With Clayton Kershaw on the Disabled List, the Dodgers Are in Big Trouble

The game's greatest pitcher is on the shelf with a bad back, and it could be for a while. Can the Dodgers survive without him?

You have to pity the poor Los Angeles Dodgers.

No, it's not often you feel bad for a team with a payroll of more than $227 million, the highest in baseball. But how else can you feel about a team that has suffered one pitching loss after another this season, culminating in the devastating news that the best in the game, Clayton Kershaw, was going on the shelf with a bad back?

This is the nightmare scenario for L.A.. Kershaw, who is in the midst of yet another incredible season in a Hall of Fame career, received an epidural in his lower back which will keep him sidelined for an unknown amount of time. And man, the Dodgers sure will miss him.

Entering play Thursday, Los Angeles was 43-37 and holding the top spot in the NL wild card standings, owing much of that record to their ace, going 14-2 in his 16 starts this year. They are 29-35 in games started by anyone else.

Kershaw was 11-2 this season with a 1.79 ERA (best in MLB) and a fielding independent pitching (FIP) of 1.68 (also tops in baseball), striking out 10.79 batters per nine and walking just 0.67. His fWAR of 5.5 is not only the best in baseball, but it is so much better than everyone else, it's scary. Noah Syndergaard and Jose Fernandez are both at a distant 3.7.

In fact, Kershaw's 5.5 fWAR is already higher, in just half a season, than all but eight players in a full season last year.

Kershaw has not just been good. He's been historically good. Was it really just a week ago he was doing this to poor Bryce Harper?

Kershaw has struck out 145 batters and walked just 9 this season. That strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.1-to-1 was on pace to set the MLB record, the 11.6-to-1 set by Phil Hughes in 2014. And his WHIP of 0.73 was on pace to break the all-time lowest mark of 0.74, set by Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Now, that could all be over.

A Depleted Rotation

Kershaw's injury is just the latest, and most devastating, starting pitching loss suffered by the Dodgers this season. Coming into the season, rotation depth was supposed to be a strength, but injuries to Brett Anderson, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-jin Ryu, Alex Wood and Mike Bolsinger have left the team high and dry. They're currently featuring a rotation with 19-year-old Julio Urias, and a starter who began the year at Single-A, Brock Stewart.

Luckily, their Japanese import, Kenta Maeda, has held up well, going 6-5 with a 2.91 ERA and a 3.45 FIP, striking out 8.62 batters per nine and walking 2.70. Free agent Scott Kazmir hasn't been as good, with a 4.67 ERA and a 4.58 FIP, but he's at least managed to stay healthy and strike guys out, averaging 9.24 K/9.

The Dodgers also have problems scoring runs, and the bullpen is leaky as well. And it calls into question the team's decision not to trade for Cole Hamels last year or sign their own free agent, Zack Greinke, in the offseason. Instead, they chose to stockpile as many mid-level starters as possible, some of them with well documented injury histories, and figured strength in numbers was the way to go.

Unfortunately for them, it hasn't worked out. And now they are without the most dominant pitcher the game has seen in many years, one of the greatest of all-time.

No one has any idea when he'll be back, if at all this season, putting L.A.'s hopes of making the playoffs -- currently at 69.8% -- in jeopardy.


It appears as if the Dodgers aren't taking the news lying down.

Norris has been solid -- if unspectacular -- in a dual role for Atlanta this season. He's made 10 starts and appeared in 12 games out of the bullpen, logging 70 1/3 innings this year with a 4.22 ERA and a 3.84 FIP, striking out 7.68 batters per nine and walking 3.58. He has been better since the end of April, though.

Norris brings a veteran presence to a rotation that will be in dire need of one with Kershaw out of action.