Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on an Otherwise Shoddy Bullpen

(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

While many fans of the Dodgers were once again pointing their fingers at the bullpen after Saturday’s loss to the Padres, I thought I’d try to make some sense of what was happening by digging a little deeper into some of the general numbers. And while there’s been no rhyme or reason as to when exactly the relief corps is likely to implode, there has been a bit of uniformity, nonetheless.

I’ve never been a big fan of using ERA as a measuring stick, especially when it comes to relief pitchers, mainly because when the inherited runners score they’re credited back to the previous pitcher which can often be one of the starters. Nevertheless, before Sunday’s game, the Dodgers were sitting 18th in baseball with a 4.12 ERA which also ranked them 10th in the National League.

Consequently, one of the scariest stats I came across was that Dodgers’ relievers have already surrendered 25 long balls this season, which is the second-worst in the NL, trailing only the Marlins of Miami.

Aside from the horrific numbers that Wilmer Font put up over the first several weeks of the campaign, righty Josh Fields is once again leading all the relievers in home runs surrendered with five. He allowed 10 over 57.0 innings of work last year which was a career-high, and he’s already halfway to that mark this season. For as effective as he’s been, he’s always had a problem keeping the ball on the ground. Currently, his ERA is sitting at 2.28, which is a bit of an illusion as his 4.41 FIP is much more indicative of the way he’s trending. While many believed at one point that he was the best eighth-inning option to bridge the gap to closer Kenley Jansen, Fields sometimes gives the impression of being a little bit more vulnerable each time he throws.

Another frightening number is how many batters the relief crew has walked so far this season. Dodgers relievers have already issued a whopping 82 walks over 190 innings which translate into almost four runs per nine innings. Three relievers—Pedro Baez, JT Chargois and Scott Alexander—have already reached double-digits in walks. Both Chargois and Alexander completed this feat in less than 18 innings of work apiece. In the back of our minds, we have a general idea how often these runners score, especially when they’re issued a free pass to lead off an inning.

The Dodgers are the only team in the National League with double-digit blown saves, many of which came early in the season. The good news is that Jansen’s numbers are finally trending in the right direction. Over his first 12 appearances, he surrendered nine runs—seven of which were earned—on 13 hits and six walks. However, over his last 10 games, he hasn’t allowed a run or a walk while only giving up five hits, calculating to a .132 batting average against.

And while Kenley’s numbers are undeniably wonderful signs, the bad news is that there’s nobody else even close in terms of effectiveness. The only other relief pitchers on the squad to have an ERA+ over 100 are Adam Liberatore, Baez and Fields. Liberatore, coincidentally, is currently on the Triple-A Oklahoma City roster.

Tony Cingrani appears to be headed in the right direction with a 2.58 FIP after a stretch where his ineffectiveness was attributed to dead arm syndrome. However, four other relievers—Daniel Hudson, Yimi Garcia, Pat Venditte and Edward Paredes all have FIPs over 5.00.

I think it goes without saying how much the relief corps is missing the presence of one Ross Stripling, who was jettisoned into the starting rotation a few weeks ago when injuries smoldered the starting rotation.

So far this season, the front office crew of the Dodgers has seemingly tried a ton of different arms in the big league pen, but none have had an overwhelming amount of success, sans Jansen. And although it may seem far away in the distance, the non-waiver trade deadline is right around the eight-week mark, and Los Angeles may need to find several trade partners if they’re committed to making any upgrades. Otherwise, the team may be limited to the farm crew to find a ray of hope which at this point, seems a bit unlikely.


7 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on an Otherwise Shoddy Bullpen

  1. With free time available last weekend (games through 5/20) I formulated a bullpen rating consisting of 2 variables:
    a. Percentage of team saves divided by save opportunities
    b. Bullpen players only: total wins as a percentage of decisions (a player whose won-lost record was 4-2 would equal
    67%. The theory being that even if a bullpen blows a save they can still have balancing statistics by winning the
    game with the same or a different reliever.
    The combination a “a’ + “b” = total score for the bullpen.
    The top 10 through May 20 with point total:
    Toronto (154-W-L = 11-2), Oakland (148), Colorado (141), Boston (140), Chi Cubs (133), Atlanta (132), NY Yankees(130), Seattle (130), Arizona (128) Milwaukee (126).
    The percentage of successful saves was 63%. Finishing last were the Dodgers (80) as their save percentage was
    41% (7 of 17 with Jansen having most of them. The bullpen’s won-lost record was worse (39%) as they had 7 wins against 11 losses.

