Dodgers fans predicted rotation woes at trade deadline
A Dodgers starting pitcher not named Kershaw or Greinke took the mound Tuesday and, once again, it was all about the ghosts.
Alex Wood was strong for nearly seven innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, his Gumby delivery twisting bats, a nice little night by a nice little pitcher.
But hovering above him was the specter of Cole Hamels, who, three nights earlier, improved to 4-1 as a Texas Ranger.
Wood struck out six, didn’t walk a soul, and hung tough until a replay delay seemed to distract him into a gopher ball.
But all around him was the spirit of David Price, who one night earlier improved to 8-1 with a 1.95 earned-run average for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Wood was good, but he wasn’t good enough, leaving the game with a 2-0 deficit the lousy Dodgers bullpen turned into an 8-0 defeat. Wood was strong, but he wasn’t strong enough, pulled after 79 pitches and 61/3 innings because he’s just 24 and never pitched this much in a season before.
Like Brett Anderson, who pitched the previous night, Tuesday at Dodger Stadium wasn’t about who Wood is, but who he is not.
Wood is not the championship-type veteran pitcher the Dodgers fans so desperately craved at the trading deadline. He is not Hamels, and he is not Price, and he is part of the center of a storm caused by their absence.
For someone so tall and slight, Wood will nonetheless be asked to join Anderson this postseason — if the suddenly stumbling Dodgers get that far — in sturdily carrying an incredible weight.
Wood and Anderson are the guys who must keep four Cy Young awards safe and shined. They are the guys who have to protect and serve Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. It is arguably the most important role on the team. Yet there remain huge questions whether they can do it, and on those questions the Dodgers’ hopes teeter.
The last two seasons, the Dodgers have collapsed in October without pitching depth, and if they don’t get it this season, the meltdown could happen again as quickly as you can say, “Ricky Nolasco.”
The third and fourth starters are the only guys who can keep Kershaw from swaggering into Manager Don Mattingly’s office, puffing out his chest, and agreeing to pitch on an unfamiliar three days’ rest. He did this in each of the last two postseasons. The change in routine didn’t hurt him immediately, but caught up with him later against the St. Louis Cardinals, with many believing his weariness led to his late-game tumbles.
The third and fourth starters are also the guys needed to go deep enough in games that the bullpen isn’t worn out for a guy like Greinke. For all his greatness this season, Greinke is still a guy honest enough to know when he is tired, and confident enough to admit it. Greinke only has two complete games in the last five seasons, and he’s rarely come close in October. He has only gone more than seven innings once in his seven career postseason starts. He’s never thrown more than 107 pitches. On days he’s pitching, probably two other arms will need to join him, and those arms can’t be worn down by somebody going 42/3 innings a couple of days earlier.
That last figure was as long as Anderson lasted in his start Monday. Like Wood, by the time the season ends, he will never have pitched this much in his life.
There is a chance both pitchers could be needed from the moment the postseason begins. Even a five-game division series, if it goes the distance, could require four starters. The only real confidence that the Dodgers have four pitchers to handle the load seemingly comes from their dugout.
When asked whether he is happy with his third and fourth starters Tuesday, Mattingly said, “I think we feel as good as anybody. Brett has thrown the ball good for us all year long. Between Alex and Mike [Bolsinger], both of those guys had really good outings at different times.”
It is doubtful Bolsinger would be in the postseason rotation, but you get the point.
The Dodgers seem fine with this. Everyone else is going nuts. Even the statistics are going nuts.
In 60 starts this season, Greinke and Kershaw have combined for a 32-10 record, and a 1.91 ERA.
Before Tuesday, the other guys who have started have combined for a 27-28 record and a 4.25 ERA.
Dodgers fans are now screaming they knew this was coming, and they did. Dozens of emails received here after the trading deadline all predicted it, and they were right.
By refusing to give up on prospects who could help build the team for 2016 and beyond, the Dodgers may have given up on the third and fourth starters necessary to win now.
While baseball boss Andrew Friedman passed on the big names, he did try to fill the slots with several average arms. The problem is, they have all barely been average. He started it all this winter with the acquisitions of soon-to-be-injured Brandon McCarthy and Anderson, and it hasn’t gotten much flashier since.
Here are the 11 pitchers brought in by the Friedman administration since last winter who have started a game this season: Anderson, Bolsinger, Juan Nicasio, Wood, Mat Latos, Brandon McCarthy, Ian Thomas, Scott Baker, Joe Wieland, Brandon Beachy and David Huff.
The results? A combined 4.18 ERA in 75 starts.
The fallout? Demotions and bullpen assignments. Then, just last week, Friedman stood tall and admitted his failure with Latos by stunningly cutting him.
What happens now? Whatever it is, it might not be pretty. On Tuesday, one night after Anderson was awful, Wood was booed and the bullpen was booed louder and October couldn’t get here slow enough.
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