Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night against the Diamondbacks, the seventh time the left-hander is on the mound for the Dodgers’ first game of the playoffs.
Kershaw is the only pitcher remaining from the club’s planned starting rotation to open the season, and even he missed six weeks with left shoulder inflammation. Despite that missed time, Kershaw led the Dodgers with 24 starts and 131⅔ innings, the eighth time in his career he’s paced the team in both starts and innings.
Before 2023, the only times the Dodgers went through a season without a pitcher making at least 25 starts were in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign and the pandemic-truncated 2020 season. 1981 was also shortened by a strike, but 21-year-old Fernando Valenzuela still managed to fit in 25 starts and 192⅓ innings, both of which led the league.
Here’s a one-two punch of statistics about teams like the Dodgers without a horse atop the rotation. First from Cole Jacobson at MLB.com, who wrote about Kershaw adapting after his shoulder injury:
As a matter of fact, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau, there has never been a team in a 162-game season to even finish with a .500 record despite having no players with 25 starts, nor has there ever been such a team without a player to pitch 150 innings.
Then Mike Petriello at MLB.com wrote about the top four seeds remaining in the playoffs, and also noted this whopper of a stat:
Los Angeles was the only team in baseball this year to not have a single starting pitcher make 25 starts. (Kershaw made 24.) They’re the only team in baseball this year to not have a single starting pitcher throw 135 innings. (Kershaw had 131 2/3.) Since the Majors went to six divisions in 1995, there have been 168 teams to win their division, and 167 of them had at least one starter make 25 starts. Guess which one didn’t?
- Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times took a stab at guessing how the Dodgers might navigate the first six innings of each game, including combinations of pitchers in lieu of traditional starters in some cases.
- Jeff Passan in his Division Series preview at ESPN wrote about the Dodgers thin starting staff: “It’s no wonder the Dodgers are going to lean heavily on their bullpen, making manager Dave Roberts every bit as important as the arms he’s summoning to get outs.”
- I enjoyed this point from Jim Alexander in his column at the Orange County Register, about the Dodgers’ chances in October: “Little of what happened earlier this season matters now, beyond the idea that a deciding fifth game would be played in Dodger Stadium a week from Saturday if it came to that.”
- Ben Clemens delivered a detailed and thorough series preview of Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks at FanGraphs.