Owners of the best record in baseball, the Dodgers have already clinched the NL West and are on pace to win a franchise-record 113 games, which should be the best mark in MLB. Although there are still a handful of regular season games left, the Dodgers have the luxury of being able to begin planning ahead to figure out what their roster and pitching rotation will look like when they take the field for their first NLDS game on Oct. 11.
This is where the question marks surrounding the team exist as the Dodgers’ pitching staff, specifically their starting rotation, has been a revolving door basically all season.
Key starters like Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Andrew Heaney and Walker Buehler have all missed time. As things currently stand though, Buehler is the only name from that bunch that has been ruled out for the 2022 postseason after L.A.’s stud right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last month.
So with that being the case, there will be five, perhaps even six, starters battling for four spots. It is worth mentioning that MLB changed its postseason schedule this year, so if the Dodgers reach the NLCS and World Series, they will need five starters due to a fewer number of days off in the middle of the series. In the NLDS though, the Dodgers will only need four starters (if that).
The first thing the Dodgers will need to figure out before landing on a set playoff rotation is the health of Gonsolin. The 28-year-old was the team’s ace for a majority of the season, leading the league with a 2.10 ERA in 23 starts before injuring his forearm on Aug. 23.
Dave Roberts’ recent comments have indicated that Gonsolin’s recovery has gone slower than expected and he may not have enough time to get built up before the postseason starts. If that is how things shake out then he won’t be part of the team’s NLDS rotation, potentially contributing in a bullpen role if he makes the roster.
So that leaves Julio Urias, Tyler Anderson, Kershaw, May and Heaney battling for four spots.
In my eyes, Urias (2.27 ERA), Kershaw (2.44 ERA) and Anderson (2.63 ERA) are all locks to make the rotation. All are having outstanding seasons and barring injury will be starting postseason games for L.A. in some order.
That leaves May and Heaney, who have had success as well, albeit in much smaller sample sizes, battling for the final spot. Given that they throw with different hands and have different pitching styles, May and Heaney make for a nice piggyback combo. So you can start May and let him pitch anywhere from 3-5 innings depending on how well he is throwing, and then Heaney can follow with multiple innings out of the bullpen.
What would a Dodgers Playoff pitching rotation look like?
Splitting up the three lefties in Urias, Kershaw and Anderson would make sense to give teams a different look, so here is how I would handle the NLDS:
- Game 1: Urias
- Game 2: Kershaw
- Game 3: May/Heaney
- Game 4: Anderson
- Game 5: Urias
Only one of the starters will pitch multiple times if the series goes five games and Urias has earned that honor to me. He has been consistently great all year and has the postseason pedigree to back it up. If faced with a winner-take-all game, that is the guy the Dodgers want on the mound.
Then from there if the Dodgers advance past the NLDS, they can either move Heaney into the rotation as a fifth starter, or add Gonsolin to the mix if he is healthy and built up to the point where he can pitch five innings or so.
While this rotation may not be as top-heavy as past years, there is a ton of quality depth there and when backed by an elite bullpen, there shouldn’t be much pressure on the Dodgers’ starters to go deep into games.