Early Thoughts About a Prospective Playoff Bullpen

Pedro-Baez-3
(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

While it’s probably entirely too early to start projecting how the exact 2020 postseason roster might look for the Dodgers, it’s not too soon to think about how the team might go about building it.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers officially entered the second stanza of the season by suffering a 10-8 extra-inning loss to the Giants. Normally, the halfway mark of the year would mean that the team has plenty of time to iron out any roster wrinkles before the playoffs, but in the case of the crazy 2020 campaign, there’s only about five weeks to go before the first pitch of the postseason is thrown.

Indeed, there will be some serious decisions that need to be made with regards to the starting postseason rotation. In turn, those decisions may lead to the secondary makeup of the bullpen. Obviously, injuries will play a key role, but being that there are at least seven bonafide, big league starters among the player pool, whatever pitchers aren’t included in the playoff rotation might find themselves throwing in relief.

As it stands, the Dodgers have a total of nine relievers who have already made double-digit appearances this year. Of those nine, six have an ERA under 2.00, including three pitchers—Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson and Jake McGee—who have an ERA under 1.00. While ERA isn’t exactly the best measuring stick of a reliever’s performance, four of those same six—Floro, Ferguson, McGee and Kenley Jansen—all have a WHIP below 0.72.

So, as far as locks go, assuming they stay healthy down the stretch, it’s probably safe to deduce that Jansen, Floro, Ferguson, McGee, Blake Treinen and Scott Alexander make up the central core of the postseason bullpen. 21-year-old righty Brusdar Graterol has probably done enough to be included, as has Adam Kolarek, who, believe it or not, has posted a ridiculous 0.400 WHIP in the 10.0 innings he has pitched this year. If Kolarek makes the playoff relief crew, that would total a whopping four southpaws on the roster, and that doesn’t even include Victor Gonzalez, who has certainly been serviceable, or Julio Urias, who may find himself eventually getting pushed out of the playoff rotation mix completely.

According to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, relief pitcher Pedro Baez is now on the mend. The pain in Baez’s groin has finally subsided, and the righty recently began a throwing regimen. That puts him ahead of Joe Kelly, who still doesn’t have a target date. Once/if Kelly does come back, he’ll need to serve a five-game suspension stemming from an incident with the Astros last month. Alex Wood appears to be in the same boat as Kelly, sans the suspension. Wood could find himself in danger of not being ready for the playoffs—as a starter or reliever—should he not make any progress soon.

Like Urias, right-hander Ross Stripling could conceivably be on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff rotation spot if his effectiveness does not improve. Over his last five starts and 22-2/3 innings pitched, Stripling has posted a 6.75 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP.

Similarly, Dennis Santana is fading quickly from inclusion on the prospective playoff roster.

On the flip side, Tony Gonsolin has been one of the golden jewels of the entire staff. Seemingly, the 26-year-old righty will be included on the postseason roster in some shape or form. Currently, he’s keeping his arm loose at the team’s alternate training site.

Again, aside from those six core relievers, it’s too soon to start filling out the remainder of the prospective relief corps for the playoffs, but fans shouldn’t be surprised if a few normal starting pitchers eventually make their way into the postseason bullpen.

Just a few things to consider with less than 30 games to go in the regular season.

3 thoughts on “Early Thoughts About a Prospective Playoff Bullpen

  1. I hope they get Baez back soon. I also hope they send Santana down and bring up White or Gray and give them some experience. Doubleheader tomorrow since last nights game was postponed. Kersh in the first game.

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      1. Buehler’s placement retro to the 23rd. so he is only going to miss one start. He is eligible to return on the 1st. A couple observations early in this game. 1. This ump sux. 2. Does anyone on this team know how to PROTECT THE PLATE?

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