As there’s still a ton of work to be done before a playoff spot is secure, the Dodgers can at least take solace in the fact that they control their own destiny, while not needing to depend on anyone else for help during the final few regular season games. That being said, the magic number is five with five games remaining on the schedule—two more against the Diamondbacks and three against the Giants in San Francisco. They won’t be easy contests by any means, but at the same time, Los Angeles certainly has the talent to win all five if they need to.
If the Dodgers do indeed clinch a spot in the postseason, team management will need to act very quickly in terms of creating a 25-man postseason roster. There will be plenty of spots which are “givens,” but there will also be a handful which garner plenty of speculation. The bullpen, which has seemingly been the problem child of the roster for most of the season, will be one of those areas surrounded by plenty of scrutiny.
Without using an overwhelming number of statistics, I thought it would be interesting to try and narrow down the roster to the eight best relievers, as eight could very well the number of relief arms the club opts to utilize.
Justifiably, Kenley Jansen has faced plenty of criticism lately. Since returning from the disabled list on August 20, he has made 15 appearances, allowing nine earned runs on 16 hits (five long balls) and three walks over 14-2/3 innings of work. The nine earned runs translate to a 5.52 ERA over that period, but what’s even more scary is that the OPS by the opposition against him is .894. To be sure, there’s not much time left affording Jansen a window to “make things right.” And while there are options in place should he falter, much of the Dodgers’ postseason success could theoretically hinge on Jansen’s effectiveness. Still, he’s far and away the leader of the relief crew.
While Kenta Maeda is probably the second-best closing option, he’s likely to be the optimal eighth-inning alternative to bridge the gap to Kenley. Maeda seems to be getting better each time out. He’s been brilliant over his last three appearances, allowing just one baserunner while striking out six.
I think the team will employ two left-handed pitchers, and unfortunately, Tony Cingrani isn’t one of them. I believe that as versatile as he is, Scott Alexander will be used in a LOOGY capacity, should the team be in that type of situation. Beileve it or not, over the course of the regular season, Alexanger led the entire relief crew in appearances with 68. Caleb Ferguson is definitely one of the top options on the club in relief, regardless of his handedness, and may actually rival Maeda for the eighth-inning role.
Righty All-Star Ross Stripling will be a mainstay in the bullpen should the Dodgers make it to the playoffs, as the club will need just four starting arms—at the most. Stripling has filled in admirably as a starter recently, but should have no problem at all transitioning back to the bullpen in the postseason.
So, as far as the five locks go, I’m going with Jansen, Maeda, Stripling, Ferguson and Alexander—a quintet with which very few people would argue.
The secondary wave of relievers is a little more difficult to determine. Much to the dismay of many fans, Pedro Baez will likely be among the crew of eight relievers, like it or not. And Dylan Floro‘s stuff is just too good to keep him off the payoff roster, despite what his regular-season statistics show. Consequently, Josh Fields has thrown well enough in his five appearances since being reinstated to secure the final roster spot.
That leaves a number of arms like Zac Rosscup, Yimi Garcia, JT Chargois, John Axford and Pat Venditte off the roster entirely. More significantly, it doesn’t leave any open spots for either Ryan Madson or Alex Wood, both of whom have been borderline horrible in their recent outings. Madson has a 8.53 ERA since joining the Dodgers, and Wood has not been impressive in the least since being shifted to the bullpen.
As it stand right now, here’s how my eight-man crew stacks up:
- Kenley Jansen
- Kenta Maeda
- Ross Stripling
- Caleb Ferguson
- Scott Alexander
- Pedro Baez
- Dylan Floro
- Josh Fields
Of course, it’s conceivable that management could decide to play with a short bench and use nine relievers, giving an opportunity to either Wood or Madson. And it’s entirely possible that somebody else could have an advantage based on their past performances against the prospective opponent. But, for the time being, this is the crew I’m going with.
—If the Dodgers are indeed able to clinch a playoff spot.