In a season where the Dodgers have the best record in baseball, fans were expecting the front office to bring in major reinforcements for their playoff run. Players like Noah Syndergaard, Felipe Vazquez, Shane Green and Edwin Diaz were among the many names mentioned in rumors.
Instead, the Dodgers acquired a little-known left-handed reliever named Adam Kolarek, and there was a lot of disappointment on social media. However, the trade filled the only need on the roster with a quality player.
That New Guy Swag!
Welcome to the Dodgers Adam Kolarek! pic.twitter.com/fg3ECmwhfA
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 2, 2019
Kolarek by the numbers
While the Dodgers did go into the deadline looking for impact players, the only thing they really needed was a left-handed specialist for the bullpen. Kolarek is just that, even though his numbers on the surface don’t inspire a lot of confidence.
The 30-year-old southpaw has a 3.95 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 3.96 xFIP, and 3.82 DRA in 43 1/3 innings. He has only struck out 19.6% of batters while walking a respectable 7.6%.
His biggest struggles this season have been with the long ball. Even though he gets groundballs 64.3% of the time, Kolarek is still allowing home runs at an alarming rate with a 1.25 HR/9. Some of that is due to an unlucky 22.2% HR to fly ball ratio, but he is also league average at limiting hard-hit balls and he doesn’t miss many bats.
Another part of the problem is he is facing right-handers way more than he should be. Kolarek will be better if the Dodgers limit him to facing left-handed hitters. Against 104 right-handed hitters this season, Kolarek has allowed a .272/.356/.478 line. Against 80 lefties, he has allowed a .187/.238/.293 line. The Rays haven’t utilized him to the best of his abilities, the Dodgers will.
Kolarek’s pitch mix
Kolarek’s primary pitch is his sinker, which he throws 70.3% of the time with an average velocity of 89 mph.
He also mixes in a four-seam fastball (11.2%), changeup (9.7%), slider (7.5%), and cutter (1.3%).
His changeup, with an average velocity of 82.3 mph, has been his second most effective pitch after his sinker. The Dodgers might want him to use his changeup more in the hopes of helping him miss more bats. They have similar movement at different velocities, so mixing them around could really mess with a hitter’s timing.
Those pitches, combined with his 76.7 mph slider, provide some hope to get more swinging strikes out of him.
If the Dodgers can figure out a combo to help him strike more hitters out, he could breakout. The more likely scenario is he just fills the role of a left-handed specialist without providing much value against right-handers.
While he isn’t the flashy name fans wanted, Kolarek is a solid reliever who fills the Dodgers’ only need. He’s almost certainly a lock for the playoff bullpen as their lefty one-out guy and there’s a good chance he will be facing some talented left-handed hitters in high-leverage spots during the postseason.
The Dodgers also have team control on Kolarek through the 2024 season, so he could be a member of the bullpen for a while.
The acquisition was another under-the-radar move that could provide a lot of impact for a cheap cost.