How Much More Can Go Wrong for Dodgers?

(Photo by Stephen Carr, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

The good news is there are 34 games remaining on the regular season schedule, which is more than enough time for the Dodgers to climb back atop the NL West division. The bad news, however, is that whatever strategies the team tries in hopes of fixing its existing problems, nothing at all seems to work.

There’s no question the offense needs to shoulder some of the load for the club’s current standing, but the bullpen has been the biggest culprit for the team’s demise. Some would even say that the Los Angeles relief corps is plummeting at a rate that would make it among the worst in baseball.

Seemingly, closer Kenley Jansen has thrown as badly as he has in a long time, surrendering three home runs in back-to-back appearances while notching the losses in the contests against the Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday, leading to the Cardinals’ first sweep in Los Angeles in 12 years. Many believe Jansen’s problem to be rust due to a 10-day absence because of a-fib, yet skipper Dave Roberts believes it is a matter of execution. Regardless, chances are good that Jansen will rebound quickly, yet the future of the remainder of the bullpen remains to be seen.

While many of the contending clubs around baseball were loading up on relievers left and right at the non-waiver trade deadline last month, the front office crew of the Dodgers remained relatively quiet on the relief front, aside from a relatively insignificant trade for 35-year-old righty veteran John Axford. It was apparent, even to most of the fan base, that the team needed a bonafide eighth-inning guy to accompany Jansen at the backend. However, at the time, the Los Angeles management team believed there were enough internal options to fortify the bullpen in order to achieve a successful stretch run.

“I don’t know that we’re going to evolve into a team that has a pure eighth-inning guy, as opposed to kind of, matching up and playing out the end of the game that way,” Farhan Zaidi said. “We may look at different ways to play out the pitching staff, maybe some unconventional ways to do it, because we have a lot of guys who can give quality innings. Everything is going to be on the table.”

One of the moves made was bringing righty Kenta Maeda into the bullpen, yet in his first relief appearance against the Giants on August 14, he was touched up and tagged with the loss. Maeda looked very impressive in Monday’s 5-3 loss to St. Louis, yet the coaching staff decided to go with Alexander and Jansen during the late innings in the finale on Wednesday.

In a subsequent move to fortify the relief corps, All-Star right-hander Ross Stripling was shifted to a relief role, but recent back problems have kept him from pitching in that role.

Hard-throwing righty Josh Fields could be close to a return, as could young lefty Julio Urias. But it remains to be seen whether or not these few changes will make a difference.

While it’s certainly easy to point the finger at the front office, it’s tough not to trust its judgement, especially after securing five consecutive division titles and the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1988. Still, Andrew Friedman has always been labeled as one who prefers to build his bullpen economically from within, but that particular philosophy may finally end up coming back to haunt him this year.

Even if the bullpen can be mended to some degree, there’s still the offense, which some believed would be among the most prolific in the majors after acquiring Manny Machado and Brian Dozier at the non-waiver deadline. The bats have shown glimpses of their potential, but for the most part, they’re still underachieving. Whatever logic is used in constructing the nightly lineups and strategies against the opposing starting pitchers doesn’t seem to be working, mainly with runners in scoring position. Small ball seems to be a philosophy of the past while launch angles and long balls appear to be the modern-day trends, at least to Los Angeles management.

There’s no doubt that the 2018 Dodgers have a run or two left in their tank this year. There are seven games remaining against the division-leading Diamondbacks which could change the landscape of the division in a hurry—to either extreme.

Nonetheless, whatever Zaidi meant by “everything being on the table,” now is as good a time as any to start showing that particular hand.


9 thoughts on “How Much More Can Go Wrong for Dodgers?

  1. If this was only a boxing match the referee would stop the fight. The corner would throw in the towel. Please somebody make it stop. It’s too painful to watch! I have been a Dodger fan for many years but I never remember anything like these last 2 weeks. I don’t blame Roberts or Friedman. I don’t even blame the players. I blame myself. Ever since I joined this forum on Aug 9th the team has spiraled into total collapse. So for the good of Dodger nation I have decided to resign from thinkbluepc. I know you all will miss my brilliant insight into all things Dodger blue but please don’t beg me to stay. I’ve made up my mind. I’m gone. Like Keyser Soze!

    1. This same thing happened at about the same time last year. We had a two week lead at the time. Big difference.

      Jansen will be better, Fields and Urias will help. The bats?………..

      I think we pull it off. We win the West again. These are veteran players that know what needs to be done and they will do it.

      1. Actually he is. Got a nice fat contract from the Dbacks which also allows him to do some side work for the Rockies. 🙂

  2. Ethier is stil available, and he got clutch hits, whenever Mattingly wasn’t screwing with him or the batting order.

  3. Turner Ward is supposed to be the Dodgers hitting coach.What is his “secret”to hitting success?Swing for the fences on any pitch near the plate?

  4. Remember folks, Dodgers are still in the playoff race until they are “mathematically” eliminated. Until then, buckle up and hang on for dear life.

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