CINCINNATI — No team loses more high-impact starting pitchers than the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yet no team consistently pitches so well. It is a component of life in blue.
“I used to be on the Sandy Koufax statue ceremony last week, and he talked about how, if you put this uniform on, there’s quite a lot of pitching legacy with the Dodgers,” Manager Dave Roberts said here on Tuesday, before a game with the Cincinnati Reds. “And I do consider that when you’ve got Clayton Kershaw here, the bar is ready very high. So the expectation if you take the mound for us is higher.”
Kershaw, who missed a number of weeks with a lower back injury, has returned to resume his march to the Hall of Fame. The arms around him keep changing, but the outcomes stay the identical. The Dodgers’ starters led the majors in earned run average through Wednesday, at 2.62, despite missing a decorated five-man rotation from 2021.
At various points last season, the Dodgers employed Max Scherzer, Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, David Price and Dustin May. Those pitchers made 77 starts for a team that tied a franchise record with 106 victories. All are gone from the rotation.
Scherzer signed with the Mets. Bauer was suspended for 2 years in April for violating baseball’s domestic-violence policy. Buehler had elbow surgery this month for a flexor tendon strain and his return is uncertain. Price is a middle reliever. May is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
For the Dodgers, though, it’s just a chance for others to shine. Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson have combined to go 17-0, helping keep the team at the highest of the National League West in a virtual tie with San Diego. Each starters might be first-time All-Stars next month.
“I feel like they never write anything off here,” said Anderson, a left-hander who signed with the Dodgers after six years with 4 teams — and a 4.62 earned run average. “Some teams, in the event you try stuff, they don’t really like trying latest things. Whereas they’re not afraid to try latest things here — and additionally they know learn how to weed out things that don’t work.”
Anderson, who signed a one-year deal for $8 million, modified his best pitch, the changeup. It’s now the slowest of its kind amongst qualified N.L. pitchers, at 79.2 miles an hour, in keeping with Fangraphs, helping his unusual fastball play up.
Gonsolin made a concerted effort to throw more strikes this season, while using his splitter greater than another N.L. starter. Teams have largely discouraged pitchers from using that pitch, for fear of injury, since its heyday within the Nineteen Eighties. But Roberts believes the splitter should make a comeback — and Gonsolin could give it a showcase if he starts the All-Star Game at home next month.
“That may be pretty cool,” said Gonsolin, a ninth-round Dodgers draft alternative in 2016. “For it to be at Dodger Stadium could be huge. It will just be awesome to be a part of that environment, to get that chance if it does occur.”
Andrew Heaney, who returned from a shoulder injury last weekend and has all but scrapped his changeup, has an 0.59 E.R.A. with 23 strikeouts and 4 walks in three starts. Heaney signed for one 12 months and $8.5 million after struggling last season for the Angels and the Yankees.
“Throw your best pitches more regularly,” Heaney said. “That makes quite a lot of sense to me.”
Heaney, like Anderson, had a track record of mediocrity for multiple teams; in eight seasons, his E.R.A. was 4.72. Yency Almonte, a setup man along with his fourth organization, has found success by emphasizing sinkers over four-seamers. One other reliever, Evan Phillips, had a 7.26 E.R.A. for 3 teams, and a 2.43 mark for the reason that Dodgers claimed him off waivers last August.
“We’ve still got to compete; it’s not like we come over to the Dodgers they usually sprinkle some fairy dust on us and rapidly, we’re who we’re,” Phillips said. “We’re all talented, and I feel they simply challenge us to bring out the most effective in ourselves. And in a room like this, if you’re surrounded by Hall of Famers and All-Stars left and right, it lifts everybody up.”
Kershaw, 34, finished last season on the injured list but returned for one 12 months and $17 million. He has been with the Dodgers for 15 seasons, long enough to witness their last losing record (80-82 in 2010) and their return to the type of pitching dominance that defined Koufax’s prime within the Sixties.
“The Dodgers do a superb job of checking out what you do well and utilizing that — rather a lot,” Kershaw said. “There’s certain organizations that do pitching very well. We’re one in every of them. Cleveland’s one in every of them. Tampa Bay’s one in every of them. I feel everybody does it just a little in another way, nevertheless it looks like the Dodgers find anyone’s strength which may not be seen on paper, but in the event you dig just a little bit, you see that this guy’s got some ability.”
That is the sixth season in a row that the Dodgers have had the bottom E.R.A. within the N.L., at 2.90 through Wednesday. Heaney said the cohesion amongst departments within the team’s vast coaching and front-office structure made it easy to implement changes.
“There’s an openness to with the ability to say, ‘Let’s try something different,’ and guys aren’t anxious about that,” Heaney said. “There’s a trust, like, ‘OK, they’re not going to bring this to me in the event that they don’t consider in what it could unlock.’”
General Manager Brandon Gomes pitched for Tampa Bay under Andrew Friedman, who left to run the Dodgers’ baseball operations department in 2014. Raw data has not modified much since he played, Gomes said, but teams have found more ways to use it.
The old concept that players will often follow their established patterns — that they are going to play to the back of their baseball cards, because the saying goes — now not applies.
“There are different paths to get at player development, and never just within the minor leagues,” Gomes said. “There’s major league player development occurring as well.”
The Dodgers could add more depth within the second half, with May, Danny Duffy, Tommy Kahnle and Blake Treinen possibly getting back from various injuries. The Dodgers are spending a combined $6.725 million this season on Duffy and Kahnle, and if neither comes back, they will afford the gamble. Their bets on Heaney — and, especially, Anderson — are already paying off.
Such a portfolio sets the Dodgers apart. The team has a payroll around $260 million, in keeping with Spotrac, slightly below the Mets for the richest within the majors.
“Between how well they find guys within the rough and their ability to spend money — at the tip of the day, in the event you spend money, you get good players, and good players win games,” Kershaw said. “I don’t care how every other team thinks they’re going to do it, that’s how you’ve got a superb team, is to have the opportunity to do this. If you happen to’re not going to spend money, you would possibly have a superb 12 months or two. But you’ve got to have good players, and good players cost money.”
The Dodgers’ big spending, for players like Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner and others, matters most. But their success in developing players within the majors could also be saving their season.