In what might show to be their highest influence transfer of the commerce deadline, the Dodgers traded swingman Mitch White to the Blue Jays as a part of a four-player deal that lessened the speedy depth of their rotation. Lower than 48 hours later, they watched as Clayton Kershaw as soon as once more left the mound within the firm of a coach, his future availability doubtful. Whereas the mixture of the commerce and the lack of the three-time Cy Younger winner isn’t prone to threaten their stranglehold on the NL West, the Dodgers instantly have little margin for error in terms of assembling a robust rotation for October — a problem that they’re all too conversant in after final 12 months.
Kershaw left Thursday afternoon’s begin towards the Giants after experiencing decrease again ache whereas warming up for the underside of the fifth inning. Via MLB.com’s Juan Toribio: “Kershaw felt his again tighten up after his penultimate warmup throw. He then tried to throw yet one more to check the again, however instantly motioned over to the Dodgers dugout.”
The 34-year-old lefty underwent an MRI that didn’t yield any surprises, however he obtained an epidural injection to counter the ache and was positioned on the 15-day injured record. “There wasn’t any new findings, in order that’s a optimistic,” said supervisor Dave Roberts “This was the best-case state of affairs coming from the MRI.”
A greatest case state of affairs nonetheless is prone to imply a considerable absence for Kershaw. That is his seventh time in 9 seasons lacking time as a consequence of a again harm, and the second time this 12 months; he had by no means doubled up earlier than:
Clayton Kershaw’s Again Accidents
|6/27/16||9/9/16||74||slight herniation in decrease again|
|7/24/17||9/1/17||39||decrease again pressure|
|6/1/18||6/23/18||22||decrease again pressure|
|7/23/20||8/2/20||10||decrease again stiffness|
|5/9/22||6/11/22||33||SI joint irritation|
|8/5/22||—||—||decrease again ache|
SOURCE: Baseball Prospectus & MLB.com
That’s a median of 36 video games missed for the earlier six absences, with 4 of the six lasting longer than one month. An absence of comparable size would nonetheless go away Kershaw sufficient time get a number of regular-season turns beneath his belt earlier than the playoffs, however any sort of setback may threaten his October availability.
As Dodgers followers recall, that was the case on the subject of Kershaw’s elbow harm final 12 months. He went on the IL on July 7 as a consequence of irritation, and whereas he and the staff believed he had recovered sufficient to throw three simulated innings 20 days later, he finally didn’t return till September 13. He didn’t throw greater than 74 pitches in any of his 4 turns earlier than discomfort in his left forearm pressured him from the staff’s October 2 recreation, successfully ruling him out for the postseason.
The actual bummer is that Kershaw has pitched so properly this 12 months, posting a 2.61 ERA and a pair of.71 FIP in 85.1 innings. Twice this season, on April 13 towards the Twins and July 15 towards the Angels, he threw seven good innings, one thing no different pitcher has achieved within the post-1960 growth period. He made the NL All-Star staff for the primary time since 2019, and began the All-Star Recreation, a profession first, at Dodger Stadium on July 19.
Kershaw got here out of the All-Star break with two of his least spectacular outings of the season, yielding a mixed 9 runs (seven earned) in 9.2 innings towards the Giants on July 24 and Rockies on July 30; these fluffed up his ERA from 2.13 to 2.56. On condition that his All-Star expertise consisted of simply 17 pitches thrown to 4 batters with none further journey, it’s farfetched to assume that his participation prompted the harm; if something, by beginning the sport, he was capable of keep away from the much less acquainted state of affairs of coming into as a reliever.
Even with Kershaw making solely 15 begins to this point, the Dodgers have run away with the NL West. Their 4–0 victory over the Padres on Sunday night was their eighth straight win and their thirtieth of their final 35 video games. Throughout that span, they’ve elevated their division lead from 1.5 video games to fifteen.5, partly by going 6–1 towards San Diego.
But whereas their rotation owns the NL lead in ERA (2.69) and ranks second in FIP (3.43) and third in WAR (11.4), it doesn’t look invulnerable. Along with Kershaw’s newest harm, they’ve been with out Walker Buehler since June 10 as a consequence of a Grade 2 flexor tendon strain in his proper elbow in addition to surgical procedure to take away a bone spur. He solely lately started taking part in catch once more and isn’t anticipated again till mid-September in yet one more occasion the place the Dodgers can ailing afford a setback; even when he does return on schedule, he will not be constructed as much as a full starter workload. The breakout seasons of All-Star Tony Gonsolin (2.30 ERA, 3.46 FIP) and Tyler Anderson (2.89 ERA, 3.36 FIP) have helped to select up the slack for Buehler and Kershaw, however Gonsolin will want his workload monitored as he pushes into uncharted waters. He’s thrown 109.2 innings, up from 68.1 final 12 months between the majors and minors whereas coping with recurrent shoulder irritation, and hasn’t topped 81.1 innings since 2018, when he set a profession excessive with 128.
Past Gonsolin, Anderson (115.1 innings) and Julio Urías (115.2 innings), the Dodgers are in makeshift territory. Andrew Heaney has been good when he’s pitched because of his new slider, posting a 0.64 ERA and a pair of.33 FIP, however he’s thrown simply 28 innings over six begins and made two prolonged journeys to the IL for shoulder woes. His three turns since returning have all been for fewer than 5 innings, with a most of 81 pitches.
