Dodgers: The Bullpen Looks Like The Soft Underbelly

The Dodgers are off to a good start but the bullpen has had too many issues already. Some members are getting flat-out lit up. There is also a balance of some starters that are either on pitch counts or aren’t ready for a full start yet. Early indictors that I have been watching for have been good but the bullpen, in general, is a problem so far.

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LOS ANGELES, CA – MAY 31: Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

The Good

Despite some of us being bothered by his velocity, Kenley Jansen has been good so far. Caleb Ferguson, who had a pretty mediocre Spring Training, has also been good. These are the two pitchers I trust right now.

Scott Alexander has also been pretty good but the walk he has came in a one batter appearance. The only hit he gave up was a two run double by Brandon Belt to put the Giants ahead on April 1. Alexander, to be successful in tight situations needs to have his command right away. That is not the case in some appearances. When he has his command he is a ground ball machine.

Dylan Floro has an ERA of 0.00 but he’s given up 6 hits in 4 innings with only 2 strikeouts. It seems he’s been lucky. However, as long as he and Alexander keep the ball down they will be solid.

The (So-Called) Bad

Pedro Baez stands alone here as he’s had some hard luck. The passed ball in game 2 of the season by Russell Martin hurt and Pedro didn’t respond well after that. Although the inning should have ended, Pedro promptly walked Alex Avila. In the 4thgame he inherited Walker Buehler’s mess and gave up a stolen base, a double to score two, a fly out, a two run homer, a single and an inning ending double play. His next two appearances were more than an inning and he was pretty good. He should be fine.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 25: Pitcher Brock Stewart #48 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch during the MLB spring training game against the Chicago Cubs at Camelback Ranch on February 25, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Ugly

In his first two appearances, Joe Kelly was terrible. He has a history of having control and consistency issues. It sounds like his history is one or two awful outings then a string of good ones. In his one-third of an inning against the Rockies he did give up a hard shot back to him but got the out. Fortunately X-rays were negative. I expect him to be a solid member of the bullpen.

Yimi Garcia has been bad and Brock Stewart has been worse. The only time they should be used is in mop up duty right now. Right now, they cannot be trusted in any high leverage situation. One excuse I might give is that when they are pitching with a big lead they are just pounding the zone. However, at some point they need to get batters out. Garcia has struggled with his control as he’s walked 4 batters in 3.2 innings. Stewart has given up NINE hits in 4.0 innings for an opposing batter batting average of .529. That is truly ugly.

Quick Fixes

Brock Stewart still has an option left so he would be first to go. He’s the long man out of the bullpen so he needs to be replaced with another pitcher that can go long. My preference is that Dennis Santana be recalled before his first start with OKC on Monday. Santana deserves a shot as his 2018 season was abbreviated right after getting called up.

Yimi Garcia does not have any options so he’d have to be traded or designated for assignment (DFA’d) to get him off the roster. Garcia does have some interesting stuff though. According to Brooks Baseball:

“His fourseam fastball generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has some natural sinking action, results in somewhat more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers and has slightly above average velo….. His change (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 8 of them in 2019) is thrown extremely hard, generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ changeups, dives down out of the zone, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has slight armside fade.”

At some point the Dodgers need to decide how long they can carry him on the roster. I’d like to see Stetson Allie get a shot. He’s not on the 40-man roster but there are two spots available.

Long Term Solutions

When Clayton Kershaw comes back it is expected that Julio Urías will be moved to the bullpen to help limit his innings. When Rich Hill comes back then Ross Stripling would go back to the bullpen. I’d prefer Kenta Maeda go to the bullpen but many factors keep that from happening, including his contract.

The big solution is to sign Craig Kimbrel as stated by our own Marshall Garvey. Heck, I even wrote about the possibility in mid-March. It just doesn’t seem it is how the Dodgers do things though. Their pursuit of Bryce Harper, offering a lot of money for a short-term deal, does give a glimmer of hope. Of course, who closes? I would hope winning makes that question a big “who cares” between Jansen and Kimbrel but that won’t happen.

Final Analysis

This is the probable bullpen in 2-3 weeks:

  • Kenley Jansen
  • Julio Urías
  • Joe Kelly
  • Caleb Ferguson
  • Ross Stripling
  • Scott Alexander
  • Pedro Baez
  • Dylan Floro

That looks very strong without a major move. Let’s hope that there is some continued health and the bullpen will not be as big of an issue as it is now. With a starting staff that is not known for going deep into games, the bullpen will continue to be very important, especially since the offense can’t stay as hot as it is now.

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  1. Eventually FO and Roberts need to trust a bit more in allowing the starters to go deeper in games, and that will help out a lot! Especially, if a starter still looks solid and is getting the outs, leave him in there for crying out loud at least for another inning. There is no law that says Roberts automatically has to remove a SP after 5 innings.

    • PaulDodgerFan1965 I agree that Dodgers starting pitchers if they are pitching well Should be allowed to go past 5-innings. The problem is the analytics, sabrematrics that’s ruining the game. I’ve heard analytics-people state that the more times through the batting order pitcher goes through, the batting avg. of the line-up increases for example 1st-time through the order, the opposing team bats .200, 2nd-time – .250, 3rd-time -.300 or higher.. This is the reasoning unless ofcourse the starting pitcher is mowing through the line-up.

  2. I haven’t seen so many Dodger relievers come in and walk the first batter like I have this year and last. It’s very un-Dodger like.
    About the relievers: Garcia and Stewart have never been good and they will be gone soon. Kelly and Baez will likely settle down and be effective. Stripling and Urias will move to the pen and be great. Plus there’s some in ythe minors who could contribute. They should be fine.

  3. In case you haven’t noticed, Roberts trusts and supports his players. He doesn’t take guys out of the line up or send them to the minors nearly as often as any particular news outlet or blog says he should. This, by the way is a good thing.

  4. The BP is the weak link in the Dodger chain!!!!! Even last night, Yimi G., I believe gave up a run. A clean inning is becoming a rarity. Chargois and Gonsolin should be given a chance. Just like Verdugo should be allowed to play more frequently, and the starting pitchers should be allowed to go beyond five. Brock, Yimi, and Baez are erratic and should be “repurposed”. And Urias, depending on how he does this eveninng, should be given
    an opportunity to start on a regular basis now that Hill is still weeks away from returning, and CK’s tune-up games have been less than stellar. Go Blue!!!

  5. Great piece. I would be curious if there is a spray chart illustrating velocity off the bat for each pitcher. Which makes me wonder, if they can calculate the ball’s spin rate and velocity off the bat, can they measure the ball’s movement as it approaches and passes homeplate? And imagine if there was a way to measure how well a pitcher hits his spots.

  6. The Dodgers need to go further with their starters but with their analytics, how can they? Removing a pitcher during a one-hitter in the WS defies logic. It is that same logic that is making critical decision right now and it will not change. Keeping up hope.