Michael Grove showed improvement in his second season in the majors with the Dodgers, and may have found his path to ultimate success in the big leagues.
Grove made the opening day roster in the rotation, though it took injuries to Tony Gonsolin and Ryan Pepiot to open the fifth-starter spot. Grove had a 6.13 ERA on the season, which ranked 256th among the 273 major league pitchers with at least 60 innings in 2023, so you might be wondering where Grove’s improvement was.
For one, Grove increased his strikeout rate (24.2 percent this year, after 18 percent in 2022) and decreased his walk rate (6.3 percent from 7.5 percent). His FIP this year was 4.36, after 5.16 last year.
Like every Dodgers starting pitcher in 2023, Grove missed time due to injury. He was out six weeks with a right groin strain, including missing all of May, and missed another month and a half in August and September with lat tightness.
Grove had 11 true starts and pitched two more bulk outings this season, but had a 6.97 ERA and 16.4-percent strikeout-minus-walk rate in those games. In his seven short-burst games — four relief outings and one opener start in the regular season plus two relief outings in the NLDS, none lasting more than two innings — Grove allowed one run in 10⅓ innings, plus a 24.3-percent strikeout-minus-walk rate.
In those shorter outings, Grove’s stuff played up. He averaged 95.6 mph on his four-seam fastball, compared to 94.7 mph in his start/bulk games, and he struck out 13 of 37 batters faced (35.1 percent).
The Dodgers will certainly add starting pitching this offseason. They also have a group of pitchers on the cusp of regular time in the majors. Whether those pitchers earn rotation spots or are traded for someone else who will, Grove’s future might be best served in relief.
Stats: 6.13 ERA, 4.90 xERA, 4.36 FIP, 69 IP, 73 K, 19 BB, 0.8 fWAR, -0.8 fWAR
Game of the year
After the Dodgers traded for Lance Lynn, and after Clayton Kershaw returned from the injured list in August, there was no room in the rotation for Grove. He was the opener on August 5 in San Diego, the first of four short-burst outings to close out his regular season (interrupted by an injured-list sting in between).
Against the Padres, Grove struck out his first four batters — Ha-Seong Kim, Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, and Manny Machado, all of whom finished the season with at least a 112 wRC+ — before allowing a single to Xander Bogaerts to end his outing.
Grove has one year, 31 days of major league service time, and two option years remaining, having used an option year in 2022. Grove was optioned twice in 2023 but only for a total of nine days, less than the 20 days required to use up an option year.