Coming into today, Clayton Kershaw’s up to 151.1 innings pitched (90 MLB + 61.1 MiLB) on the season. Last year, entirely in the minors, Kershaw accumulated 122 innings, so he’s almost exactly 30 innings ahead of that pace. As we discussed briefly last week, it’s generally accepted that when young pitchers add more than 30 innings or so to their innings total from the year before, they’re entering the danger zone in which arm injuries become even more likely – and some take the view that he should be shut down for the season right now to protect that arm. Now, the Dodgers have said all year that 170 would be his limit, so he’s got about 19 innings left before we really start to get into trouble with him. He’s averaging 5 innings per start, so let’s assume that after today he’ll be up to 157 or so – although in his only other start at Coors, he only managed to make it through 3 innings, giving up 10 hits and 5 runs.
So why not take him out of the rotation after today? No, I’m not going to be so naive as to assume the division title is already sown up, though with each passing day it does look more likely. But if Kershaw’s only got 13 innings left on his arm this year, wouldn’t you rather use them in more important situations? Like out of the bullpen in October, or possibly starting a Game 4 in the NLDS? The Dodgers have a decent enough cushion to work with where they can reasonably take their 4th best starter out of the rotation in order to protect his arm. It’s not like there’s not a plethora of other starting options (Brad Penny, Eric Stults, Jason Johnson, Chan Ho Park, etc.) who could step in for a start or two.
Again, I won’t go so far as to call these games “meaningless” because we’ve all seen how quickly the tide can turn with this team. I’d just rather have the dual benefits of protecting the most valuable young arm in the organization and further strengthening what is already one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Speaking of improving the bullpen, welcome back Takashi Saito! After two months on the DL, he’s expected to be activated today. Of course, someone’s got to be dropped off of the 40-man roster to make room for him, and since the only man left on the 15-day DL (Jeff Kent) isn’t going to be moved onto the 60-day DL, it means that someone is going to have be DFA’d. To which I say, it has to be Pablo Ozuna, right? He’s only had 18 at-bats since coming to LA nearly two months ago, and since neither Nomar nor Chin-Lung Hu can buy their way into a game up the middle, it’s not like there’s not enough depth there to withstand his “loss” – especially with Rafael Furcal expected to be activated soon, and Kent perhaps soon after that.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness