The Dodger Starting Rotation

© Sarah Morris, 2020

In the unusual 2020 regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a weak starting rotation even though they won a world championship. Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urìas pitched well through the regular season and the playoffs. Walker Buehler with a blister problem struggled through the regular season, but Buehler shone in the postseason. The emergence of Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May helped the Dodgers to win the championship though these rookie starters toiled in the playoffs.

Entering spring training, the Dodgers had exceptional depth in the starting rotation. Most baseball-knowledgeable people thought the Dodgers would have a great starting rotation since they had tremendous depth. Right-handed power-pitcher Jimmy Nelson never pitched in a game for the Dodgers. Nelson, a former Milwaukee Brewer, had back surgery in July.

Coming off a poor 2019 season with the Boston Red Sox, left-handed David Price performed well during spring training. When baseball resumed, Price, who has two young children, opted out of the 2020 season. Ross Stripling, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on the Major League Baseball trading deadline, struggled in a Dodger uniform.

While Clayton Kershaw missed his Opening Day start because of a stiff lower back, he was the ace of the Dodger starting rotation. He rebounded a poor 2019 season when he gained 2 or 3 miles-per-hour on his fastball. With a better fastball, his slider and curveball improved over the last two seasons. Kershaw had six wins and a 2.16 ERA. For the first time during his career, Kershaw entered the postseason without being exhausted.

During his career, Kershaw has pitched poorly in the playoffs. In 2020, Kershaw performed well, including a 2.93 ERA, and played an integral role in his team’s world championship. Kershaw’s future looks bright, barring an injury.

Walker Buehler struggled in the 2020 season but performed brilliantly during the postseason. A notoriously slow starter struggled with his control. When Buehler became able to throw his curveball for strikes frequently, he developed a blister that prevented him from making most of the starts in late August and September. While he did not appear in many games during the late of the regular season, Buehler performed well in the postseason. Buehler started five postseason games and had a 1.80 ERA during those games. Buehler should have a better 2021 season than he did in 22020.

Instantly, Julio Urìas became a Dodger folklore when he pitched his team to the World Series and retire last outs in the World Series. At 24, Urìas has pitched for the Dodgers since 2016, but before the abbreviated 2020 season, the Dodgers had limits on Urìas, trying to prevent arm injuries. In 2017, after a superb beginning to the season, he suffered a major shoulder injury. For the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Dodgers used Urìas as a reliever, and he performed brilliantly as a reliever but wanted to be a starter.

Before the 2020 season began, Dodger President Andrew Friedman announced Urìas would be a starter. While Urìas struggled in the first innings during his ten starts. He had three wins with a 3.27 ERA. During the playoffs, he had four wins and a 1.17 ERA. Without Urìas’ brilliance during the 2020 postseason, the Dodgers might not have won their first world championship in 32 years.

The Dodgers did not want to use either Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin in the Major Leagues during the 2020 season. These young pitchers needed fine-tuning on their magnificent skills before they were promoted to Los Angeles. Both May and Gonsolin performed well during the abbreviated 2020 season but struggled in the postseason. Both needed to improve their off-speed pitches and aggressive within the strike zone.

Most Dodger fans want their favorite team to improve its starting rotation. However, like many baseball teams, the Dodgers have serious financial problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These financial problems probably will prevent the Dodgers from being active in the free-agent market. Still, the Dodgers can improve their starting rotation by promoting Mitchell White and Josiah Gray.

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