As avid followers of the Dodgers, many fans often know which relievers aren’t the most reliable out of the bullpen without needing to dig heavily into specific player statistics. At the same time, it’s difficult to comprehend that the Los Angeles relief corps still ranks second in the National League with a sub-3.00 ERA while having two or more relievers who seemingly are mainly utilized in low-leverage situations.
It’s no secret that veteran righty Sergio Romo is struggling. Even before the regular season began, we preached vigorously how it was our opinion that Romo would be a quality ROOGY, based on the way his numbers were trending over the course of last season. But early this year, skipper Dave Roberts attempted to use Romo in several higher-leverage types of scenarios, only to see his peripheral numbers skyrocket. Right now, he’s primarily being used in the lower pressure scenarios, yet Romo still has an ERA north of 8.00 and a WHIP over 1.60. And it’s quite obvious that command is a huge part of the problem, as made evident by his eight walks allowed in only 12-1/3 innings of work.
“I can’t sit there and put my finger on one thing,” Romo said just after the series finale against the Rockies. “I can’t. I feel good. I feel fine. I feel strong. The ball is coming out of my hand well. It just seems to be that one pitch every outing.”
The aforementioned quote reminds us so much of hard-throwing righty Chris Hatcher, who we talked about endlessly last season regarding his outstanding potential. Hatcher’s repertoire can be vicious, and if he’s hitting his location points, he can be almost untouchable. Still, there are those one or two pitches that are straight as an arrow, down the absolute center of the plate which opposing hitters constantly crush into the gaps or the bleachers. For a pitcher with that much talent, it almost looks like he’s cursed in some type of eerie, mystical sense — anybody can see that Hatcher can flat out throw the baseball.
It’s easy to notice that Roberts tries to use Hatcher when most games are out of reach, attempting to find the best spots in hopes of establishing some type of consistent groove. However, having both Romo and Hatcher as the designated “mop-up” guys, even if only temporarily, doesn’t leave many options for the critical setup situations of bridging the gap to closer Kenley Jansen. And with lefty Grant Dayton now on some type of apparent decline, those options are dwindling even more.
Even before his stint on the disabled list, Dayton doesn’t seem to be the same pitcher as last season. His ERA is now a whopping 5.25 over an even 12 innings thrown. He’s surrendered nine hits, two of which were long balls, and has already given up seven earned runs. If the coaching staff of the Dodgers has any way of magically diagnosing the potential problems that Dayton’s having, hopefully it’s pinpointed much sooner than later.
And ironically enough, one of the better options out of the bullpen, 31-year-old righty Josh Fields, has already built up the most frequent flyer miles between his trips to and from Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. Fields now has a modest 0.63 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 14-1/3 innings over 15 outings. Yet with the insane twisting of the starting pitching carousel and the frequent manipulation of the 25-man roster, very few players are considered exempt from the possibility of being optioned to Triple-A. At this point, Fields should be one of those select few, but it will indeed be interesting to see how space is created to reinstate veteran lefty Rich Hill to start Tuesday night’s contest in San Francisco.
In the end, we’re still only in May, and there’s still plenty of time for Roberts and his crew to establish a fully functional bullpen. In spite of that, based on a few player performances over the first six weeks of the season, it may be possible that an entirely different group of personnel could be on display sometime during the stretch run of the year.