No Relief in Sight for Dodgers’ Erratic Bullpen

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(Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Unlike the starting rotation which has the luxury of looking forward to the return of several potential impact arms from injury, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen has very few options of improving from within, and could be stuck with the same corps of relievers until the hot stove season begins to heat up later in the summer.

In their latest debacle, it only took two pitches from righty Pedro Baez to spoil a late game rally by Chase Utley and the Dodgers’ offense. On his second offering to outfielder Curtis Granderson, Baez delivered a center-cut grapefruit that Granderson promptly blasted into the right field stands, allowing the Mets to walkoff to the tune of a 6-5 victory.

We had mentioned several times previously that the Dodgers’ bullpen isn’t really that bad overall. When they do implode, it’s mainly during the very tight games in high leverage, pressure-type situations that become even more magnified from the fans’ perspectives. However, the poor performances still appear to be similar in number to those of the effective variety, as the Dodgers are ranked right in the middle of the pack among all MLB clubs in a number of categories.

As for where they stand among other teams in the National League, entering Saturday, the Dodgers’ relief corps is ranked second in WHIP (1.11), third in OPBA (.282) and 10th in ERA (3.58), despite being ranked ninth and dead last in DIP% and ERC%, respectively.

While the starting pitching depth is evident throughout all levels of the Dodgers’ farm, the presence of high quality relief pitching seems to be scarce.

For those who follow the minor league affiliates closely, perhaps the lone ray of hope at this juncture could be Oklahoma City lefty Grant Dayton, who was acquired from the Marlins in exchange for Chris Reed last summer. After appearing in 12 games for Double-A Tulsa, Dayton was promoted to OKC where he has put together a 1.17 ERA and a 15.3 K/9 in just over seven innings of work.

Veteran free agent addition Joe Thatcher was lights out in Triple-A for the first five weeks of the season, but several dreadful outing recently have seen the southpaw’s ERA balloon to 3.18 and WHIP rocket to 1.544. Hard-throwing right-hander Jacob Rhame is beginning to show promise, but isn’t anywhere near being ready to make an impact at the MLB level.

Luis Avilan, Matt West and Ian Thomas have shown spots of effectiveness for OKC, but aren’t quite capable of having a highly influential effect on a big league bullpen.

Logan Bawcom and Caleb Dirks have shown early success at the Double-A level, but are at least one to two years away from having the ability to be key contributors in the bigs.

The lone player returning from injury who could conceivably jump right in to the bullpen is the Dodgers’ fourth-best prospect, Frankie Montas. The hard throwing, 23-year-old righty has a slider that has shown signs of being overpowering, and a four-seamer that sits in the upper-90s while occasionally being clocked over 100 MPH.

Probably the only two relievers who have shown any type of positive consistency for the Dodgers are Louis Coleman and Kenley Jansen. Coleman has become a prototypical ROOGY, and has already appeared in an overwhelming 23 games. Jansen is, well, easily considered among the top relievers in the game. And to add insult to injury, it seems as if Jansen is poised to test the free agent market and the end of the 2016 season.

Despite everything mentioned, if the Dodgers can hang around in the pennant race through July, upper management may elect to explore the trade market to upgrade an otherwise underachieving bullpen. The amount of starting pitching depth, especially at Double-A Tulsa, provides the front office with a seemingly unlimited amount of talent to package in hopes of obtaining one or more effective relief options.

Until that time, Dodgers fans can only wait and hope that their beloved squad will hold things together until the reinforcements arrive.

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