In the Oscar-nominated baseball movie from 2011, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill brought the historic tale of the 2002 Oakland Athletics to life. Moneyball is about a small market team finding overlooked players that were able to rival the nearly $200M payroll of the New York Yankees.
The Dodgers aren’t the Oakland A’s, and it’s no longer 2002. However, the way their front office is similar to—in some aspects—the one of Billy Beane and the guys up in Oakland.
The Dodgers have proved, in many cases, they don’t need to bring in players and pay them big money. Baseball in Los Angeles is great. Players want to play here. The front office is smart, and quite possibly the best proof of this is the Dodgers’ bullpen.
In 2017, Yankee’s closer Aroldis Chapman boasted a 3.22 ERA, not all that much better than Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling. The difference is, in 2017, Chapman made $21 million. Stripling made just south of $550,000. Now, these two players differ in the length of their service time, which is vastly important in this game, as Chapman has been pitching for seven years, while Stripling has appeared in just 71 games.
Stripling, however, is poised to step up for the Dodgers, and when he does, he’s going to be on the road to a much more notable contract. Should things go perfectly, he could become like Kenley Jansen and Wade Davis—relief pitchers who are worth big contracts.
Last year, Stripling went 3-5 with a 3.75 ERA, when he pitched 74-1/3 inning and struck out 74 batters. Over the course of five postseason games in 2017, he gave up 4 hits, and no runs. He succeeded in the main job of a relief pitcher—keeping runners from crossing the plate.
According to Baseball Reference, Stripling is projected to end the 2018 season with a 4.15 ERA while giving up 36 runs over the course of 78 innings.
I believe he’ll do much better than that.
Legendary San Diego Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman, who was recently elected into the Hall of Fame, is arguably one of the best relief pitchers of all time. Over the course of his 18-year career, Hoffman boasted a 2.87 ERA. He, along with players like Jansen, and Mariano Rivera, are some of the best relievers baseball has ever, and will ever, see.
Am I saying that Stripling is destined to embark on a Hall of Fame career? Of course not.. It’s possible, it’s definitely possible, but the fact is that Hall of Fame careers are rare. Stripling, however, could be the answer the Dodgers are looking for in the bullpen— especially for a setup role, which, at the moment, is open for the taking.
I can’t speak for the entire season, but Striping, who pitched two scoreless Cactus League innings on Monday against the Indians, will start the season as a pillar in the Dodgers bullpen. Though he’s only been in the majors for two seasons, he’s been a Dodger longer than a lot of the guys slated to appear in the back half of L.A.’s summer ballgames.
Stripling is on the verge of a breakout season. As a fan and as a writer, I believe that something has been missing from his arsenal. He used his fastball the most in 2017, at 38%, but I think that it’s his curve ball, which he used 20.5% of the time (via FanGraphs) that will be his greatest weapon in 2018. The curve, quite possibly baseball’s most deceptive pitch, could make Stripling the lights-out bridge to Jansen which the Dodgers have been seeking.
I think when it comes to teams who were recently successful in the postseason, they’re expected to make big moves during the winter months. But the Dodgers haven’t made those kinds of moves, and they didn’t really need to.
Sometimes, the best advantage in this game is the one that nobody knew you had.
(FOLLOW SARAH ON TWITTER: @SARAHMANINGER)