Is There Enough Time for Dodgers to Optimize the 2019 Bullpen?


If I had a nickel for each time we discussed the Dodgers‘ bullpen this season, I’d probably be able to payoff my 2019 subscription with ease.

I’m not exactly sure how many posts Andy and I published abut the Los Angeles relief crew, but I can say with certainty they started appearing frequently when Joe Kelly began struggling early in the season. In spring training, based on the way things were shaping up, a seventh, eighth and ninth inning crew of Pedro Baez, Kelly and Kenley Jansen had the potential to be among the best in baseball.

If only that was the way it turned out.

As most of you know, I despise using ERA to measure the success of a relief crew, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why broadcasters continue to religiously preach it when it comes to how effective a relief pitcher actually is.

For those who don’t follow me, let’s just say there are two outs in the eighth inning of a game with runners on first and second base. To this point, Clayton Kershaw has thrown 7-2/3 innings of shutout ball, only to give way to give way to righty Yimi Garcia, he of the supreme spin rate. Kersh and the team have a 1-0 lead, and he is throwing one of his trademark tantrums about coming out of the game. There’s a right-handed hitter at the plate, and Yimi surely matches up better against him.

Anyway, Garcia gives up a single to load the bases. Thinking that Yimi put the ball in a good location and was the victim of bad luck, Dave Roberts lets Garcia face the subsequent batter who is another righty hitter. Boom. Line-drive single to left field. Opposition takes the lead, 2-1. Both runs are charged to Kersh and Garcia still has a clean ERA for the evening. None of these runs are figured into the collective ERA for the squad’s bullpen. Now, you can understand part of the reasoning for Kershaw wanting to stay in the game and finish what he created. Thus, the tantrums.

Obviously, the storylines of games aren’t quite like this every night. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the offense of the Dodgers is a mammoth juggernaut. Often, there are contests when the team finds victory by double-digit margins, especially against the rebuilding squads who are cemented at the bottom of their respective divisions. Without this outstanding production at the plate, who knows how the team would stack up.

In spite of everything, it still looks like the Dodgers could have some potential problems in the postseason when it comes to the bullpen. Just when it seems like Kenley has his cutter working, Petey and Kelly struggle to close down the seventh and eighth innings and vice-versa. This has been the roller-coaster the relief corps has been riding all year.

Speaking of Kelly, his stuff continues to improve, at least when compared to his ugly performances earlier in the year. In 21-1/3 innings of work over his last 23 appearances, he has surrendered just three earned runs on 15 hits and six walks while striking out 28—a sign that at least his control is coming back.

Kenley, on the other hand, now has six blown saves on the season, matching his highest total since 2012 when he had seven. Jansen has given up 11 earned runs on 22 hits and six walks over his last 22 innings of work. Some people are even calling for Jansen and Kelly to switch roles.

Whether you realize it or not, the Dodgers now have 22 blown saves on the season as a team, which is tied for second in the National League. Of course, five-plus weeks is still plenty of time to try and right the ship. Ross Stripling will be back. Kenta Maeda will make his home in the bullpen soon. Julio Urias, who has been one of the most effective pitchers for the Dodgers in relief this year, will rejoin the team in the blink of an eye.

The biggest concern, though, is the effectiveness of Jansen. Many pundits feel that the success of the Dodgers in this year’s playoffs rides on the shoulders of the 31-year-old native of Curacao.

Is there enough time for Kenley to find his peak before the beginning of the postseason? Will he regain his confidence, fix the mechanical issues that have caused his frequent ineffectiveness?

As fans, we can only sit back and wait. In the meantime, Roberts, who traditionally shows unwavering support for all his players, doesn’t see a need to make any changes to his otherwise mediocre relief crew.

“Right now, Kenley’s (still) our closer,” Roberts said after Walker Buehler‘s statline was robbed of another victory on Wednesday night.

Fasten your seatbelts, fans. Over the next several weeks, it’s gonna be a fun, but rocky ride.


16 thoughts on “Is There Enough Time for Dodgers to Optimize the 2019 Bullpen?

  1. I think you have to stick with Jansen and like Kersh and his reduced fast ball rate Jansen has to mix it up more with his slider and four seamer. Kelly figured it out maybe Kenley can as well. Feel bad for the guy. He has been such a stud and a great teammate! Pulling for you Kenley!


