By Jon Weisman
All summer long, it seemed likely that once rosters expanded in September, the Dodgers would be poised to take advantage thanks to their pitching depth.
That’s exactly what has happened.
Los Angeles has played 10 games in September so far, and already the Dodgers have used seven starting pitchers. With Julio Urías pitching tonight, seven of the first 11 starts this month will have gone to pitchers (Urías, Jose De León and Brock Stewart) who began the season in the minors or to a pitcher (Rich Hill) who was acquired in exchange for minor-leaguers.
As for the 13-man bullpen, no reliever has thrown more than Joe Blanton’s 4 2/3 innings (spread over 13 days), and only one is averaging above 1.0 innings per appearance: Pedro Baez, who has 3 2/3 innings in three games. Blanton and Jesse Chavez lead Dodger relievers with 19 batters faced in the 10 games.
Even with Dave Roberts numerous visits to the mound, on only four occasions has a Dodger reliever worked back-to-back days this month: September 2-3 (Blanton and Kenley Jansen) and September 6-7 (Baez and Jansen).
The results? Dodger pitchers have a 2.15 ERA in September, with a 0.91 WHIP, 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a 4.4 strikeout-walk ratio (equivalent to Miami’s Jose Fernandez). Opponents are hitting .183/.250/.266 this month.
Every single one of those stats leads the Major Leagues, except for on-base percentage, which is second to Boston. No Dodger opponent has scored more than four runs in a September game so far.
And that’s with Clayton Kershaw only three innings into his comeback from a disk herniation.
Against Dodger starting pitching, opponents have an OPS of .515. Against Dodger relief pitching, opponents have an OPS of .516.
Averaging 3 1/3 innings per game in September, the bullpen’s ERA is 1.62, with a 1.05 WHIP and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Nine Dodger relievers have ERAs of 0.00. Chavez and Casey Fien (now with Oklahoma City) each allowed a single run. Adam Liberatore and Bud Norris each have allowed two runs. That’s it.
Los Angeles is four games into a stretch of 17 games in 17 days with the postseason on the line, so individual workloads could increase. Luck could change. Someone’s going to have a bad game, maybe at a terrible moment.
But the Dodgers have set themselves up well for the stretch run, using a foundation that was laid over months, if not years.