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Dodgers: What Would Have to Go Wrong in LA For the Padres to Take the West

The Dodgers and Padres are set to give fans quite a show this year. The two National League West teams are loaded with talent after impressive offseason moves on both ends. The biggest question around the league though is whether the Padres will be able to topple them in the west. 

San Diego comes into the 2021 season with essentially the same offense, save for a few additions. Their biggest upgrade was easily their starting rotation, adding options that were not a part of the team in 2020. The Padres will be without Mike Clevinger for the year and the health of Dinelson Lamet is anyone’s guess. So, they made the moves necessary to keep pace with the Dodgers. 

Then the Dodgers went out and added Trevor Bauer in free agency. That move seemed to put them back ahead in the matchup, though many believed they never fell behind. So what would need to go wrong for Los Angeles in order for the Padres to top them? For MLB writer Juan Toribio, the answer lies in the bullpen. 

I think the bullpen kind of went south[if that happened]. I’m not big on bullpens having roles, I kind of saw that with the Rays…but I think there is something to be said about a bullpen just believing that the guy coming into the game is going to get it done…If that were to happen, it would have to be the bullpen structure did not work out as well as the Dodgers hope it will. 

The Dodgers are still relatively traditional in the sense that they still maintain a specified closer role. That being said, a lot rides on Kenley Jansen having a good year in 2021. Luckily, Los Angeles is in a position where they could have a short leash on him. They could opt for another arm in big spots if he struggles early. 

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The good news is that Kenley did take massive steps forward in 2020. Admittedly, his numbers did not always show that. He missed barrels at a much better rate than ever before in his career, with an average exit velocity of just 82.7 mph. His average launch angle is ultimately what hurt him though, with hitters blooping far too many balls into the outfield. 

If Kenley can live at the bottom of the strike zone and maintain that contact rate, he could be huge for the Dodgers in 2021. If not, there are a lot of young arms ready to go behind him. The NL West is going to be fun! 

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  1. If the Dodgers really thought that Jansen had taken “massive steps forward” last year then he would have been given the chance to pitch when it mattered in the post season. He wasn’t. But the Dodgers didn’t address that situation other than by bringing Knebel in who is clearly a roll of the dice. It seems the plan is to have a million starters and run them out in the bullpen as necessary. Worked ok in 2020.

    1. “Massive steps forward?” I’m with you rainbird. I’m not sure which closer Brook was watching, but it wasn’t the Jansen I was seeing.
      My guess is Treinen does most of the closing, but Dodgers will try out Kelly, May, and Urias in that role.

    2. I am of the thinking that the offense might be a shortcoming without a DH. Teams know that it’s been over a year since pitchers had to bat and their presence in the 9th spot means the bottom half of the lineup may struggle somewhat due to being pitched around and the pitcher will be used as an escape hatch more often than not. Without the DH, Will Smith sits when Barnes catches instead of batting in the middle of the order like he did last year.

    3. Rainbirdmuse I agree to some extent. Knebel may be a difference maker and Morrow may come back. But you have two very young guys starting to come into their own in Graterol and Gonzalez plus as you said you have May and Gonsolin that will help bridge the gap in innings.
      My fear is Roberts is NOT a good tactical manager. He is a Player’s Manager. In other words he never makes the hard decision. he would rather put Jansen in the game than live with Jansen’s ire.
      Roberts is a Nice Guy.He runs a happy clubhouse which is fine but he obviously is barely in charge. The Dodger Upper Management is in charge. Roberts is just the Happy guy the Happy Coach who is always smiling. Dodgers would have won a WS before last year if Roberts hadn’t made horrific in-game pitching decisions. If Cash had not made a Roberts type stupid pitching decision the Dodger might have lost last year.

      1. Roberts finally became a good tactical manager by not inserting Kershaw or Jansen in roles where they could have disappointed. Kenley didn’t do bad in that historic loss, but he just seemed to be bad “karma” so Roberts left him out of key situations in next games

  2. I’m not worried about the bullpen, they have enough guys, they will figure out roles depending who is throwing well. If they need a stopper, they are loaded with trade chips, they can pick one up mid-season. The padres are capable of challenging them, no doubt about it. On paper, the Dodgers start a notch ahead, one or two key injuries changes that. The padres have everything they need to be a dominant team. It should be a great season.

  3. In last year’s NLDS Jansen pitched 1.1 innings and gave up 2 earned runs. In the WS he pitched 1.2 innings and gave up 2 earned runs. Urias carried the load for the Dodgers as a closer. Jansen is toast. His $20M salary in 2021 is ridiculous. His 88 MPH cutter, and 89 MPH four seamer only inspire fear in Dodger fans as they pray that the next pitch won’t land 400 ft away. Even DR figured things out last year, when he chose Urias over Jansen. Let’s move forward, instead of backwards. Jansen is done.

    1. Jansen is a free agent after this year and not sure he’ll return. Certainly not at $20 million he’s due this year. Hopefully Roberts has learned from the past and not just give in to putting Jansen in as closer automatically.

  4. Not worried about the Bullpen but worried about how Dave Roberts will use the them. It wasn’t until the last couple games of the World Series that he finally stopped robotically inserting Jansen into crucial spots when everyone knew Jansen’s automatic lights-out ability was gone.

    1. To be fair, he only blew 2 saves all year, [11/13], and it wasn’t like kelley, treinen, or graterol were lights out.

  5. I think Roberts will judge Kenley objectively and keep him on a short leash. My expectations are low and I would have liked to see him traded. Urias would be great as a closer, but he is in the rotation. Graterol and Gonzalez maybe.

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