Dodgers Bullpen: Who’s the Best 8th-Inning Relief Option?

While most pieces of the bullpen have shown flashes of brilliance during the young 2017 campaign, Friday evening’s implosion against the Diamondbacks left many fans of the Dodgers wondering if the relief corps has the structural integrity to hold up over the long haul, or if the front office crew will feel the need to go shopping for a few upgrades before the trade deadline arrives in July.

Nobody’s anywhere near a panic point just yet, though. Fans will remember the beginning of the 2016 season, when the relief corps was nothing short of a nightmare. Besides Kenley Jansen, relievers Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez were believed to be the best late-inning options, as the Dodgers’ bullpen struggled for nearly a month to establish some sort of identity. Yet once the management crew was able to develop critical player data regarding matchups, righty Joe Blanton quickly settled into the chief setup role, and along with the emergence of Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore, the Dodgers’ crew eventually proved to be among the best in baseball.

Needless to say, there were some ups and downs. Coleman and Liberatore suffered significant injuries, perhaps from over-usage, and were never the same upon returning from the disabled list. Hatcher went on the shelf in July with a strained oblique and never came back at all. On the plus side, Ross Stripling evolved into a very dependable long man. Grant Dayton emerged from Triple-A Oklahoma City and showed tremendous value. Jesse Chavez and Josh Fields, who were both acquired right before the trade deadline, also made key contributions down the stretch run of the regular season. Josh Ravin returned from a half-year suspension to flaunt his triple-digit heater, showing fans that the Dodgers have a surprising amount of depth in the pen heading into 2017.

As it stands now, gone are Blanton, Coleman and Chavez. Dayton and Ravin are sitting on the disabled list struggling with injuries, while Liberatore is throwing at OKC trying to make a case for his inclusion on the big league roster. Alex Wood, who appeared to have some much-needed firepower for the relief crew, has already been shuffled back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation. And Hatcher has been used sparingly so far, appearing mainly in low-leverage situations or when the club is in need of a multiple-inning, mop-up type of role.

Fans also believed that the signing of righty reliever Sergio Romo would help bridge the gap to Jansen, assuming that the 34-year-old still had the tools to be an effective eighth-inning setup option, which he certainly is not. As it would appear that Romo would be phenomenal in a ROOGY (Righty One-Out GuY) role, his effectiveness against left-handed batters is often questioned.

Over the course of his 10-year career versus right-handed hitters, Romo has a stellar .188/.230/.313 slash line against, while surrendering a .241/.306/.366 line to lefty batters. Because of injuries, 2016 saw his vitals elevate against hitters from both sides of the dish, but over 70 games during his age-32 season in 2015, he tallied an amazing .170/.181/.286 line against righties, while surrendering whopping .371/.443/.486 averages against left-handed hitters. There’s no doubt that there’s a definite role on the club for Romo moving forward, but it may not be in the capacity that many fans perceived at the beginning of the campaign.

Baez certainly has the potential to be an eighth-inning savior, yet there’s still several aspects of his overall game that need polished before he shines in that particular role. Stripling and Dayton have turned many heads during their short stints in the bigs, but the sample sizes of both are still relatively small to be considered formidable setup options for Jansen.

Looking ahead, while an upgrade would indeed provide the club with more constructive alternatives down the road, there may be just enough relief depth in the system to get by until the trade deadline, barring any additional epidemic of injuries. And as the 2017 calendar has yet to turn to May, there’s still plenty of time for skipper Dave Roberts and his staff to evaluate his relievers, and to calculate more formulas while figuring which pitchers fill each specific relief role.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Advertisements

How Will Dodgers Create a Roster Spot for Rich Hill?

Rich+Hill
(Mandatory Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The good news is that Rich Hill‘s blister issues weren’t as serious as some initially perceived, as the veteran lefty is set to take the mound in the Dodgers‘ third contest of a four-game set against the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading “How Will Dodgers Create a Roster Spot for Rich Hill?”

