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2022 Dodgers in review: Dustin May

Or “The return of Code Red”

MLB: Miami Marlins at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

When selecting players to write about in the 2022 year in review section, Evan Phillips was my first choice, but Dustin May was my second. The reason is that I got to see May pitch twice in 2021: once in Oakland, where he looked absolutely electric, and once in Milwaukee, where his season ended.

May spent the majority of 2022 on the injured list, rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed in May 2021. The road back to the major leagues after such surgery is a long one, where even minor accomplishments, such as throwing a bullpen session, are to be applauded.

The Dodgers even featured May’s journey back to the big leagues twice on their television program Backstage Dodgers in 2021 and in 2022.

I had hoped that May would make his return while I was in Milwaukee, but in hindsight, the Dodgers’ decision to have May return at home was likely the correct decision. On August 20, 476 days after his injury, May returned to the Dodgers. And what a return it was.

Miami Marlins v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Against the Marlins, May struck out nine in five scoreless innings on 71 pitches. May ultimately breezed through the Marlins, after allowing traffic in the first inning.

However, the hopes that May would quickly return to the form he had shown in early 2021 were quickly dashed as May lost the rematch against the Marlins a week later in Miami and was thrashed by the Padres at home the start after that (5 innings, 6 runs, 5 walks, 5 strikeouts, 2 home runs).

May had four full starts in 2021, prior to his injury, as opposed to six starts in 2022. In this write-up, I wondered if there was some clue in May’s peripherals if the seasons were held side-by-side. From Baseball Reference:

  • 2021: 21⅓ IP, 2.53 ERA, 15 hits, 5 walks, 32 strikeouts, 3 HR, .188/.244/.325 against
  • 2022: 30 IP, 4.50 ERA, 21 hits, 14 walks, 29 strikeouts, 3 HR, .194/.315/.296 against

As you can see, the main difference in 2022, apart from the two additional starts, is that May walked considerably more batters in 2022. While at this point in his career, May generally goes five innings, he has yet to transition from “striking everyone out” (as seen with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Tony Gonsolin in the early parts of their careers) to “getting everyone out” and going deeper in games.

Moreover, on a personal observation, May seemed far more emotional on the mound and far more fidgety (for lack of a better word) while pitching in 2022. I went back to look at some footage in 2021 and May seemed to have less movement on the mound, prior to delivery, and seemed to be far calmer (for lack of a better word) while pitching.

Dustin May pitching. Petco Park. September 9, 2022.
Dustin May pitching. Petco Park. September 9, 2022.
Michael Elizondo/TrueBlueLA

The one start that I saw May pitch in person in 2022 was a rematch against the Padres on September 9 at Petco Park. The game was delayed due to rain for about 30 minutes before May took the mound. With both May and Mike Clevinger pitching, watching the game was quite literally uncomfortable as I found myself shifting in my seat due to both pitchers' now-unorthodox deliveries.

If allowed, I would call that rainy affair “The Ants in the Pants” game. Graded on a curve, May was adequate against the Padres on September 9. However, he gave up five hits and three walks in five stressful innings of work, with Trent Grisham providing the offensive fireworks for the Padres.

As discussed elsewhere, the Dodgers would lose this game in extra innings as this start was the only start of the year where May did not factor into the final decision.

After this start, May rebounded against the Giants (five scoreless innings) but then had his arguably worst start of the year to close out the year at home against the Diamondbacks (five runs in four innings) on September 21.

May missed the final two weeks of the season on the injured list with lower back tightness. He made the postseason roster but did not pitch during the NLDS.

At this point, while the Dodgers may be rumored to be seeking a top-of-the-rotation arm, it would behoove the fanbase to remember that when Dustin May is right, the sky is the limit. For the first time, since his injury, May will have a normal offseason to prep for the coming season.

2022 particulars

Age: 24

Stats: 2-3, 4.50 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 3.67 xERA, 30 IP, 14 BB, 29 K

Salary: $730,000

Game of the year

Without a doubt, May’s game of the year has to be his return from the injured list at Dodger Stadium on August 20, after not seeing action in the Major Leagues since May 1, 2021.

May struck out nine in five scoreless innings, allowing only a single and two walks in a 7-0 Dodgers victory.

Roster status

May has three years, 59 days of major league service time, and is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. He’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $1.4 million in 2023. May has all three options remaining.