Dodgers Roundtable: Setting NLDS Starting Rotation With Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw & Hyun-Jin Ryu
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw against the San Francisco Giants
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has made no secret who will make up the club’s starting rotation for the 2019 National League Division Series. However, which order Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu will appear during the series against the Washington Nationals is unclear.


Roberts reaffirmed Rich Hill is earmarked for a potential Game 4 start. “As far as the rotation, we know who we’ve got lined up. I think we’re going to keep it under wraps a little bit longer,” Roberts said after the Dodgers’ NLDS workout at Dodger Stadium.

“Players know. Obviously, the three guys we know: Kershaw, Ryu, Buehler. But I think divulging that right now, there’s not a whole lot of upside.”

Ahead of the Dodgers announcing their rotation, members of the staff shared how they believe Buehler, Kershaw and Ryu should be aligned for the NLDS.

Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand)

NLDS rotation order: Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill

It’s no secret both Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been better at home this season, so throwing them in the first two games allows them to pitch at the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium.

While Clayton Kershaw is used to starting Game 1, Game 2 at worst, he has plenty of playoff experience on the road. Additionally, if he pitches Game 3, then he could also potentially pitch out of the bullpen in a decisive Game 5 as that would be his normal bullpen day.

Rich Hill has had his fair share of injuries this season but looked good in his last two starts of the season. If he can give the Dodgers a few innings in a Game 4, the bullpen should be able to handle the rest.

Buehler pitching out of the bullpen in a potential Game 4 is also a possibility as Ryu would then be on normal rest for Game 5, if necessary.

The Dodgers’ rotation is their biggest strength so if their top three starters are able to go deep into games, then that puts the bullpen in a better position to succeed and stay well-rested for the later rounds.

Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel)

NLDS rotation order: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill

In a five-game series, I think the Dodgers will rely on a three-man rotation and see what happens; even with Rich Hill named the Game 4 starter.

My guess is that Clayton Kershaw gets Game 1 just to break up the lefties, although with the Nationals on deck, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Buehler in the series opener.

Why? Because Washington has an on-base plus slugging percentage that is 43 points lower against righties than lefties. Either way, my guess is Ryu is third on the list regardless of how Game 1 and Game 2 shakeout.


NLDS rotation order: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill

With the difference between the Dodgers’ big three as minuscule as it is, let’s help out Ryu and Buehler by giving them starts at home, where they’ve been better this year.

Ryu starts Game 1 to get him an extra day of rest for a possible Game 5 of the NLDS, and Buehler and Kershaw should be available to pitch in relief in the winner-take-all if need be (or Ryu and one of those two if someone else starts Game 5).

If the series goes to a Game 4, expect the Dodgers to ride Rich Hill for 4-5 innings, presuming he pitches well enough to merit staying in that long.

Matt Borelli (@mcborelli)

NLDS rotation order: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill

With Hill officially slated to start a potential Game 4, the only question remaining is how the rest of the Dodgers’ NLDS rotation will align itself.

After an incredible 2019 campaign, I believe Ryu has earned the opportunity to start for the Dodgers in Game 1. He’s coming off an excellent month of September (2.13 ERA in four starts) and has slightly better splits at home this season.

Furthermore, should the NLDS come down to a winner-take-all Game 5, Ryu will be in line to make another start for the Dodgers on an extra day of rest.

Rather than go with Kershaw in Game 2, I’m giving the nod to Buehler instead. Like Ryu, the right-hander has pitched much better at home this season, so it makes sense to put him in the most favorable situation possible.

While Kershaw has become accustomed to starting either of the first two games in a series, I believe his postseason experience makes him a good bet to thrive on the road. It was only three years ago in which he recorded the final out of the 2016 NLDS at Nationals Park. He’ll also be in position to pitch out of the bullpen again in a potential Game 5 if necessary.