I’m certainly not going to let one lousy start by Clayton Kershaw sway my confidence in him, not after how amazing he’d been in the two months prior. It’s just that something I read on Baseball Prospectus this morning really caught my eye:
Usually it’s a 30-inning increase where I worry, but man, Clayton Kershaw seemed to really hit a wall at a 20-inning mark, losing complete control and composure. Let’s see how he does his next time out, and facing that 30-inning mark.
Again, I’m by no means saying that his lousy outing yesterday is a sign of impending doom or anything like that, but the fact is that he’s now made it to 20 innings more than last year, and with at least 2 and hopefully 3 solid months of baseball remaining, it’s worth wondering where you want to expend those innings. As I said before the trade deadline, I have a lot of confidence in Kershaw going into October – but not as much if he’s already at 80 innings over 2008 before the playoffs hit.
The Dodgers, at 65-41, have 56 games remaining before the playoffs. If the current starting rotation were to hold until the end of the year – I know, I know, Jason Schmidt can’t possibly last that long, just bear with me – that’d be 11 starts remaining for each of the starters, plus 1. Giving Kershaw 6 innings per outing, that’s an extra 66 innings on top of his current 124.2, pushing him up to about 190 innings, which is a big enough jump without considering that October would put him over 200.
Now, it’s not completely as bad as it sounds, because the quote from BP is only considering MLB innings, while if you consider the 61.1 minor league innings he threw last year, he hasn’t yet equalled his total of 169 2008 innings. That said, there’s a case to be made that minor league innings aren’t as strenuous as major league innings, but that’s something that’s not easily quantifiable, so we’ll set it aside for the moment.
The fact remains, though, that the Dodgers are in an enviable situation in having the largest division lead in baseball – the latest BP Playoff Odds report has them with a 91.36% chance of winning the division, and a 98.8% chance of making the playoffs. You hate to ever admit it, but it’s true – not every game is that important right now. That being the case, why not skip three or four of Kershaw’s remaining starts? If you can keep him to 7 more starts, that’s 42-ish innings on top of his current 124.2, putting him at 166 – almost exactly what he threw last year, and still giving him some bullets left in the arm in October.
Even better, it’s not as though the Dodgers would have to go dig up the corpse of Shawn Estes (and really, how stupid is that decision looking right now for him?) Not only is MSTI fave Eric Stults down there (6 IP in 5 starts in a row), but you’ve got exactly what the Dodgers need right now: PCL All-Star Charlie Haeger. Regardless of anything else, he’s been good, because just look at his last three starts:
August 2 @ Nashville: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 3 BB
July 28 vs. Okla. City: 9 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 5 K, 2 BB
July 23 @ Round Rock: 9 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 12 K, 2 BB
That’s two complete games and three earned runs allowed in his last three starts, and despite being a knuckleballer in the high-altitude fun of Albuquerque, he’s got a 3.48 ERA, good for 9th in the the PCL, while – and wait for it, because this is the important part – leading the league in innings pitched, at 140.2.
Look, it’s one thing if he’s the whipping boy who stays out to take punishment, but how is this not exactly what this staff needs? An innings-eater who’s getting guys out, and even has a little major league experience to boot? I’ll take one of those every day and twice on Sunday. I don’t see any downside to getting him up here ASAP to start swallowing up some of those meaningless innings between now and October, while saving the valuable arm of Kershaw to boot.
Plus, he’s a knuckleballer. And who the hell doesn’t want to see a knuckleballer? Besides, I guarantee you he’s more effective than Jason Schmidt.
Free Charlie Haeger!