The Los Angeles Dodgers rotation went through a lot in the 2021 campaign.
Dustin May injured elbow ligaments in May and had to undergo Tommy John surgery; Trevor Bauer was (and is) involved in sexual assault allegations and spent a large portion of the season on administrative leave; Josiah Gray was traded to the Washington Nationals in the Max Scherzer deal, David Price was inconsistent, and Clayton Kershaw missed over two months with an injury of his own.
Tony Gonsolin, a talented depth starter, spent ample time on the shelf, too.
Buehler finished with 5.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a 2.47 ERA, a 3.16 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and 212 strikeouts in 207.2 innings.
Urias, the only 20-game winner in 2021, had a solid 2.96 ERA in 185.2 frames, with 195 strikeouts.
He accumulated 5.0 WAR and had a 3.13 FIP.
The 2021 Dodgers’ ace was probably Scherzer, but Buehler has done enough to be in consideration for the unofficial nod.
How about Urias?
An Intense Internal Competition
There may be a substantial difference in ERA between Buehler and Urias, but their performance level was actually very similar last season.
In fact, many analysts prefer FIP before ERA because it takes defense and some of the randomness out of the equation, focusing instead in the aspects of pitching that a hurler can control.
If we compare them using FIP, Urias’ 3.13 was a tad better than Buehler’s 3.16.
Comparing their careers, there is not much difference between Buehler (2.90 ERA, 3.20 FIP) and Urias (3.09 ERA, 3.32 FIP).
These numbers and the overall comparison between the two doesn’t mean that Urias is the ace of the Dodgers.
However, it means he can be, which is the question that our article invites to answer.
Urias is perfectly capable of taking another step forward in 2022: remember that the 185.2 innings he threw were, by far, a career-high.
His previous high was 79.2.
Urias Can Become The Dodgers Ace At Some Point
Pitching almost 190 frames this past season means his body and his arm will be much better equipped to handle a high workload again in 2022.
But, surprisingly enough, he was better (much better, in fact) in the second half than before the break.
Prior to the All-Star Game, Urias had a 3.64 ERA.
After the break, however, he put up a phenomenal 2.04 ERA and a 2.63 FIP.
If he can maintain that level, he could very well take over as the Dodgers’ ace.
Julio Urías, Nasty 83mph Breaking Ball. 😨 pic.twitter.com/MT4lxwIDmG
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 15, 2021
For Los Angeles, it will be an attractive internal competition between two very good pitchers.
If Kershaw returns and is healthy, however, he will be considered the ace because of seniority and his flawless career.
There is no denying, however, Urias’ growth and rise to elite status.
On pure skill, workload, and potential opportunity, he could very well become the Dodgers’ ace at some point in the next couple of seasons.
Julio Urias is an ACE🔥
— K (@kev1e_) October 3, 2021
At some point, a contract extension would need to be hammered out because Urias only has two remaining seasons under team control.
But with his great showing in 2021, and with a similarly solid season this year, he can definitely earn one.