  2. 34 games left. They can certainly see what they have. Like we all know, not much available at AAA although there are some down there with MLB experience. Not much on the waiver wire either. The ones who have been waived are not what anyone would classify as elite. Gonzalez who many were touting has only pitched 9 innings and his ERA is over 4. Quackenbush has fallen off a lot the last 2 weeks. My question is who is this Zack McKinstry kid? He has 7 HR’s in the 16 games he has played with 25 RBI’s Batting .482 with a .517 OBP and 1.517 OPS. 14 of his 27 hits have been for extra bases. He is a second baseman and Lux has been playing SS. I think they will stick Maeda, Stripling and May in the pen for a while. I would rather see Gonsolin in the pen. He is more mature than May, and has shown some serious stuff. Kelly for me is the closer for now.


    1. Zach McKinstry… an American film and television actor and voice-over artist. He is known for his roles in television series Shameless as Jody, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as Anton …… wait, that’s Zach MacGowan.

      McKinstry. Never heard of him. So I googled him. He’s Chriké Taynandez. . The guy has played every outfield position and all three four finger glove infield positions. He can hack. Do we need him? Of course not. Unless he can relieve too.


  3. Pirates released Francisco Cervelli today so he can catch on with a contender. Dodgers had interest in the off-season, could they maybe see him as an offensive upgrade to Russel Martin? Lots of concussions to deal with.


  4. Forget spin rate, Kenley doesn’t pass the eyeball test. He hasn’t been right all year. Maybe he lost too much weight? Maybe it has something to do with his heart meds (assuming he’s on meds). Bottomline: He can’t be trusted. Closing in the playoffs requires a closer/arm that can over power big time bats. A 92 mph, slightly moving cutter ain’t cutting it (pun intended).

    It’s time to put Kelley in some of these high leverage situations to see.



    Sabermetrics, and those who use them, haven’t valued a relievers ERA highly for about 8 years now. Do they do their jobs, shutdowns, or not, meltdowns. A lot goes into “win probability”, but this individual stat let’s you know what teams are better at getting the job done. Currently the Dodgers are 9th with 73 meltdowns. They are 24th with 89 shutdowns. Fewest – Cleveland. Most – Brewers. Shutdowns? Most – Giants (144) . Fewest – Marlins. For the record the Astros aren’t that good either. Yankees are. Rays are.,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2019-01-01&enddate=2019-12-31&sort=14,d

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t understand why they sent Casey Sadler down for Florida the other day. I know he’s back now but he never should have been sent down. He’s been lights out since we got him and he does it without a big time strikeout pitch.


    1. Honestly, I think they just wanted to see how good Floro’s stuff looked at the big league level. Floro’s mom messaged me and told me he’s not the least bit injured. They need Ferguson because he’s a lefty and Yimi doesn’t have any options. So, Sadler was the odd man out.


  7. Just got back from vacation, and this is the first game I got to watch in a week and a half. What a finish. Bring on those damn Yankees.


  8. Actually before one of you point it out, your right our offense sucked for eight innings, and but that was one heck of a finish.


  9. Match ups for the Yankees. Ryu-Paxton, Gonsolin-Sabathia, Kershaw-German. Paxton is 9-6 with an ERA above 4. Sabathia is 5-7 ERA right at 5 and German is 16-3 with an ERA of 4.15. The bats will have to jump on these guys early because the Yanks bullpen is very good. Chapman has 35 saves. As a team they have over 50 saves. Believe it or not, LA pitchers have not had close to that many opportunities for a save. There are some players on the Yanks that the Dodgers know well. Ottovino out of the pen, former Rockie, Lemahieu, Valera, Maybin, Voit, Gregorious. The only pitchers on the Yankees with under 3 ERA’s are members of their pen. Yankee pitching is 16th in the majors, the Dodgers 1st. Yankees give up a .253 BA against their staff, LA .229. Yanks have allowed 210 HR’s, LA, although it seems like a lot more only 146. LA pitchers have walked 100 less. K;s are about the same. The formula to beat them is get to their starters and then shut down that offense. You are not going to do a lot of damage against their pen. The Yanks are coming off of a series where they scored 9 runs and were swept by the A’s. They currently are 2 games back of the Dodgers for the best record. I like our chances with the pitching we can throw at them. Dodgers have a 20plus game lead in the division for only the second time in their history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re favored today. The game I’m most interested in is the Gonsolin game. If he can throttle that lineup it will be a huge step for him making the post season roster.


  10. Our bats better wake up this weekend! It will be interesting to see how our starting pitching holds up against that lineup Big challenge for Ryu and Kersh


    1. Yeah, big challenge. The Yankees clobbered our Cy Young candidate “pay the man NOW” ace starting pitcher on his home mound and they made it look easy. Maybe just a glitch, but, message received. Take the next two and send our own message.


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