Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on an Otherwise Shoddy Bullpen

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(Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

It’s all that everyone’s been talking about—with good reason. What many followers of the Dodgers have considered to be the team’s biggest weakness all year long is finally proving to be true. It took an illness from the team’s All-Star closer to prove, but what folks are now learning is that Kenley Jansen was the single cog which was seemingly holding the entire Los Angeles relief corps together.

After the bullpen’s latest debacle—a 3-2 walkoff loss at the hands of Ryan McMahon and the Rockies—the initial instincts of fans were to point fingers at almost every imaginable entity in the organization. Skipper Dave Roberts and his staff were blamed for making the incorrect late-game personnel decisions, Andrew Friedman and his executive management crew were criticized for not providing more bullpen help at the non-waiver trade deadline, and ownership was even lambasted for forcing the front office to remain under the luxury tax threshold in an effort to avoid harsher penalties. As recently as a few weeks ago, most of these claims would have been considered far-fetched; however, when contemplating where the team may be headed in the immediate future, each statement may have at least a little bit of credibility right now.

For a team that was once believed to be one of the deepest in baseball, it only took one player’s trip to the disabled list to reveal its biggest weakness. The organization may have outfielders and catchers galore, but, at the moment, there’s nobody in sight within the entire system who’s capable of bringing quality relief to an otherwise shoddy bullpen.

Some people have been discussing Friedman’s philosophy of undervaluing his relief corps and his unwillingness to invest a large portion of the club’s payroll to construct a formidable crew. Last year, the team got very lucky with the emergence of Brandon Morrow and it showed with a very strong run in the postseason. Coupled with healthy Jansen—who was no doubt a workhorse during the 2017 playoffs—the bullpen was part of a squad who came within a short grasp of winning a World Championship. Whether or not a more capable relief corps would have made a difference last year is nothing more than conjecture. But what we are seeing across the majors right now is that contending clubs in both leagues are still loading up on relievers via waiver trades, while the Dodgers are staying quiet, hoping that a few arms who are currently on the disabled list may make a difference over the next six weeks.

It was almost alarming to see righty J.T. Chargois on the hill Saturday night in what may have conceivably been the most critical inning of the entire four-game set in Colorado. I’m not defending Roberts by any means (regardless of his reasoning), but truth be told, there weren’t many options that were overwhelmingly better. An eight-man crew consisting of Chargois, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, John Axford, Pedro Baez, Pat Venditte and Zac Rosscup is nothing to write home about in the least. Baez fell apart on Thursday night, while it was Rosscup who got touched-up for the big hit on Friday evening. Chargois, who would have had no right being on the mound in that situation for another club with a reputable ‘pen, was victimized on Saturday. And there’s no telling what lies ahead in the days and weeks to come.

I guess one could say that the general construction of the relief crew was orchestrated poorly this year, as guys like Venditte, Chargois and Daniel Hudson were considered as players that nobody else wanted, except for perhaps providing depth at the fringe level. Rosscup and Erik Goeddel were snagged on the waiver wire after their respective clubs, the Rockies and the Mariners, had sent them out to pasture. Baez is still wearing the Blue for reasons unbeknownst to many. And Ferguson, who has been of the few bright spots in the bullpen lately, has had no big league relief experience aside from this summer.

As it stands now, there seems to be a few plausible options as the team is waiting for several arms to finish up their individual recoveries from injuries. Lefty Julio Urias has been somewhat impressive in rehab, but he has not thrown in a big league game since May of last year. Fields has an astounding fly ball rate and surrendered a scary 1.6 HR/9 last year, yet he could be one of the better options moving forward. Yimi Garcia may have been rushed back too soon and is likely gone for the year. Tony Cingrani is still stagnant in his recovery with no set timetable for a return. And Hudson, along with Goeddel, are not attractive options in the least when considering the recent portions of their pedigrees.

There has been some talk of moving righty Kenta Maeda to the back-end of the bullpen, which certainly couldn’t hurt. Some of our readers have even suggested moving Clayton Kershaw into a temporary closer’s role. One may laugh, but having Kersh on the Hill two out of every three days in critical game spots may actually be more valuable than him starting one game every five days.

Whatever the team decides, it better be good, because if the bullpen continues to collapse at the rate it has this weekend, there may be no playoff baseball come October.

