For the past few seasons, a major point of contention amongst Los Angeles Dodgers fan has been the performance of the teams bullpen, sans lockdown closer Kenley Jansen. Calls to go out and make a splashy move have largely been ignored by the front office as they have instead opted for in house talent, or players from the bargain bin.
Players such as Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore were all asked to come in and play a major role on the team, and after a rocky start, the bullpen has settled in nicely. In April, the pen had an ERA of 3.84, which was good for 17th in the majors. In May, that number lowered to 2.98, and it has lowered even more to 1.73 so far in the month of June. Leaving the Dodgers with a season ERA of 3.04, which is best in the the NL and 3rd best in the entire majors.
So, how about that Dodgers bullpen? pic.twitter.com/MVInJDO6dO
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) June 9, 2016
One contributing factor to this may be the fact that Dodgers employ a rather large bullpen, and outside of the closer Jansen, lack any real set roles. With the Dodgers dealing with injuries and inconsistencies in the rotation, this has become a real blessing in disguise for the boys in blue.
#Dodgers starting pitchers not named Clayton Kershaw averaging 5 1/3 IP per start this season. Can't keep doing that even to a 9-man bullpen
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) June 15, 2016
With the returns of Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu imminent, the starters should be able to take games into the deeper innings which in turn, should lessen the workload of the bullpen. The Dodgers may also have some secret weapons lurking in the minors as well. Jose De Leon and Frankie Montas were both recently reinstated off the DL and both figure to be called up to the big leagues soon. While De Leon projects as a starter later in his career, the Dodgers could use the hard throwing 23 year old out of the bullpen as extra help this season.
Jose De Leon today at AAA: 3 IP, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Season (3 GS): 11 IP, 3 BB, 21 K. Possible power arm for LA bullpen? #Dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 13, 2016
Montas was used as a starter for the Chicago White Sox last season and with the current holes the Dodgers have, he could step into a similar role this year. But, much like De Leon, Montas possesses an excellent fastball and could be a deadly weapon in late innings.
The one part of the bullpen that the Dodgers need not worry about is closer Kenley Jansen. So far this season, he has converted 18 of 21 save opportunities and carries with him an ERA of 1.78 and has 28 strikeouts to just 4 walks. He very well may be on his way to his first All-Star appearance, and has been a stalwart at the backend for the Dodgers in his five seasons as the primary closer.
While fans may bemoan the lack of a superstar or a big name acquisition, Andrew Friedman and Co. have crafted a unit to their liking and it is finally paying dividends. With more help waiting in the minors, it appears as though the worst may be over for the much maligned Dodgers bullpen.