When the Dodgers play the Nationals in their 41st game at the end of next week, they will pass the one-quarter point of the regular season. As it stands now, Kelly’s performance has been atrocious. His WHIP is a whopping 1.95, which is dreadful. Along those same lines, perhaps the craziest stat of all is that he has surrendered an abominable 15.5 hits per nine innings of work.
On Saturday night against the Padres, Kelly nearly cost his team another victory. He gave up three hits and a walk before being pulled. He recorded just one out.
If you pay attention to ERA for relievers, the righty has given up 15 earned runs on 23 hits and three walks over just 13-1/3 innings of work, translating to a 10.13 ERA. It’s clear he has not simply had a stretch of bad luck—the guy is flat out getting hammered.
It’s not like skipper Dave Roberts is using Kelly in critical situations as of late. Recently, Kelly has been given fresh innings to start, with no baserunners to be of concern. Furthermore, he has appeared mostly in in lower-leverage innings. To boot, Kelly’s leash has seemingly become shorter.
At the beginning of the season, Kelly was believed to be the club’s designated “eighth-inning bridge” to closer Kenley Jansen. However, ever since tweaking his back during a southern-fried crawfish cookout he held for his teammates this spring at his home in Scottsdale, things have gone South.
Kelly has always given the Dodgers trouble when he was a member of the Cardinals and the Red Sox. This year, he has given the Dodgers trouble while wearing the beloved Blue.
Maybe he’s pitching through another injury. Perhaps it’s a mechanical issue. Maybe he is tipping pitches. Or, perhaps it’s a complete lack of self-confidence. Either way, he is definitely not the same pitcher he was for Boston during the 2018 postseason.
Of course, things weren’t exactly peachy for Kelly during the entirety of 2018. He was actually in danger of being left off’s Boston’s postseason roster at the beginning of the playoffs. Over 73 appearances and 65-2/3 in the 2018 regular season, he tallied a 3.57 WHIP, a 1.355 WHIP and a 4.39 ERA.
Here’s what happened to Kelly during a seven-week stretch last summer:
Nevertheless, in the World Series against the Dodgers, he made five appearances, allowing no earned runs on just four hits over six innings thrown. This is the Joe Kelly that Los Angeles hopes to see very soon.
Kelly’s contract is huge when considering the standard for relief pitchers today. He signed a three-year deal just a few days before Christmas worth a guaranteed $25 million. He will soon receive a $1 million signing bonus, a $3 million salary for 2019 and $8.5 million in each of the next two seasons. The contract includes a team option for 2022 for $12 million with a $4 million buyout.
The contract also includes incentive clauses that pay him $250,000 for each milestone of 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games finished and $500,000 for 60 games finished, as unlikely as they are.
Obviously, the 30-year-old veteran doesn’t have any options remaining on his contract. If he continues to throw poorly, it could put the club in a difficult position as far as roster choices go. For the Dodgers, hopefully it doesn’t go that far.