One of the reason the Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series was key members of the bullpen being overused at some point during the series. A reason Kenley Jansen, Brandon Morrow and Kenta Maeda were ineffective at some key points was that Dave Roberts must have felt he could only trust them. Even in Game 3, when they trailed all game, the manager didn’t use Brandon McCarthy (who should have been the long man) or Josh Fields. Instead Maeda followed Yu Darvish and threw 42 pitches and Morrow threw 13 in a situation they should not have pitched in. However, Roberts clearly lost faith in McCarthy and Fields after game 2 and, to a lesser extent, Ross Stripling, who did pitch an inning at the end of game 3.
I bring up these terrible memories because I don’t want to see history repeated and the Dodgers wouldn’t want to either. The big question is, do the Dodgers have a bullpen that is capable of winning the World Series? I will explore that question.
First, let’s do a quick review of the 2017 World Series bullpen performance:
- Kenley Jansen: he throw a lot of pitches throughout the playoffs with too many 4-6 out appearances. His blown save and loss in the World Series were in his second innings of work.
- Brandon Morrow: he pitched in almost every game in the playoffs. His appearances in game 3 and 4 tired him out yet he was used in game 5 in which he gave up 4 runs on 6 pitches.
- Kenta Maeda: a starter for most of the season he was lights out as a reliever except in game 5. He appeared in game 5 after throwing 42 pitches in game 3 and gave up a 3 run home run.
- Tony Watson: was used pretty wisely and was effective. However, he threw 1 pitch for 2 outs in game 2 but because there wasn’t a double switch he left the game as the pitcher’s spot was up the next inning.
- Tony Cingrani: also pretty effective and didn’t seem overworked.
- Ross Stripling: he faced one batter in game 2 and walked him. This lead to putting Morrow in earlier than desired which led to Janson having to get a 6 out save. His other appearances in the series were effective.
- Josh Fields: a fly ball pitcher against the Astros? They crushed upper fastballs and lit him up in his one appearance. He should not have been on the roster, given the opponent.
- Brandon McCarthy: he only pitched in game 2 and got hit hard but was able to finish the game. He should have taken over for Darvish in game 3 as they were down by 4. It may have saved Maeda and Morrow for games 4 and 5.
As we move into the last third of the 2018 season the bullpen from the 2017 team will be missing Morrow, Watson and McCarthey as they are no longer with the team. Morrow and Watson are huge losses and if either Maeda or Stripling are in the starting rotation that leaves some very large gaps. For the playoff rotation the Dodgers will need only four starters with the candidates being Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Maeda, Stripling, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu. With that list I believe Stripling and/or Maeda will need to be in the rotation. With the improvements we’ve seen from Stripling he would be a dominant part of a playoff bullpen.
If the Dodgers follow the pattern of previous post seasons they will have an 8 person bullpen. Here is a summary of the candidates:
- Kenley Jansen: the closer. I hope he can stick to 3 out saves in the post season.
- Scott Alexander: he’s become an excellent addition to the bullpen. He is not a fly ball pitcher so I think he’ll be a difference maker against the big power teams that play in smaller ballparks.
- Dylan Floro: a new addition to the bullpen he gets more ground balls than fly balls. He was sent to AAA due to numbers but he’s been pretty good for the Dodgers.
- Tony Cingrani: a recent injury has put him in jeopardy. They need him especially to face left handed batters.
- Josh Fields: also injured, his fly ball tendencies scare me. At the beginning of the season his curve ball looked much improved. If he has a better mix of pitches then he could be a good part of the puzzle.
- Daniel Hudson: he had an excellent June but he’s given up 5 home runs in a little under 39 innings. If he can get back to what he was doing in June he would be a great addition.
- Pedro Baez: he’s coming off an injury and he’s also a fly ball pitcher. I can’t imagine him against the Yankees or Astros.
- JT Chargois: he had a nice April, a terrible May, spent all June in AAA and has been better in July. Let’s hope for continued improvement.
- Caleb Ferguson: he’s new to the bullpen but has been pretty good lately. He started the season in AA as a starter and is now 22 and in the majors as a reliever. It will be interested to see if Dave Roberts starts using him in more high leverage situations.
- Erik Goeddel: when acquired he started well, hit a rough patch but unscored upon in July. He does have control issue and he’s also a fly ball pitcher.
- Zac Rosscup: recently went on to the disabled list. He was used for facing left handed batters but we didn’t see much of him. A long shot.
- Julio Urias: if he’s healthy, he could be dominant. However, shoulder surgeries are not easy to come back from.
- Kenta Maeda: if he’s not needed in the rotation he is dominant in the bullpen.
- Ross Stripling: also a definite starting rotation candidate he does seem to be tiring a bit as he’s pitching more innings than ever. He’s become very good and would be dominant in the bullpen.
As I consider the list above, and with a heavy dose of optimism and health, a bullpen of Jansen, Alexander, Maeda (if not needed in rotation), Stripling (if not needed in rotation), Cingrani (health), Urias (health), Floro and Fields (fly ball tendencies) would be excellent. However, we have seen that we can’t be too optimistic or trust in their health. Many bad possibilities would take away any of those names and then there is a huge gap. To help insure a strong bullpen I highly recommend the Dodgers trade for two more pitchers. It can be a starter (would push Maeda or Stripling to the post season bullpen) or one reliever or just two strong relievers. There cannot be any weak spots like last year. The bullpen needs to have 8 pitchers that Dave Roberts can trust, instead of just 3 or 4.
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