Clevinger Is on the Padres’ Roster and Will Start Division Series Openeron October 6, 2020 at 5:23 pm

Clevinger Is on the Padres’ Roster and Will Start Division Series Opener

The Padres and Dodgers submitted their rosters for the Division Series on Tuesday morning, a formality for most postseason series but one that this time around carried considerable intrigue. As was hinted by multiple reports in the 24 hours leading up to the deadline, the team has indeed included Mike Clevinger, who has pitched just one inning since September 13 due to issues with his biceps and elbow and who was left off the Wild Card Series roster, and furthermore, they have tabbed him to start Game 1. Dinelson Lamet, who similarly left his September 25 start with tightness in his biceps and missed the Wild Card Series, was not included.

To review: after throwing seven innings of two-hit shutout ball on September 13 against the Giants, Clevinger was scratched from his turn five days later against the Mariners due to soreness in his right biceps. After the team and the 29-year-old righty were reassured by a bullpen session on September 21, he started against the Angels two days later, and pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, striking out both David Fletcher and Mike Trout, but his velocity was down a bit, and he didn’t return for the second inning. The Padres said his biceps was bothering him again, and two days later, they revealed that he had been diagnosed with posterior elbow impingement (a side effect of inflammation) and given a cortisone shot.

Clevinger resumed playing catch on September 28 and then threw a 23-pitch bullpen session the next day, but was left off the Wild Card Series roster. After a higher-intensity bullpen session on Sunday, the Padres sounded notes of optimism that made their way into a handful of tweets suggesting he was likely to be added and to start Game 1. That is indeed the case.

Lamet, however, has not made as much progress. According to’s AJ Cassavell, the 28-year-old righty has resumed playing catch but has not been cleared to throw off a mound. That doesn’t rule him out if the Padres advance past the Dodgers, but for now, he’s on the sidelines.

Thus, Clevinger will go up against the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler in Game 1. Nobody knows how close to 100% he’ll be, but it’s difficult to imagine him pitching deep into the game given his layoff, and it’s worth noting that even when he did pitch this year, his performance was a step down from his recent work with the Indians. In eight starts, he posted a 3.02 ERA but a 4.15 FIP and 0.7 WAR in 41.2 innings; by comparison, last year he pitched to a 2.71 ERA, 2.45 FIP, and 4.5 WAR, and put together a 3.32 FIP from 2017-19. Via Statcast, where he held batters to an average exit velocity of 86.4 mph last year, with a .270 xwOBA, this year, those numbers rose to 88.2 mph and .319; by percentiles, the exit velo represents a drop from the 91st to the 52nd, and the xwOBA from the 91st to the 35th. Note that Clevinger’s workload was interrupted not only by his previous biceps issue but also a three-week absence from the Indians after he violated team rules on a road trip, needed to be quarantined, and then was sent to the team’s alternate training site along with fellow violator Zach Plesac.

While Clevinger is set to start Game 1, manager Jayce Tingler has yet to announce the rest of the Padres rotation, though to be fair, counterpart Dave Roberts only went so far as to name Clayton Kershaw for Game 2, meaning that the Dodgers have used the same running order as in the Wild Card Series against the Brewers. The Padres started Chris Paddack in Game 1 against the Cardinals and Zach Davies in Game 2, but both were lit up, with the former allowing six runs in 2.1 innings, the latter four runs in two innings. Even assuming those two pitchers stay in line and Clevinger is able to return on three days of rest for Game 5, the Padres will still need to cobble together some kind of bullpen-based solution for Game 4, and no, it won’t be Garrett Richards, whom the team is keeping in the bullpen, or MacKenzie Gore, who did not make the roster (Ryan Weathers, a 20-year-old lefty who was their 2018 first-round pick and who like Gore has yet to debut in the majors, is on the roster). In Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, Craig Stammen started and pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings as the first of nine pitchers to combine for a shutout.

In far less impactful roster news, the Dodgers did indeed add reliever Dylan Floro to their roster — as speculated in my series preview — as well as second baseman Gavin Lux, removing both catcher Keibert Ruiz and DH/third baseman Edwin Rios.

With the inclusion of Clevinger and the absence of Lamet, the ZiPS series odds moved slightly from 64.1% in favor of the Dodgers to 63%. Those are still based on speculation regarding the starters for Games 3-5 (if the series goes that far), and will continue to be updated as new information is reported.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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