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Mailbag: 6-man rotation, Walker Buehler, Dellin Betances

Answering your Dodgers questions

MLB: JUN 09 Dodgers at White Sox Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This morning on Leading Off with True Blue LA, it’s a mailbag episode, answering various questions about the Dodgers rotation, Walker Buehler’s fastball, Caleb Ferguson, and Dellin Betances.

Thanks to everyone who asked questions.

Tommy Blackjack: With Anderson pitching as well as he has, do you think the Dodgers go with a 6 man rotation for a time?

Yes, but maybe only on a temporary basis. There are a few variables that play into this. First, Clayton Kershaw is expected to start Saturday or Sunday in San Francisco. For now, he presumably takes Mitch White’s spot in the rotation. Starting Monday, the Dodgers have three off days in an eight-day span, so have some room to maneuver if they are carrying one fewer reliever.

The real question is what happens when Andrew Heaney returns. He has his second rehab start for Oklahoma City on Thursday night, and a third start set for next week. That likely puts him in line to rejoin the Dodgers right around June 21, the start of a stretch of 20 games in 20 days.

Another key is the pitcher limit on active rosters. Currently limits are expanded to 14 pitchers, something that was extended for three weeks, through June 19. As of now, starting June 20, MLB teams will no longer be allowed to carry more than 13 pitchers at a time on active rosters.

Using a six-man rotation with such limits means only seven relievers, which is a far cry from how the team has been operating basically since the start of 2020. But there are potential benefits, too.

Last Saturday at Dodger Stadium, Dave Roberts was asked about a potential six-man rotation (go to about 1:40 of this video from SportsNet LA).

“It’s certainly possible. To go with seven relievers in the pen makes it a little more challenging,” Roberts said. “But you could argue in that stretch of [twenty] in a row, to get guys an extra day is certainly beneficial.”

Ryan (on Twitter): Realistically what is happening with [Walker] Buehler? I’m looking at his underlying numbers and I’m expecting a bounce back.

Most of Buehler’s problems stem from his four-seam fastball, which was one of the best in baseball over the last few years but has regressed this year into one of the worst.

Over his last five starts, Buehler has a 6.66 ERA and 5.16 FIP, and opponents are slugging .534 against him.

At Baseball Prospectus on Thursday, Michael Ajeto went into great detail how Buehler’s fastball has fallen off, both with a decrease in spin rate since MLB started cracking down on foreign substances last summer, as well as mechanically, losing steam in the pitch’s delivery as well.

Buehler has thrown that diminished fastball only about a third of the time this year, compared to over 53 percent at its peak in 2019-20. Buehler does have six legitimate pitches in his repertoire (cutter, curveball, slider, changeup, and sinker are the others), but it’s his fastball that drives everything. Getting some semblance of the fastball back makes the other pitches better, and the results should follow.

Sissy Tran (via email): I’m listening to your podcast and I am both happy (daily TBLA yay) and despondent (Corey Seager keeps coming up.) So my Q is, limited to Seager’s time on the 40 man), name a standard stat or two where seager was *not* on the list?

It’s true, Corey Seager will forever go down in Dodgers lore. He won Rookie of the Year, and his 2020 postseason is one of the best in MLB history, capturing both the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP.

From 2016-21, Seager ranks in the top ten in nearly every Dodgers offensive category, and in the top three in most of them. His 13 postseason home runs are tied with Justin Turner for the most in franchise history.

However, there is one category where Seager did not rack up the stats. His 10 stolen bases over the last six years are tied for 12th on the Dodgers. One of the players Seager is tied with during that span is Howie Kendrick, whose 10 steals with the Dodgers all came (in this span) in 2016.

Scottielew (on Twitter): What’s the status of Dellin Betances? I have not heard any updates on him.

Betances signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers just before opening day. The 34-year-old right-hander was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball with the Yankees from 2014-18, with a 2.22 ERA, 2.26 FIP, and 40-percent strikeout rate.

But numerous injuries (shoulder, achilles, lat) have limited Betances to just 13⅓ major league innings over the previous three major league seasons. He had shoulder surgery last July, and is trying to make his way back.

Right now, Betances is with the Dodgers’ rookie-level team in the Arizona Complex League, which just started playing games on Monday. He pitched in a game on Tuesday, allowing a run on two singles in his one inning of work.

Both players who singled off Betances tried to steal second. One was successful, and scored. During his five full seasons as a dominant reliever with the Yankees, Betances’ 71 stolen bases allowed (at at 85.5-percent success rate) were the most against any major league reliever, and 12th-most among all pitchers.

Mister Mojo Doza (on Twitter): Will Caleb Ferguson move into the starting rotation later this season or remain in the pen?

It doesn’t seem feasible that the Dodgers would have Ferguson make such a change, since he hasn’t been a starting pitcher since 2018 in the minors, especially given that the left-hander has made his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Alex Vesia has grabbed the role of lead southpaw in the bullpen, but given how Ferguson was used in 2020, as one of the team’s best setup pitchers, it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Ferguson climbs the leverage ladder fairly soon.

Maybe starting pitching could be a consideration for Ferguson down the road, but after a proper offseason to prepare for it. But for now, he’s too valuable as an effective arm in the bullpen to be used in such a way this year.

Hollywood Joe: Which is the greatest food commonly eaten without utensils?

I hesitated in fielding this question, because I thought it would be difficult to pick from a host of great options. However, after briefly thinking about it, the choice became abundantly clear.

I’m going with the burrito here because of its added mobility. You could eat a burrito in your car, for instance, without much worry of spillage. I would not begrudge anyone from picking a street taco here. It would have been my choice too, but can be a little messier than having the same ingredients but fully wrapped up in burrito form.

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Episode link (time: 22:28)