Aside from the whole clutch performance thing we discussed yesterday, the most glaring weakness of the Dodgers has undoubtedly been the bullpen, especially at the back-end. Kenley Jansen may be at a point where he’s deemed undependable. In the meantime, though, who should be the closer, at least until Jansen figures things out?
It remains to be seen how skipper Dave Roberts and his staff will utilize Jansen in the interim, but there are a few options for him to fix his problems. Simply, he could remain the closer until all his issues are ironed out, which seems like the way Los Angeles will go. And he will iron them out like he did earlier in the year—there’s more than enough time in the regular season to make that happen. Secondly, the Dodgers could elect to use him in lower-leverage situations, sort of like how lefty Caleb Ferguson was eased into the relief corps earlier in the season. Lastly, there’s a little bit of time left on the minor league schedules for Jansen to complete a minor league stint without his performance affecting the crucial outcomes of the big league club.
Immediately after jansen was sent to the DL with his a-fib problem, Roberts tried just about every possibility at his disposal. Kenta Maeda, Zac Rosscup, JT Chargois, Dylan Floro and Scott Alexander were all victimized in the days following Jansen’s placement on the shelf, and the Dodgers found themselves falling fast in the divisional standings. Jansen was cleared to pitch right at the time he was eligible to be activated—giving the impression that the bullpen was headed for better days—but his latest performances have been less than stellar. Through three games since his return on August 20, he has given up five earned runs on seven hits—four of which were long balls. Jansen himself has even admitted that his location is off, often leaving the ball chest-high in the hitters’ wheelhouses, right out over the plate.
All of the options available to Roberts have faltered at some point. Julio Urias and Josh Fields will join the team when rosters expand on September 1; however, neither have the makeup of a true, dependable ninth-inning arm. Ferguson may have the best metrics of the entire crew at the moment, but there are a few doubts with the southpaw, especially on the experience front. Chargois, Rosscup, Ross Stripling, newcomer John Axford, Daniel Hudson, Tony Cingrani and Erik Goeddel are among the relievers on a crowded disabled list, leaving Roberts’ options extremely limited.
Maeda could conceivably have the highest ceiling among the entire group as a reliever, especially when considering his relief performances in previous years. Last season, he was known to touch speeds in excess of 94 MPH with his four-seam, although on Saturday evening against the Padres he was sitting right at his normal 91 MPH. He took the loss against the Giants in his first relief appearance of the season on August 14, but he hasn’t looked bad since, despite throwing in just two games.
Ferguson may also be considered, but he threw two innings on Saturday, likely making him questionable for the finale on Sunday. It’s tough to imagine that Roberts would turn to Alexander or Pedro Baez with the game on the line, but crazier things have happened.
My vote is for Maeda, as I think he gives the Dodgers the best chance to win at the moment, as shallow as those chances may be. Roberts confirmed that Jansen would indeed be down on Sunday, letting the door open for Maeda, at least for one day.
Or, the Dodgers could decide to stick with Jansen, as hinted by Roberts in Saturday’s postgame, and let him work out his problems in save situations during a time where the outcome of each contest is critical. After a day off on Monday, the Dodgers head to Texas for a quick two-game series against the Rangers before hosting the Diamondbacks in a four-game set that will perhaps be the biggest series of the year for Los Angeles thus far.