Dodgers: Joe Kelly, Pretty Good Some of The Time

Three years, $25 million. That was the deal the Dodgers signed Joe Kelly to prior to the 2019 season. Kelly was intended to be the strong bridge that led to a confident Kenley Jansen 9th inning save opportunity. That bridge is now missing some nuts and bolts and has quickly and unfortunately fallen apart.

Rough Start

Right off the bat, The Diamondbacks’ bats that is, Kelly struggled to get outs. His first appearance was March 29th, the Dodgers second game of the season. Joe allowed 2 ER on 3 hits in 1.1 innings of work in his Dodgers debut. His ERA sky-rocketed to 13.50. Just a few days later, Kelly gets a shot at redemption. He allows 4 hits and 4 earned runs in 1.2 innings. The ERA is now up to 18.00.

Personally, I was ecstatic about Joe Kelly joining the Dodgers and thought it was a great move for a decent price. His negative impact prompted most fans to immediately, let’s say dislike, Joe Kelly. Watching him put up great numbers in Boston the previous two seasons seemed like a promising indication for great things to come in the future.

As most of us fans will look at it, it’s very difficult to trust Kelly at this point of the season. All of those positive expectations are long gone. As of right now, his ERA sits at 6.66 with 24.1 innings logged in 24 appearances.

What Is The Problem?

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 01: Austin Barnes #15 looks on as manager Dave Roberts #30 pulls Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

Joe Kelly has always been known for throwing hard. Standing just 6-foot-1 and a slender 175 pounds, the power and the arm speed is all there. The velocity has dropped slightly over the last few seasons. His 2017 season in Boston his fastball averaged around 99.2 MPH. The velocity dropped down to 98.5 MPH last season and is around 97.8 MPH in 2019.

This isn’t unusual in any way at all. Just as we’ve seen with Kershaw this season, the dropped velocity results in focusing on location and other pitches in his arsenal as well. The control seems to be an issue for Joe Kelly this season.

According to Fangraphs, Kelly’s opponent BA is .294, his HR/9 is 1.48, and his K/9 is 10.73. All three of these are much higher than they’ve ever been at any point in his career. The HR/9 has nearly tripled compared to what it was last season (0.55).

Last week during an outing against Anaheim, he had probably one of his worst performances of the season if not his career. Tied at 3 runs a piece in the 8th, Joe Kelly enters to face Shohei Ohtani and walks him on four pitches. After a Calhoun strikeout, it was all down hill from there. Kelly threw the ball away on a pick off attempt at first. A few more walks and wild pitches later, the Angels lead 5-3 and ultimately end up the victor.

The one inning of work resulted in a line of 0 hits, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO’s. He didn’t allow a single base hit and somehow managed to strike out the side. That just comes to show that the potential and the pitches are there, it just comes down to putting it all together.

Looking Ahead

Let’s get a little optimistic here about our guy Joe Kelly. Ever since his ERA reached 10.12 on May the 4th be with you, it has dropped down 3.46 points. Thanks to the Dodgers explosion of runs lately, Joe “mop up man” Kelly, as our very own FRG likes to put it, has earned some low leverage time on the mound.

His performance during “low leverage” outings, while not the preferred situation to dominate, have been fairly impressive. With earned runs scoring in only 4 of 16 outings, and 10 scoreless appearances in his last 11 low leverage situations. During that time, he has recorded 16 strikeouts as well.

At this point, all we can do is hope the best for Kelly, and hope he continues get guys out. The Dodgers have yet to find their main setup guy. Kelly can be that guy again, just as he was the last few seasons in Boston. Let’s rebuild that broken down bridge that leads to Kenley Jansen in the 9th.

Tyler Hawk

Currently living in Central California. Life-long Dodgers and Chargers fan.


  1. “Hoping” he can turn it around in high leverage situations will give us the same outcome we have grown to expect….. a early playoff exit. Time to go out and trade for a dominant , reliable, reliever.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Jansen’s been inconsistent, so can’t afford to have other relievers who can’t get the job done. Way past time to release Kelly.

  2. The pitching coach and ball pen coach should be able to figure out what is wrong. They haven’t so give him a stint in the minors. Jansen is not the closer he once was. They need to find someone in free agency who can do the job. Spend the bucks. We have had to many run to the World Series with no trophy ?Time is running out as our nucleus is getting older.

  3. Way past time to release Kelly.

    Dave, I don’t know what you see in this guy, and why you keep giving him the ball. There’s got to be someone better at AAA, or let’s make a trade, but Kelly is washed up, so please release him.

  4. Whoever is in charge of this article,please pass all the comments along to the front office of the Dodgers and Andrew Friedman. There are a lot of frustrated fans concerned with the present bullpen of the Dodgers. With the present BP roster,we’ll be lucky to make it out of the National League playoffs and have NO chance against the Yankees or Astros .Mr. F.,you have the money,the player assets to trade,you draw 3.8 million people with a huge TV contract. Don’t let another opportunity to win a World Series pass you by . Go all in. Make it Happen! Trophies for regular season mean nothing . It’s like giving a trophy to a kid for participating and not winning anything..

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