The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a surplus of elite starting pitching the past few seasons and currently have a rotation that includes some of the best the league has to offer in Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and longtime ace Clayton Kershaw.
As Kershaw enters the waning seasons of his career on a one-year contract that could potentially be his final season, Buehler is just entering his prime.
The 27-year-old right-hander has stepped up admirably during Kershaw’s recent injury-plagued seasons, which has caused many to give him the crown as the Dodgers’ ace.
However, Buehler isn’t ready to take that title yet, believing Kershaw is still the ace of the staff for as long as he’s wearing a Dodgers uniform, via Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:
“For me, if he’s wearing our jersey, then he’s our guy.”
Kershaw is the most tenured Dodgers player on the roster and a no-doubt Hall of Famer when he decides to hang it up. But still, Buehler was spotted at Spring Training sporting a T-shirt that describes Kershaw as ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’
Buehler has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since his arrival, posting a 2.90 ERA across 94 career starts. He also possesses even more upside than what was seen during the 2021 season, when pitched to a 2.47 ERA over 207.2 innings.
On the other hand, Kershaw has still been excellent when he has been on the mound at full health. But Kershaw has battled through a plethora of injuries over the last few seasons and managed to make just 22 starts last season.
His strikeout rate in 2021 was the highest it had been since 2017, though, so there is reason to believe Kershaw can continue his historic career at a reasonable production level.
Despite a higher-than-normal 3.55 ERA last year, his peripherals were a lot better as he sported a 3.17 expected ERA and 3.00 FIP. Kershaw’s velocity has declined dramatically through the years, but he has still found a way to pitch at an elite level.
The Dodgers have a good problem on their hands with four guys under contract that could all conceivably pitch like the ace of the staff. However, as long as Kershaw is with the Dodgers, the franchise will view him as their go-to guy.
Buehler named Opening Day starter
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts named Buehler the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter for their April 8 game against the Colorado Rockies. This also lines him up to start their home opener on April 14 against the Cincinnati Reds.
The Opening Day start will be a first for Buehler in his career. Kershaw has held the honor a Dodgers’ franchise-record nine times. They are 7-2 in Kershaw’s Opening Day starts, with their losses coming to the San Francisco Giants in 2018 and the Rockies last year.
There was some thought Buehler would replace Kershaw as the Dodgers’ starter for a season opener in 2020, but the southpaw was given the nod in what Roberts deemed a ‘tough decision.’ Kershaw also made the Opening Day start last season in Coors Field.
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