Battling for a spot
With one (projected) spot left in the bullpen, there appears to be two favorites to make the roster and two who could make for a surprise addition.
First up is Jamey Wright, whom Mattingly might like for his ability to pitch one or more innings on a given night (which he did in 17 of his 69 appearances this season). Unfortunately, with Wright comes some disheartening numbers — a -0.2 WAR, a 4.35 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Oh, and he’s progressively gotten worse — posting ERAs of 9.00, 5.14 and 7.88 in July, August and September.
Competing with Wright is newcomer Chris Perez. In his favor is the fact that his traditional numbers are slightly better than Wright’s — a 4.27 ERA and 1.36 WHIP — in addition to some improvement lately.
Probably the biggest argument for Perez is that he has allowed just one earned run in his last 11 appearances. Unfortunately for the right-hander, he hasn’t been used since Sept. 21, making his inclusion seem unlikely.
The one reliever not being discussed that I would like to see in the running is Scott Elbert. Unfortunately for Elbert, he’s probably the third-best lefty on the roster, which stacks the deck against him.
On the flip side, he’s actually been better against righties than lefties in his career. From 2011-2013, he allowed a batting average of just .216 against righties (they’re 0-for-6 against him this season), and has a total ERA of 2.32 in 90 appearances over that stretch. In seven appearances this season, Elbert has a 1.15 WHIP and 2.08 ERA.
Like Elbert, another under-the-radar option who has made a nice impression in limited appearances is Yimi Garcia. In eight games, he has posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.70 WHIP after spending most of the season with Triple-A Albuquerque, where he posted an impressive 3.10 ERA in 47 appearances.
So, what do we make of all this?
First, I believe there are actually some bright spots. If Mattingly converts Howell to the setup man (and keeps Wilson very far away from the eighth inning), I think the Dodgers combo to close out games becomes significantly more reliable.
From there, a combination of Rodriguez, Baez (if he can keep things up), League and Wilson is more palatable than many people expect. If Wilson and League are the seventh-inning guys, it could be worse. Right?
So, to recap, yes, the Dodgers bullpen is a concern, but it’s not without talent. If used correctly, it could earn the distinction of “not terrible”, and, if we’re being honest, the talent in the starting rotation and lineup is more than capable of overcoming that.