It’s never too early to start assessing and speculating what changes, if any, need to be considered in the Dodgers’s bullpen. The most storied aspect of the club this year was the adaption to the number of pitching changes Manager Dave Roberts had to make. Manager Dave Roberts and his pitching staff used 31 different pitchers to replenish a injury stricken lineup.
Looking forward, it will be interesting to see where on the agenda bullpen assessments and changes need to be made by Andrew Friedman and his staff.
Earlier this week, fellow writer Jeremy Evans, Esq. gave us a glimpse to the potential starting lineup for 2017. Resigning Kenley Jansen remains the top priority as one of the top closers in the game. Rich Hill and Brett Anderson could not be in the starting lineup due to their free agency while Scott Kazmir may opt out his contract giving starting rotation opportunities to Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias and other young pitchers. Yet, what does the relief pitcher situation look like going forward?
The following key bullpen relievers are all unrestricted free agents next year:
- Joe Blanton
- Jesse Chavez
- J.P. Howell
Other key relievers such as Luis Avilan, Chris Hatcher, Josh Fields, Alex Woods, and Andrew Liberatore are available to come back depending on a 25-man or 40-man roster. Pedro Baez remains under team control while Ross Stripling, Grant Dayton saw some playoff action this past season as relievers and could be the leading relievers next year. Brock Stewart and Jose De Leon are scouted to be starters in their careers. For further information regarding their contracts, you can view them here.
The production from the bullpen we witnessed in the playoffs compared to the regular season was two fold. We witnessed a great first round series against the Washington Nationals encompassing greater starting pitching to relief pitching. However, as the story unfolded in the 6 games series against the Cubs, the starting and relief pitching swayed 180 degrees opposite of how the team performed during the regular course of the season. In fact, it is misleading to characterize this bullpen solely on their playoff performance. This past season, the Dodgers ranked first in the depth chart for relief production.
With a bullpen production of 467 innings pitched, 3.36 ERA 3.41 FIP and 5.9 WAR, the Dodgers outranked these teams listed below in that respective order.
- Chicago Cubs
- Cleveland Indians
- Baltimore Orioles
- Houston Astros
- Washington Nationals
To some that come as a surprise given the amount of pitching changes Manager Roberts had to deal with. However, it does demonstrate the depth this team had this year.
|Kenley Jansen||65.0||13.6||2.0||0.8||.305||85.3 %||1.87||1.98||2.9|
|Joe Blanton||65.0||9.3||2.5||1.1||.308||73.6 %||3.61||3.55||0.8|
|Pedro Baez||55.0||9.8||2.7||1.1||.301||75.2 %||3.42||3.50||0.6|
|Grant Dayton||55.0||12.0||2.8||0.9||.289||83.4 %||2.28||2.77||1.1|
|Luis Avilan||45.0||8.5||3.7||0.7||.299||73.5 %||3.46||3.65||0.2|
|Alex Wood||40.0||8.9||2.4||0.8||.307||75.1 %||3.12||3.20||0.3|
|Josh Fields||35.0||10.4||3.1||0.9||.304||76.6 %||3.18||3.29||0.1|
|Ross Stripling||30.0||7.4||2.6||0.9||.306||70.8 %||3.90||3.83||0.1|
|The Others||77.0||8.3||4.2||1.3||.324||69.1 %||5.10||4.74||-0.1|
Given the statistics of this year’s bullpen and the disappointing result in the postseason, one can only speculate and dream what approach Friedman’s staff will take when addressing the bullpen. Before all else, the whole pitching has to regain full strength. The approach Friedman and his staff may take is not do anything. Remember, there was sufficient depth in the bullpen to complement the starting rotation to help the Dodgers catch the Giants midway through the season and clinch the division title.
While many of us fans feel that certain players should be free to walk for their performance in the playoffs, one must also remember that Friedman and his staff are looking to build not just for immediate success but for the long term. Considering an alternative approach, the Dodgers staff can take a look into the free agency.
Free agents such as Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Neftali Feliz and Giants reliever Sergio Romo can add some strength to the bullpen. Should Joe Blanton not re-sign with the Dodgers, bringing in reliever Sergio Romo and a younger Feliz can supplement a bullpen setting up whom everyone is anticipating, Jansen.
Further, don’t forget the Dodgers are equipped with a talented farm system that can provide some options in the near future. Pitcher Yadier Alvarez is the latest prospect ranking 91 out of the top 100 and No.5 on the Dodgers’ top prospects. Alvarez shown below, is a very young pitcher already hitting 90 mile an hour fastballs and topping out at 100 mph. Alvarez is projected to be a starter in a lineup, however, it would be interesting to see how Friedman manages the starting rotation to possibly set up some trades down the future.
Briefly discussed, there is a lot of ambiguity in the bullpen. Will Jansen re-sign? Which one of the relievers will sign? Will there be a trade made on another part of the team to bring in more complementary guys that can help the starting rotation? Will this team stay with the majority of this roster through the beginning of next year and look to regain health? All these questions are dependent on the approach Friedman and his staff take into the offseason.
Quoted recently in an LATimes article by Andy McCullogh, Friedman said, “The bullpen has been, in my mind, a very underappreciated aspect of this team, and the success that we’ve had […] And I think Dave and Honey have been masterful at putting guys in positions to succeed.”
We’ll touch upon this matter more after the World Series is over.