 

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

  1. I hear that Wood is coming off the DL to start on Tuesday so that would seemingly eliminate him from going to the bullpen any time soon. I would have thought that his makeup would have made him a candidate for closer, but this would be another indication that Maeda is headed for the bullpen. Ryu is also coming back within the next week and past actions by Roberts indicate that they aren’t likely to use him in relief so that means another starter to the pen. My guess, assuming Kersh doesn’t step up and volunteer to be closer, would be that Stripling will head to the pen. Buehler has been so much better starting than in relief that there is no way I’d move him to the pen at this point. That would leave the rotation in the hands of CK, Hill, Buehler, Wood, Ryu. If no one is added to the bullpen from the farm, the relievers would be Maeda, Stripling, Alexander, Floro, Ferguson and a choice of three from Axford, Chargois, Rosscup, Baez and Venditte with Fields, Hudson, Goeddel and Urias available in the next couple of weeks. It’s possible that within the next 10 days or so, we have a fairly decent bullpen. Now we just have to hope we don’t drop 8-10 games behind the Dbacks/Rockies in the next 10 days.

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      1. Depending on how Maeda and Stripling perform in the bullpen, if Goeddel turns out to be the worst guy in our pen, we’ll be in much better shape than we are today. It would help if our offense started producing and every pitch that the starters and bullpen guys threw wasn’t a high stress situation.

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      2. It would probably also help if they didn’t let a guy who was hitting .216/.293/.432 bat cleanup. I love his defense, but he has no right batting fourth. He’s actually hitting RHP better than he’s hitting southpaws this year. At some point, you gotta stop relying on numbers solely and just throw your best lineup out there consistently.

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  2. I really believe that Friedman and friends are extremely sharp and basically do a very good job. I would sure like to know exactly what the thought process was at the deadline that resulted in their not doing anything to shore up the pen with one or two high-end relievers. They are sharp enough that they certainly could have found a way around the luxury tax so what in the world was the reasoning that resulted in what we have today? There were tons of possibilities out there a number of whom will probably be available this winter if we want to spend the prospect capital, but that ain’t gonna help us now. What were you thinking Andrew?

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      1. Like I said, I’d love to know what their thought process was, although in fairness to Axford, after he gave up 23 runs in his first performance and a leadoff triple the next time out, he’s been great!

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      1. Apparently that strategy is not working. It seems like the rest of the guys have bludgeoned Manny and Dozier into submission.

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  3. Our bullpen has been very unsatisfactory since Kenley went down, no doubt about that, but the offense has been pretty awful also. Every day I look at the lineup and say these guys should be able to score 5-6 runs minimum. We’ve played 23 games since the All Star break (since we traded for Manny) and we’ve scored 3 or fewer runs in 11 of them.

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      1. I absolutely love to watch Dozier play. To look at him, he certainly doesn’t seem like a speedster, but he stole second today and then stole third because he did a great job in reading where everyone was positioned. He’s also a way above average fielder, not to mention a good addition to the lineup. I’m sure the Silver Fox is happy to see someone like that taking over for him this year. If the price is right (not even sure what number that would be) I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing him back here for the next couple of years, although I very much doubt he’d settle for a two year contract.

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      1. I think you’ll find that stats show he hits better in the lower half of the order although I’ll admit the upper half stats are a small sample size. That said, the guys who supposedly hit better than Puig in the upper half of the order aren’t hitting.

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      2. And this is why I believe he should be hittinb in the upper half of the line up. When he’s hot he’s hot and his RBI total would be up to zipper up the comments by the Puig haters–which in my opinion is childish and unwarranted.

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  4. This sure feels different than last year. From Kershaw down to last man on this rotating roster it just feels like this team has peaked. Hope I’m wrong about that.

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    1. I’m not sure if they’ve peaked or if they never got to the top of the mountain in the first place. Kershaw, Kenley, CT3, Bellinger, JT, Barnes, Wood. Those are some very major parts to last year’s team who, either due to injury or just a dip in performance, haven’t reached last year’s levels. Even Machado, since he’s been here, has underperformed. If you believe in reversion to the mean, we could be in for quite a spectacular finish. If this year’s mountain turns out to be just a hill, it’s another “Wait until next year.”

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      1. Hey Steve, keep your chin up. Between injuries and underperformance we haven’t had the kind of year we were anticipating, but everything could come together beginning tonight and we could win the division by 10 games…………..……….or finish fourth.

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  5. Brock Stewart and Stetson Allie? Sure, why not. Stewart has pitched well at OKC and Allie at 6’2” 230 looks like an NFL linebacker. Fresh meat. Throw him in there.

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    1. I’m OK with an Allie experiment, but please let poor Stewart finish the year as a starter in OKC. They really screwed him up by doing the Venditte shuttle with him earlier in the year and he became totally useless. Let him regain his confidence this year before screwing with him again. I think Brock is destined for a decent major league career…………..…………in another team’s uniform. At least now he’s rebuilding his trade value.

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