Bobby Miller has anchored a crop of Dodgers rookies bursting onto the major league scene and is primed for a slot at the head of the rotation in the NLDS.
At the beginning of the season, it appeared unlikely that Miller would be considered an option to even make the rotation, as he scuffled to an ERA over 5.50 in 14 1⁄3 innings in Triple-A Oklahoma City. With injuries mounting up to Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías, and Clayton Kershaw, compounded with the catastrophe that was the Noah Syndergaard experiment, Miller was called up in late May to salvage a pitching staff that had fifth-worst team ERA in the National League in the first half of the season.
Miller impressed in his major league debut, holding the eventual 104-win Atlanta Braves to just one run over five innings in route to his first career win. Miller headlined the Dodgers rookie arms in 22 starts, tossing 124 1⁄3 innings while posting a 11-4 record, a 3.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 3.51 FIP. His 2.8 fWAR ranked third among rookie starters, behind Tanner Bibee of the Cleveland Guardians and Kodai Senga of the New York Mets.
With an average fastball velocity ranked within the 98th percentile and having tossed at least six innings in eight of his past 10 starts, Miller has the makings to be a potential ace of the Dodgers’ postseason rotation. Mark DeRosa of MLB Network lists Miller as his favorite to breakout in this year’s postseason:
“He is going to be asked to really catapult this Dodgers rotation all the way through... He reminds me of... these young flamethrowers who say, ‘Here’s my stuff. I don’t think you can hit it. I’m not going to be nervous in the big moment.’”
Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman both posted MVP-caliber seasons, breaking records in the process, propelling the Dodgers to yet another postseason appearance. As historic as they played in the regular season, do they need to continue to be the driving force for the Dodgers in the postseason?
Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register notes that everyone on the team needs to step up in the biggest moments, undermining the necessity of relying on the two superstars to take control of the ship:
From Freeman: “To carry (the team)? No, because you’ve got J.D. and Will and all these guys that are champions and All-Stars and Silver Sluggers. Our lineup is full of them. But ultimately, yes, you need Mookie and I to perform well because we’re at the top and we can get it going.”
Clayton Kershaw was arguably the Dodgers best starting pitcher this season. He experienced another injury-plagued season, limiting the southpaw to just 24 starts, yet went on to lead the team in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, games started, and wins.
For the first time in his career, Kershaw opted to use his slider at a higher rate than any other pitch in his arsenal, resulting in hitters netting a .167 average against it. With all the success came subtle signs of regression, as his season’s WHIP, H/9, FIP, K/9, and HR/9 were all near his career lows.
Cole Jacobson of MLB.com elaborates on Kershaw’s atypical season, while also explaining how he can still be an invaluable asset in the postseason.
Miguel Rojas shared his thoughts on the Dodgers’ championship expectations, noting how the season would be a failure if the Dodgers don’t win the World Series this season in an episode of The Chris Rose Rotation:
“When you put this uniform on, you’re playing for a championship... If we don’t win the World Series this year, it’s going to be a failure, and we’re going to have to do something to win the next year.”
Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report ranks each pitching staff from every postseason team this year, ranking the Dodgers at no. 8. The projected starting four-man rotation is shaping to include Clayton Kershaw, Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, and Lance Lynn.
Longtime Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher and color commentator Don Drysdale was ranked as the no. 6 greatest Dodger of all time by Huston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times in the latest edition of Dodgers Dugout.