Though the Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2019 MLB season with a plethora of injuries plaguing their starting rotation, the staff has all but normalized with the returns of Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill from the 10-day injured list.
With the pair of left-handers rejoining the rotation, the Dodgers’ intended Opening Day starting staff of Kershaw, Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler finally materialized. Though, Maeda was just placed on the IL due to a left adductor contusion.
Not coincidentally, the unit has pitched better as the season continues to progress. In the month of May, the Dodgers’ starting rotation ranks first among Major League teams in opponents’ batting average (.181), second in ERA (2.34) and fifth in FIP (3.14) and FanGraphs’ WAR (2.5).
More importantly, the Dodgers have received longer outings from their starting pitchers as of late. Buehler has picked up on the recent trend and praised the club’s staff for allowing the bullpen some much needed rest, per SportsNet LA:
“Obviously Ryu is throwing the hell out of it. Anytime you get zero bullpen-inning games, it kind of resets everything and helps us out that much more. It’s a long season, we don’t want to do it all year. I don’t know if that’s realistic, but that’s a goal. A quality start is not just a made up thing. We want to get into the sixth, seventh, eighth innings. And sometimes you get to close them out. I haven’t, but Ryu has been unbelievable. It think he’s just kind of led us that way, and obviously having Kershaw there as well, that’s hard to beat.”
As Buehler points out, the Dodgers’ bullpen has benefited with the starting rotation going deeper into games. Earlier in the season, the unit was relied on heavily to compensate for a shorthanded staff, which attributed to some of their initial struggles.
Ryu has been particularly dominant, with the 32-year-old limiting opponents to just one run over his last 17 innings pitched across two starts.
The National League Player of the Week for May 6-12 tossed a complete game shutout against the Atlanta Braves on May 7 and followed up that performance with eight scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals in his most recent outing.
As for Buehler, he has additionally pitched better as of late after a rough start to his 2019 campaign. The 24-year-old is coming off a seven-inning scoreless outing against the Nationals in which he yielded only five baserunners while recording seven strikeouts.