Michael, pretty much concur on points in your post here. Verdugo acts as if he’s OWED a starting job and he doesn’t. Muncy does not deserve to be shoving Bellinger to RF. My take is that Muncy, Joc, and or Verdugo should be moved for another RHB and I fear the same scenario myself as far as the offense goes… platooning will be a norm sooner or later because of the many ‘marginally made’ players on this roster.

      1. I feel the same way True Blue because even though the division does not appear at the outset to be a challenge, I believe the other NL West teams will be up more against the Dodgers than they will be against the rest of the NL. Nothing is a lock

  3. Too early to tell if our Dodgers will win at least 90 games.

    Looking at the team as it is now, the Dodgers’ often lauded “deep” starting pitching is barely standing in the shallow end. I just do not think these pitchers do an adequate job preparing for the season in Camelback. 20-30 pitch bullpen sessions does not do the job. Lack of conditioning for the season leads to injuries or makes injured pitchers extremely vulnerable to re-injury. It is a wonder why these guys struggle to go 5 innings, or end up spending too much time on the Injured List during the season.

    Muncy, Pederson, and CT3 have to wake up. Muncy did have a promising performance vs. Angels last night, but was that just a fluke? I hope not. Here, we have three key players who basically have a prime roster spot thrown at their feet… theirs for the taking. If they continue to flop, they will drag this team down.

    Barnes had a strong spring, but can he keep it up? Will one of the catching prospects be able to step into the driver’s seat, should Barnes’ offensive surge return to earth? Will FO be willing to cut the leash on these prospects? I do not think Martin is the answer.

    In order to win 90 games, the Dodgers will have to make a deal for a top of the line starter as an insurance policy, and the success of Muncy, Pederson, Barnes, and CT3 are crucial.

    1. Spring Training stats mean nothing to me. I usually wait to see what players do with the first 100 at bats to form an opinion.

      I am concerned about starting pitching. I don’t see anyone of those guys making 27 starts, which would be the requisite in a 6 man rotation. I don’t know that it’s conditioning. Maybe. I think it’s just their makeup. There are no iron horses here. Not on the Dodgers, a team that doesn’t hide it’s organizational platoon approach. No position player is required to play 150 games, nor are pitchers asked to start 30, so why put in all the work required to prepare for it?

      This is a team and the top 30 players on it will all share in pulling the load. Hope it works.

  4. Barnes has to get his at bats consistently and often in order to remain having a good stick, the way he was not used last year is all you have to look at. I really hope that Barnes sees 75% of the time behind the plate and Martin is only a backup, Martin is done as a regular catcher.

    Our pitchers are not getting stretched out for 6 inning stints because they are going to be used in 6 inning stints. Short starts, short relievers thru out a vast majority of games. Yeah, I don’t like it either but it is what it is with this FO.

    1. Exactly True Blue. And what ya indicated is the reason why Dodgers will carry 8 relievers and play short a position player on the bench and I don’t like that one bit! But as you correctly say IIWII with this FO.

  5. Yeah True Blue,

    I’m old school (can’t you tell?). I miss the old iron horses.

    If the Dodgers intend to rely on short starts (6 innings), then they need a couple of reliable long relievers, not just lefty/righty specialists. Also a lights out closer. I am excited about Jansen’s return after heart surgery, and he has been promising. But all in all he is vulnerable… not the Kenley of the past.

    I prefer the starting pitcher that can go a strong 7 innings, a setup man, and closer. Also prefer a FO that will diss the lefty/righty crap, and if the starter is cruising along, dominating hitters, let him finish the job. It has been a long time since we have seen a complete game. Probably will never see it, the way this FO runs the team.

    Next, will we see the camouflage uniforms, more fitting to the “Platoon” philosophy of this Management?

    1. I don’t think management is even thinking 6 innings for it’s starters, they probably are looking for 4+ innings, I know it is strange but it is Friedman’s ScaryBall theory of interchangeable parts used at every chance. You know it is so screwy I have no idea of what management uses for evaluation of players performances, both on the mound or at the plate. I mean how many strikeouts are acceptable as long as the guy hits some home runs, I don’t think they even give a damn about RISP average (it certainly seems that it isn’t a concern). So Pederson srikes out often – big deal he hits a bomb every 6 games; CT fails with RISP out 3 times a game but he hits a bomb every ten games – big deal, I think you see where I am going with this, the important stats aren’t the important stats anymore.

    2. Good day Bluefan4Life! Good one about those camouflage uniforms fitting of the ‘platoon philosophy’ of FO.. I am like you as far as a starting pitcher being solid enough to go at least 7 innings. As you know, the key with Kenley is if he can keep the baseball in the yard. Dodgers, if they were managed and better prepared should be able to work with 7 relievers on the 25 man roster instead of 8. But because, as you pointed out about the starting pitcher’s short starts (6 or less innings) they think they are better off even though it means playing with a position player short on the roster. And we all saw the problem with that before. Roberts, in his ultimate wisdom, as well as FO’s uses up the bench by the 7th inning as a result of those L-R-L-R match ups and platoons…

