Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen is shaky and inconsistent.
Okay, okay — so this isn’t breaking news, but the question is, can it be fixed?
With the St. Louis Cardinals looming in the NLDS, let’s take a look at the pieces the Dodgers have to work with — keep in mind the Dodgers took just 11 pitchers into the NLDS last season, which is something I projected they’ll do again thanks to the shorter series and faith they have in their starting pitching.
Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell are really the only two no-brainers here. Jansen has a lock on the closer position — despite posting the highest WHIP of his career and the highest ERA since 2011 — and remains one of the only consistent relievers the Dodgers have.
The other, of course, is Howell, who posted a 2.39 ERA (it was 1.19 before allowing seven earned runs in his last four appearances) and has been dominant against both lefties (.170 avg. against) and righties (.198 avg. against). While it remains to be seen whether manager Don Mattingly will make Howell the setup man regardless of situation, statistically he seems to be the best choice.
Next Best Options
This is where things get interesting. Now, if we’re being realistic, there are probably a number of relievers Mattingly would have put in the category above despite underwhelming 2014 seasons. In addition to the familiar names, there are also some arms in this category who probably weren’t on the radar two months ago.
Brandon League isn’t a popular guy in Los Angeles, but he’s still one of the seven best relievers on the roster. With a 2.57 ERA (which admittedly hides the 12 inherited runners he has allowed to score out of 26 possible) and the ability to generate a ground ball in a big spot, I think League has his spot in October on lock.
Pedro Baez is a name many fans may not be familiar with, but in just 18 appearances, the righty has generated the fourth-highest WAR among relievers on the Dodgers’ roster. Of course, a 1.93 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP in 23.1 innings will do that for you.
On the flip side, there are some concerns with Baez — namely his high home run rate and low strikeout rate, both of which lead some to believe he’s due for regression.
Paco Rodriguez is a guy that might not be as secure as some think, but if Howell is moved into the setup role, Rodriguez will earn his spot as the left-handed specialist. While Rodriguez spent most of the season in the Minors and battled some injuries, he has proven he can get outs at the Major League level — especially against over-matched lefties.
Brian Wilson is the talk of Los Angeles right now as debate swirls about what happened to the pitcher who became one of the league’s best relievers during last season’s playoffs. Whatever may have happened, the he’s now a reliever who posted a 4.66 ERA and a sickening 1.61 WHIP for the Dodgers this season while shedding velocity as the season has gone on.
Next Page: Competition For Final Spots