Youth movement on Dodgers' pitching staff provides intriguing Game 7 options

Youth movement on Dodgers' pitching staff provides intriguing Game 7 options

10/18/2020 7:03:00 AM

Youth movement on Dodgers' pitching staff provides intriguing Game 7 options

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has a group of aggressive young pitchers who could play big roles in a NLCS Game 7 cocktail awaiting the Atlanta Braves.

More CoverageLow on offensive flow? Why Dodgers should be concerned about hitting in NLCS Game 7The Dodgers will be as aggressive as the evil cat on Gonsolin’s shirt, and as imaginative as their probabilities can dictate.Left-handers Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw provide options to start, if the Dodgers prefer to use Gonsolin in the middle innings. In relief, Kenley Jansen would be throwing for a third consecutive day, although he made just six pitches Saturday. Brusdar Graterol did not pitch in Game 6. He could pitch an inning late in the game — or he could pitch the first inning, as an opener.

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And, of course, Kershaw was the closer the last time the Dodgers played a Game 7.AdvertisementIn that game, the finale of the 2018 NLCS, Walker Buehler was the starting pitcher, in his first season in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. He was followed by Urías, who already had started a postseason game at age 20.

×This is where we tip our caps to the Dodgers, and to their ever-flowing pipeline of young talent.Anderson is a rookie too, but the Braves did not plan for him to be in this position. They signed four-time All-Star Cole Hamels for that. Hamels won a World Series 12 years ago, but he is injured now.

AdvertisementThe Dodgers did plan for Gonsolin to be here, and for Urías, and for Dustin May.“It just speaks to the intelligence of these young guys, and understanding the value they have in whatever role we see fit,” Roberts said. “And they’re thriving, they all are.”

The safe play in baseball is to sign veterans, to give your young pitchers time to develop and protect yourself from rushing them. A rebuilding team can afford the growing pains of a young starter, but a contending team cannot.Key plays from the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS.

AdvertisementWith that in mind, consider the Dodgers’ offseason decisions to bid farewell to playoff-tested veteran pitchers Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers were not just talking up their pitching prospects for Baseball America fodder; they actually were clearing space for Gonsolin, May and Urías.

They did acquire veterans David Price and Alex Wood, but look what happened: Price opted out of the pandemic-shortened season, Wood is in the postseason bullpen, and the Dodgers traded swingman Ross Stripling. Can you imagine any other organization essentially shedding six starters? To tank, sure. But to win?

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While general managers love to drop the phrase “sustainable success” into a conversation about organizational aspirations, the Dodgers are the living, breathing model of sustainable success.Their young pitchers do not implode.AdvertisementGonsolin posted a 2.31 earned-run average this season, with May at 2.57 and Urías at 3.27. The ERA+ statistic, in which 100 represents the league average and higher is better, had all three pitchers at 130 or more — that is, at least 30% better than the league average.

Gonsolin is the oldest, at 26. The Angels have pretty much been auditioning pitchers for years now. The last time the Angels had even one starter at 26 or younger, with better than a 3.27 ERA and a 130 ERA+? Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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