On Wednesday night, the Dodgers transferred Clayton Kershaw to the 60-day disabled list. The move was an inevitability. Kershaw hadn't pitched in a game since June, and hadn't participated in aptly-named baseball activities since suffering a mid-July setback. He's not eligible to return until August 27.
Moving Kershaw to the 60-day DL means he won't pitch for the Dodgers before Aug. 27. We pretty much knew that already. He isn't throwing.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) August 3, 2016
Predictable or not, that doesn't mean Kershaw's move to the 60-day disabled list is irrelevant -- rather, it has some major ramifications for multiple playoff spots.
You probably know that the Dodgers entered Wednesday two games back in the National League West and 2.5 games ahead for the top wild-card spot. Credit that standing to a surprisingly strong July, during which the Dodgers went 15-9 despite receiving zero innings from their ace. Still, it's safe to write that losing Kershaw for at least three more weeks is a bad development for L.A.'s playoff hopes.
On the divisional side, the Giants are likely to play better (and the Dodgers worse) than their heretofore second-half mark (4-12). It helps that the Giants are going to benefit in multiple ways from Kershaw's absence.
The easiest way to create (or erase) separation within the division is to win head-to-head matchups. That's notable here, because the Dodgers and Giants will face off nine times before the regular season ends, and three of those will occur before Kershaw is eligible to return. Essentially, the Giants are now assured that, at most, they'll have to deal with two Kershaw starts rather than three.
That same effect isn't in play for any single team jockeying with the Dodgers for a wild-card spot. Yet the obvious catch here is that there's no guarantee Kershaw will return before September -- if then. He'll need to make a few rehab starts before he can rejoin the Dodgers' rotation, and he needs to resume baseball activities before he can think about making those rehab starts. In other words, Kershaw's return might not occur until early-to-mid September -- and that's if all goes well.
So, yes, the Dodgers are in a better spot than many (us included) anticipated entering the home stretch. But they're far -- far -- from safe. Even if Wednesday's news was expected, it doesn't erase that this could contribute to the Dodgers missing the postseason entirely.