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The Dodgers’ Rotation is a Paper Tiger

Their rotation could be roughly equivalent to the Diamondbacks’ rotation.

Hao Qunying / Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images

So far this offseason, the Dodgers acquired Ohtani and Tyler Glasnow. Let’s look at their 2024 rotation with the caveat that the Dodgers may acquire more pitchers for their rotation.

The Dodgers’ Method

The Dodgers will conduct a major rebuild of their rotation next season. Of their pitchers who started at least 9 games last season, only Bobby Miller (22 starts in his rookie season) and Emmet Sheehan (11 starts in his rookie season) are expected to start next season in the rotation. That’s a 78% turnover in one season, 100% turnover in two seasons. The reasons are many (free agency, injury, trade, and moved to long relief), but their turnover is real.

During the season, the Dodgers will rely heavily on promoting pitchers from the minors. It’s how the Dodgers roll. The following shows what happened last season.

  • Last season, no pitcher started more than 24 games (compared to 3 for the Diamondbacks).
  • Last season, they had 9 pitchers with 9 or more starts (compared to 6 for the Diamondbacks).

The Dodgers’ starting pitchers have a high likelihood of injury (unlike the Diamondbacks whose last season benefited from very few injuries).

Ohtani will not pitch until 2025, and it’s uncertain how many games he will pitch each season beyond 2025. Certainly, the Dodgers want to avoid injury to their (high-deferred-salary) player.

Next season, two Dodger starters are unlikely to return due to injury. Tony Gonsolin had Tommy John Surgery in September of 2023. Dustin May had flexor tendon surgery in July of 2023.

Next season, Walker Buehler will return from his surgery of August 2022. That surgery was a combined Tommy John Surgery (his second), as well as flexor tendon repair.

Tyler Glasnow has been significantly injured several times. Next season, his injury risk is high.

  • 2019 Forearm/elbow injury
  • 2021 Tommy John Surgery
  • 2022 Grade 2 left oblique injury
  • 2023 Cramping of hands and legs not caused by dehydration

Predicting Dodgers Starting Pitching

Projections. The following table shows the predicted starters at the beginning of next season for the Dodgers, with the caveats that additional acquisitions could happen, and injuries could happen. It includes the 2024 projections (with adjustments) shown on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.

2024 Projection as of 15 December. Data from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. When projection mixed SP and RP, my judgement used for table. Walker Buehler 20% increase was from 2022.

The Fangraphs projections for total starter innings pitched was 41% higher than Baseball Reference. Limiting the FanGraphs projections for each pitcher to 20% more innings than the previous seasons innings in the Majors (2022 for Buehler), the total projected innings would be about the same as Baseball Reference.

The table shows my predicted starting-pitcher innings is 541. That falls short of the 887 innings last season.

My conclusion is the Dodgers will either acquire two more starting pitchers, or rely heavily of promoting starting pitchers from the minors.

Starting Pitching: Comparing Dodgers and Diamondbacks

Last season the two teams’ rotations were roughly equivalent.

  • Dodgers, -1.0 Wins Above Average, ranked #22 of 30 teams.
  • Diamondbacks, -1.0 Wins Above Average, ranked #23 of 30 teams.

As things currently stand, next season the two teams’ rotations will be roughly equal. Using the projections for ERA and innings shown in the previous table, the predictions for rotation average ERA were:

  • Dodgers: 4.12 ERA (FG), 4.21 ERA (BR), 4.165 ERA (average FG and BR).
  • Diamondbacks: 4.24 ERA (FG), 4.12 ERA (BR), 4.18 ERA (average of FG and BR).

My conclusion is that as things currently stand, the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ rotations will be roughly equivalent in 2024.

Home Run Prevention.

Last season, the Dodgers’ starters allowed 19% more home runs per-plate-appearance (.0394 vs.0331). Next season, that will likely remain a weakness, if the FanGraphs projections are correct. The three starters with the most projected innings (Tyler Glasnow, Bobby Miller, and Walker Buehler) have projected HR9s of 1.09, 1.19, and 1.37.

Summary.

The Dodgers’ rotation is a paper tiger. Main points follow:

  • The Dodgers will conduct a major rebuild of their rotation next season.
  • The Dodgers’ starting pitchers have a high likelihood of injury.
  • The Dodgers will either acquire two more starting pitchers, or rely heavily of promoting starting pitchers from the minors.
  • Last season, the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ rotations were roughly equivalent.
  • As things currently stand, the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ rotations will be roughly equivalent in 2024.
  • Last season, home run prevention was a weakness of the Dodgers’ rotation. Next season, that will likely remain a weakness.