  6. I agree with Badger that spring stats mean little….to a point. Spring stats for Barnes this year are very important if for nothing else than his confidence. Had he not had success this spring, management would have been less likely to believe as they do now that he can be the main backstop this year. Martin will be more of a support system than a regular fixture back there. Roberts has said he is happy with Pederson’s approach and his at bats. I question whether he is seeing the same guy I am. He looks more like the 2017 version than the 2018. Taylor has looked a lot like the same player he was last year. Striking out way to many times for the type of hitter he is. And Muncy has looked better the last couple of games, but overall, he has not looked like the same player at all. Myself, I like to see a little winning momentum going into the season no matter that the games mean nothing. But winning say the last 3 games and the confidence is a little higher I think. I know when Alston was managing he used the regulars for most of the last couple games of spring to get that cohesive team feeling. Tommy would keep them in until about the 7th inning also. Like Badger says, it takes about 100 at bats to get a good feel for who a player will be that year. But I still like to see some production during the spring.

    1. Michael, this Dodger ‘offense’ once again struck out 15 times against Angel pitching that is not exactly rated among the highest in the AL. I honestly cannot believe how much these players strike out like they do.

  7. One thing for sure, the new style of baseball almost has zero entertainment value, it really is a boring and uninteresting product to watch, it has gone the way of tennis. Tennis used to have serve and volley, baseline, etc. now it only has baseline, just about as exciting as watching grass grow. The MLB used to have steals, pitchouts, bunts, hit and run, sacrifice bunts, hitting the ball to the other side to move a runner, etc. now all of those elements are absent. The MLB game is about has interesting as listening to LeBron bitch and complain about everyone else on his team and make excuses for his losing.

    Good luck guys, I think I will be a box score watcher from this point forward, pulling for the Blue but wasting my time watching the MLB is over, I have better things to do, like watching paint dry. If the Dodgers make the WS, I’ll watch but otherwise ADIOS

  8. Yeah,

    15 K’s last night. Just shows you exactly how ready these guys are for the season. Pitching bad too…. Kenley is extremely vulnerable. These players talk a big game…. lots of talk, but cannot walk the walk.

    I’m with you, True Blue…. I just check the box scores, and hope they won. Cannot see paying Spectrum all that money for Dodger games, and then sit and watch the circus. Rather go to Vegas, see a Britney Spears concert and watch her lipsync, than watch boring Dodger facsimile of Baseball…. at least she is halfway decent to look at.

    Saw the Dodgers’ new food concessions on the news. Seems they are more interested in their new food offerings, than building a winning team. What ever the crazy fans want to spend their money on.

    Still want the Dodgers to win a World Series though…. go figure.

  9. 28 Ks in 2 games. They’re ready.

    Why are so many non roster players getting at bats and innings minutes before the season starts?

    I too will be reading box scores. Maybe this is the year. If so it will prove the guru right – detachment is the key.

  10. According to ESPN’s experts, the Dodgers and Yanks are second favorites to win the World Series (red sox 3rd.)

    They know way more than I do, but let’s hope they are under-estimating.

  11. Frankie Montas in the A’s rotation.

    He added a splitter, which has increased his effectiveness.

    Let’s hope he does great.

    Make that trade more of a win-win.

      1. As most here know, from my silly little POV: Hill’s been great.

        From any POV: Cotton, Montas and Holmes decidedly less so.

        To date.

        1. We signed him as a free agent.

          The season we traded for him he didn’t do squat. 6 starts. 34 innings in 2 months. Didn’t even average 6 innings per start. People often forget that.

  12. Hill and Kershaw to IL. Ryu and Maeda erratic, and vulnerable… are they really ready for the season? Buelher “might” be ready, but has not pitched much, other than light bullpens, simulated games, and live batting practice. Urias slated to be in opening rotation, but will still be on a short leash. Stripling vulnerable. Kelly has not pitched much. Jansen is not the Jansen we need.

    So, the often lauded “Deep” pitchig staff may not be as deep as we are led to believe.

    Offense has been sputtering…. way too many strikeouts. Only one who seems to be ready is Turner. Return of Platooning is looming large.

    “Dodgers Laser-Focused on World Series Title”? We will have to just wait and see, but IMO, a bit too optimistic…. team is still a bit out of focus.

  13. Keith Law predicts 95 wins and an NLCS loss to the ‘Nats.

    WS three years in a row is ridiculously tough, so I guess one could take solace in the next best thing. Obviously, we’d rather they win the whole enchilada.

    1. I got the under on 95 but in a Division as weak as the NL West I’m not yet worried about it.

      All of the starting players, including the rotation and front line bullpen players have been through this before. Many times in fact. I don’t think they give a rat’s ass about games in March, April or May. These guys want to peak in September and October. They’ll let other teams fret over a fast start.

  14. I’m thinking 92-93 wins and another NL West title. I can see the Dodgers losing in the NLCS to either the Nationals or Brewers.

    The NL West could be horrific. I think the Rockies have taken a step backward along with the Diamondbacks. The Giants are about the same which means a couple of injuries and they’ll be done. Only the Padres have taken a ‘small’ step forward so they might see 70 wins.

    On paper, the Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Phillies, Nationals and Mets look to be improved with the Cubs and Braves same as last year. Only the Pirates and Marlins appear to be weaker.

    All in all this will make for a very competitive NL and with the Dodgers playing 74-76 games within their division this bolds well for them in comparison to the other quality teams.

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