Given the aforementioned absences, the 27-year-old White had made 10 begins (sixth-highest on the staff), with a 3.47 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 46.1 innings. After being yo-yoed between Triple-A and the majors 11 instances final 12 months — a plight that was addressed within the new Collective Bargaining Settlement — he had seemed more and more comfy as a starter in latest weeks, lasting not less than 5 innings in his final 4 begins and in six of eight earlier than the commerce to Toronto. In two of these last 4 begins, he held opponents (Colorado and San Francisco) to only one hit.
Armed with a plus slider and a 93–95-mph fastball that lacks motion, White doesn’t have overpowering stuff, as his general 8.3% swinging-strike price and 19.8% strikeout price attest. Within the grand scheme, the Dodgers have higher-ceiling pitchers of their system extra prone to spherical out a future rotation in Ryan Pepiot and Bobby Miller. White, who’s out of choices after this 12 months, was much less prone to determine in subsequent 12 months’s plans, therefore the commerce to Toronto.
Miller, a 23-year-old righty with an upper-90s fastball and a plus slider, remains to be at Double-A and unlikely to determine on this 12 months’s plans. Pepiot, a 24-year-old righty with a 70-grade changeup, has made 4 begins for the massive membership this 12 months, posting a 2.76 ERA and 4.15 FIP however solely as soon as lasting even 5 innings. Scratched from Saturday’s begin with Oklahoma Metropolis, he seems prone to take Kershaw’s flip within the rotation on Wednesday towards the Twins, and maybe a second one.
By that time, the wild card on this entire sequence, Dustin May, is likely to be able to return to the majors. It’s been over 15 months since Might’s excessive kick, flowing ginger locks, and triple-digit warmth have been noticed on a significant league mound. He was simply 5 begins into his 2021 season — the primary 4 of which featured 32 strikeouts, 5 walks, and 6 earned runs in 23.1 innings — when he tore his UCL. He underwent Tommy John surgical procedure on Might 12 of final 12 months, returned to competitors on July 16, and has made 4 appearances in his rehab project. Within the final of these, on August 3 towards the Salt Lake Bees, he threw 62 pitches, averaging 98.2 mph together with his four-seamer and 96.5 together with his sinker, exhibiting off his five-pitch assortment (cutter, curveball, change being the others). In 4 innings, he acquired 9 swings and misses and struck out six, with a 31% CSW. The Dodgers will resolve after his subsequent begin, for which 75 pitches is the goal, whether or not he is able to return to the majors or wants yet one more begin. Both approach, he’s prone to fill the spot vacated by Kershaw.
Might has 113.2 main league innings beneath his belt through 19 begins and 12 reduction appearances, with a 2.93 ERA, 3.83 FIP, and 24.2% strikeout price. In contrast to White or Pepiot, he already has postseason expertise, having made three brief, wobbly begins and 6 reduction appearances in 2019 and ’20. The Dodgers, by their actions on the deadline, have positioned quite a lot of religion in his potential to return and pitch properly sufficient that they gained’t remorse buying and selling White with out buying one other starter someplace. They reportedly pursued each Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas earlier than they had been traded elsewhere, and had been unwilling to satisfy the Marlins’ asking value for Pablo López. In different phrases, even when they thought they’d a wholesome Kershaw, they had been nonetheless going after frontline pitching. And never solely did they fail to get any, however additionally they traded a pitcher who had spent the final 5 weeks as a productive member of their beginning 5.
In the long run, it’s nonetheless doable that the Dodgers can have each Kershaw and Buehler wholesome and constructed as much as deal with an affordable complement of October innings, through which case Roberts and Andrew Friedman can recreation out whether or not Gonsolin or Anderson is in higher form to affix that pair and Urías of their playoff rotation. However it’s fairly doable that not less than one in every of them might be restricted in utilization, and the Dodgers are simply a few hiccups away from debating whether or not it’s Might or Heaney who’s greatest suited to affix Urías, Gonsolin, and Anderson with each massive weapons on the sidelines.
This isn’t mere abstraction, both. In final October’s postseason, the Dodgers had been so banged up and off-kilter — recall that not solely did they miss Kershaw but in addition that reduction appearances of Max Scherzer and Urías pressured them to juggle issues — that they used openers 3 times, with Corey Knebel going twice (Recreation 5 of the Division Sequence towards the Giants and Recreation 1 of the NLCS towards the Braves) and Joe Kelly as soon as (Recreation 5 of the NLCS). In some way the Dodgers took two out of these three video games, in addition to 4 of the 5 through which Might and Gonsolin began in 2020 however threw two innings or fewer. These pitchers mixed to permit seven runs in 8.2 innings, which is suboptimal to say the least; it’s a credit score to the Dodgers’ offense and bullpen that they overcame these tough begins.
As issues go, these of a staff with a 15.5-game lead in early August usually aren’t probably the most urgent, however right here the Dodgers are as soon as once more lacking their ace, their face of the franchise, their future Corridor of Famer, with the sting of final 12 months’s mishaps nonetheless recent. It’d all work out tremendous, however possibly the rotation of the staff with the perfect report in baseball will as soon as once more limp into October as one thing lower than it may have been.