Dodgers Roster: Realigning the Starting Pitching Depth Chart

Urias
(Mandatory Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Admittedly for many fans of the Dodgers, veteran lefty Rich Hill wasn’t the first member of the original starting rotation thought to have been destined for a stay on the 10-day disabled list so early in the season. But while this move is more of a precautionary measure than a required need, it’s probably safe to say that Hill’s stay will result more towards the minimum amount of time instead of an elongated period. Even so, it surely doesn’t hurt to take a look at the depth chart beyond the current starting five.

Continue reading “Dodgers Roster: Realigning the Starting Pitching Depth Chart”

Dodgers Send Rich Hill to Disabled List, Recall Josh Fields

hill2
(USA TODAY Sports Photo)

The Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday placed left-handed pitcher Rich Hill on the 10-day disabled list with a blister on his left middle finger and recalled right-hander Josh Fields from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The move will be retroactive to April 6.

Continue reading “Dodgers Send Rich Hill to Disabled List, Recall Josh Fields”

Dodgers Bullpen Picture Becomes Clearer, Yet Some Uncertainty Still Lingers

wood
(AP Photo)

With less than seven days remaining before the Dodgers commence their 2017 regular season campaign, both the media and the fans were given a roster clue of sorts on Monday afternoon, when skipper Dave Roberts indicated that Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood were both still in competition for the fourth spot in the rotation, but whoever misses out on the starting slot will have a place in the big league bullpen.

Continue reading “Dodgers Bullpen Picture Becomes Clearer, Yet Some Uncertainty Still Lingers”

All of a Sudden, the Dodgers Starting Rotation Doesn’t Seem So Deep

(Mandatory Credit: Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

For many fans of the Dodgers, it’s beginning to become an annual occurrence — overwhelming optimism about a stacked rotation in the winter, eventually turning into genuine concern about the prospective starting pitching crew as Opening Day draws near. What was once a highly talented staff extending to the rafters at Triple-A Oklahoma City now has a few gray areas even at the big league level.

Continue reading “All of a Sudden, the Dodgers Starting Rotation Doesn’t Seem So Deep”

Dodgers Bullpen: Ross Stripling’s 25-Man Roster Chances Are Improving

strip
(Mandatory Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

While quite a number of spots on the Dodgers‘ 25-man roster are presumably set in stone, the bullpen is still a complex gray area that’s loaded with plenty of question marks. Yet after the dust finally settles at the end of March, versatile righty Ross Stripling may have found a spot among the big league relief corps.

Continue reading “Dodgers Bullpen: Ross Stripling’s 25-Man Roster Chances Are Improving”

Dodgers Starting Rotation: Progressions, More Predictions & Other Random Notes

maedast
(Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

With the arrival of Opening Day now hovering right around the three week mark, much of the fan focus has steadied on the prospective starting rotation of the Dodgers, as each passing day seemingly has one small happening or event which somehow affects the future makeup of the pitching staff.

Continue reading “Dodgers Starting Rotation: Progressions, More Predictions & Other Random Notes”

Projecting the 2017 Starting Rotation at Oklahoma City

stewart
(Mandatory Credit: Kurt Steiss/The Oklahoman)

Even though the best available arms at Oklahoma City will undeniably be called upon more than once during the upcoming campaign, if the big league starting rotation of the Dodgers somehow stays relatively healthy for the majority of the season, the projected Triple-A rotation certainly has both the required talent and potential to be among the most elite in recent history.

Continue reading “Projecting the 2017 Starting Rotation at Oklahoma City”

Dodgers Roster: Constructing a Workable Starting Rotation for 2017

maeda1
(AFP Photo/Denis Poroy)

While there’s definitely enough time for the front office crew of the Dodgers to sneak in another roster addition or two before the beginning of spring training, the starting pitching department probably isn’t an area on the agenda to upgrade, as management is already challenged with the task of selecting a group of five pitchers to form a rotation from potentially ten or so healthy arms.

Continue reading “Dodgers Roster: Constructing a Workable Starting Rotation for 2017”