Opening Day is so close you can almost taste it. Ten days left until one of the best days in sports history. With that being said, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced the starting rotation heading into the 2018 season. The rotation is spearheaded with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Alex Wood. Picking up the back end of the rotation will be Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Since injuries are likely to happen and the Dodgers do have one of the deepest pitching selections out there, here are a few pitchers that may be called upon to make a spot start or take over a rotation spot: Ross Stripling, Walker Buehler or Brock Stewart. Either of these three would be sufficient enough to hold down a spot until the injured starter comes back.
Last season the Dodgers put up amazing numbers both for starters and in the bullpen. This post is all about the starters. First up is the birthday boy, Clayton Kershaw. Although Kershaw missed roughly six weeks last season due to an injured back, he still put up a Cy Young caliber season. Going 18-4 with a 2.31 era and 202 strikeouts in just 175 innings pitched. Because of the injury Kershaw missed about 5-7 starts, had he made those starts, he would probably have another shiny Cy Young sitting in his trophy case. Regardless, the season was great to him from Opening Day all the way to the Postseason. Take away Game 1 of the NLDS (which he won by the way) and Game 5 of the World Series and he was untouchable in the playoffs. Expect another dominant season from one of the best pitchers in baseball.
It is unclear who will be the for sure number two going behind Kershaw but I’m going to throw in my pick and say Alex Wood. Wood is coming off of a career year in 2017. From going 10-0 in the beginning of the season to finishing with a record of 16-3 and a 2.72 era, Alex Wood definitely made his name known. Along with those stats he posted 151 strikeouts in 152.1 innings pitched. The only problem that Wood had last season was that he was starting to lose velocity towards the end of the season from never having pitched a full season in the Majors. Besides this minor setback, which I’m sure he has corrected in Spring Training, let’s see if Alex Wood can come back and record the same if not better numbers than last season.
The Dodgers will then look to veteran left hander, Rich Hill, to throw that wild curveball and fastball. With that super animated delivery and follow through, how can you not like to see Hill throw that curveball? Along with his signature pitch, Hill throws a fastball that creeps up on the hitter and explodes into the glove. This is a pitch that even Clayton Kershaw learned a little something about last year. In 2017, Rich Hill got off to a bumpy start due to his reoccurring blister however he finished the season strong. Going 12-8 with a 3.32 era and 166 strikeouts in 135.2 innings pitched, you can safely say that Rich Hill is a strikeout pitcher. While most fans can be sometimes harsh of the veteran lefty, including myself, I feel like Rich Hill has reinvented himself since coming to the Dodgers. The past two years that he has played in Los Angeles have been the best years of his career. Now we will wait and see if he comes out of the gate hot, or comes out of the gate shaky like last season.
Finally, we’re to the tail end of the 2018 starting rotation for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda will fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Ryu had a tough season last year due to existing injuries and therefore his numbers weren’t all that impressive. Ryu’s final stat line last season was: 5-9 with a 3.77 era and 116 strikeouts in 126.2 innings pitched. 2018 is the last year of Ryu’s contract with the Dodgers and I don’t see them extending his contract or resigning him in the offseason. Unless he finishes the season with a record of 20-0 then you may see the front office consider it, however that is very unlikely.
The last pitcher to talk about is right hander Kenta Maeda. He is going into his third season in Los Angeles and so far he has been a very solid arm. In 2016 he posted good numbers and even gained some votes for National League Rookie of the Year. Too bad he shares the same team with the winner that year, Corey Seager. Anyways, despite having minor struggles as a starter last season, Maeda flourished once he was moved to the bullpen. Maeda’s numbers in 2017 were all good except for his era. He managed to have a record of 13-6 with a 4.22 era and 140 strikeouts in 134.1 innings pitched. Like I said, the only statistic that isn’t friendly there is his era. The Japanese native should fit perfectly in the back end of the rotation whether it is in the 4th or 5th spot. And who knows, he could even be moved back to the bullpen later on in the season when the Dodgers call up top prospect, Walker Buehler.
One thing the Dodgers definitely don’t need to worry about right now is pitching. They have it all covered from their ace to their fireball pitching prospect. The main goal of the rotation is to pitch six innings at least and get the ball to the big man Kenley Jansen.
With all of the information I’ve provided, who do you think will have the best season this year for Dodgers pitching? Of course Clayton Kershaw is always in the discussion but who else are you rooting for to have a good season? Let me know! As always, leave feedback and questions so that I can keep providing material that you guys would like to read!