It was the biggest worry of Dodgers fans last season, and it proved to be the fault in the plan. Clayton Kershaw was once again left in too long, for what we can assume was because there was no faith in who would come after him. The Dodgers bullpen has failed them more often than not when it matters in the postseason.
Although they have been mostly quiet so far this offseason, the only noise the front office has made came in hopes of solidifying that shaky bullpen. Blake Treinen was signed to a one year, $10 million deal. Jimmy Nelson was also signed to a one year deal, to be a part either of the starting rotation or the bullpen. There additional lower-level signings, hoping that a shot in the dark might just pan out.
The anchor of that bullpen, Kenley Jansen, has not been without his own trouble as the closer. Media and fans alike questioned whether he should remain the closer, after multiple leads lost both in the regular season and in the playoffs, and not just over the last season. Jansen has seen his dominance diminish from his highs in the middle of the decade.
Jansen was often short with reporters when answering questions about his performance during some games, leading some fans to think that he was putting his ego before the team.
Yesterday, Jansen was a guest on High Heat with Christopher Russo. The Mad Dog asked him if the early exit from the 2019 playoffs will help with him being more fresh for 2020. Jansen said that while the team obviously didn’t want to go out like that, he’s looking at it as a blessing in disguise, that his arm can have more rest.
Kenley has been spotted at Dodger Stadium often this winter, and stated that he was working there until December 22, when he went home for the holidays. He also said that he went to Driveline in Seattle to work on his mechanics and his cutter.
Driveline is a program that helps to revitalize pitchers’ careers once they’ve hit a decline. It was founded by Kyle Boddy, now with the Cincinnati Reds organization. In December, the Dodgers hired Rob Hill of Driveline to be their pitching coordinator.
As you can see, Rob’s philosophy is to change the game from the inside out, and always believes that there is more in the tank.
Part of what has made Kenley less effective is the lack of movement on his cutter, the pitch that he has relied on the most. The willingness to work so much with the new pitching coaches and staff, and to try new things signals to me that even if he doesn’t regain complete top form, Kenley will be back to being a dominant closer again.
“People have got to understand with us not making moves, we had a really good team. We gotta be competitive and try to get back to the playoffs “
Surely the new pitching coaching staff will not only help with Jansen, but also with Treinen, Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez and any other arms that make their way there. They could get Scott Alexander back to form after his surgery. All the other arms that Dennis highlighted in Wednesday’s column, including Dennis Santana. Imagine if the Dodger bullpen has all of those weapons hitting their stride together. They won’t need anyone else—they’ll be a force to be reckoned￼ with all their own.