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.
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.