    This is their major weakness as bullpen success is far more indicative of success than batting average or home runs.
    Arizona was last in the major leagues in batting average but first in an admittedly weak division but they were in first.
    place. All of the top ten except for Toronto and Oakland were in first or second place in their divisions.

    Issue #2: A large part of the decline in the effectiveness of the Dodger bullpen has to be placed on the front office or ownership if the owners gave a firm payroll limit with no exception. The loss of both Morrow and Watson is huge. As pointed out there is no bridge from starter to Jansen. Morrow signed for 21 million. What is the revenue loss and the gross margin loss if the Dodgers do not make the playoffs? Over the last three years the team has been real close to
    winning everything but a key player signing was missed.

    When Zack Greinke wanted a 6 year contract and 5 was the maximum offered, what was the present value of $30 million payable 6 years out? (13-15 million based on what discount rate is being used). Greinke was the missing piece
    for last year. Also, was he made serious offers before his opt out year began? If not and it was not due to Greinke not wanting to negotiate, then a large opportunity to close the deal was missed. The same questions are asked about Morrow and Watson. Could they have been secured much earlier in the season or worst case at the end of the year?

    It will be difficult to obtain at least 2 strong bullpen pitchers. Even if the Dodgers back into the playoffs, they simply do not have the bullpen to go very far. They might want to experiment with some of their minor league pitchers and try them out over the remainder of the season. Staying with a bullpen that is largely unqualified to pitch major league baseball does not accomplish anything.

  2. STILL ticked as hell that the front office didn’t keep Morrow around at the very least. He was the perfect 8th inning bridge to Jansen and as we all can very well see is doing just fine closing out games for the Cubbies this season. Then again, if all else fails they can always put Maeda back in the pen for late-inning relief. Man, what he did out of the pen in the postseason last year still has me lit like never before. He was like what Brad Peacock is to the Astros, a dominant multi-inning reliever. Otherwise, I sure don’t mind seeing them go after a Kelvin Herrera or whatever quality bullpen arm is currently languishing on a non-contender at this point in the season.

    1. If they’re in contention, which they should be, I think there’s about a 100% chance they’ll add at least one quality relief arm. Or at least an arm that Friedman considers quality.

  3. At least Kenley, the most important guy seems back on track. This year’s Morrow (Koehler) hasn’t pitched yet and may still be a major contributor to the pen. I think Alexander was an excellent pick up even though he’s been very uneven so far. By playoff time, we may be able to use Urias in the bullpen which could be a huge help if he’s healthy. Depending upon how well Hill and Ryu come back, Stripling or Maeda (or both) could be part of a playoff bullpen. If Liberatore could recapture his best Dodger pitching he would be a huge asset. Other than his dead arm issue, Cingrani has been quite effective. And then, of course, there’s the possibility of Santana in Sept-Oct. Add one quality relief arm to the above and we could have a great bullpen……………………………………….or it could all implode.

    1. Don’t forget Banuelos! He could factor in the bullpen mix too, especially if Stripling stays in the rotation for the remainder of the season (which I seriously pray does happen). Just had another quality outing for AAA OKC tonight going a solid 5 and allowing only a run (should’ve been none, but the umps down there somehow missed a batter’s interference call which should’ve gotten him out of the inning unscathed, lol). Dodgers could use him the same way they did Omar Daal back in the day and get immediate results.

      And yeah, Cingrani’s alright now. Prefer him in the 7th as part of an eventual 3-headed monster in that Dodger pen this season. Can’t wait to see who’ll become that 8th-inning head down the stretch. Maybe it’ll indeed be Koehler, maybe it’ll be someone unexpected…

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