As atrocious as the Dodgers bullpen has been this season and last, one of the few names to consistently elicit praise rather than vitriol is Dylan Floro. Armed with a near-unhittable sinker, he blossomed in 2018 with a 1.63 ERA after being reacquired from Cincinnati at the deadline. His incredibly nondescript face has made him one of the most original fan favorites of recent times.
— Black Seth Rogen (@ChristianAllen1) June 8, 2019
To begin the 2019 season, Floro was shaping up to be an MLB-wide elite reliever with an ERA around 0.50 (it was even 0.00 for his first 16 games). Since then, the sheen of invincibility has worn off. On May 22 in Tampa Bay, he was charged with his first loss of the season, allowing 4 runs in the seventh that broke a 1-1 tie. Monday against Anaheim was another low point, surrendering a game-tying home run to Mike Trout that later turned into a Joe Kelly loss.
Even before that, there were signs of regression. He blew a save opportunity in San Francisco on April 29, and another against the Nationals on May 11. Two days before that, he allowed 2 runs to score in a 6-0 loss to Washington.
This begs the question: what exactly is wrong with Floro? Or perhaps more accurately, is anything wrong to begin with? Before you expect any painstaking analysis of his velocity and pitch selection, I have to make clear that I don’t have access to watching Dodgers games. Thus, I can’t provide the exact measures I feel are necessary for a complete assessment.
Additionally, I want to make clear this is not an article attacking Floro. He is one of my favorite players on the team. I am not belittling him, or calling for a demotion or DFA. To the contrary, I want to spotlight his recent struggles in the hopes that he regains his form soon.
Perhaps the simple truth is that Floro is an excellent reliever, but not a high-leverage one, as evidenced by his blown saves and inherited runners scoring. Take game four of the 2018 World Series. Most fans peg Ryan Madson as the goat of that disaster, and rightly so, as the 3-run homer he surrendered to Mitch Moreland in the seventh turned a 4-0 lead into a 4-3 nailbiter. Kenley Jansen then continued his World Series woes with a game-tying home run to Steve Pearce in the eighth.
However, even after all that, it was Floro who was the official losing pitcher. Taking over for Jansen in the ninth, the game was still tied at 4 and by all means winnable. He started by retiring Eduardo Nunez, but then surrendered a double to Brock Holt. This was followed by a pinch-hit RBI single from Rafael Devers that broke the tie. While the 4 other runs in the inning were facilitated by Alex Wood and then allowed by Kenta Maeda, one of them was charged to Floro, and he was still the one who took the L as the Red Sox took a 3-1 series lead.
My best guess (that could admittedly be wishful thinking) is that right now he’s not helped by what a total disaster the bullpen is. Even more so than last year, there is no coherence in how anyone is used. This is exacerbated by the failure of Joe Kelly, who was supposed to be the lockdown late innings guy before Jansen. Because of Kelly’s unreliability, the seventh and eighth are now done by committee, which is suboptimal. Floro seems like a reliever who is best used fluidly, but is not an everyday setup man like, say, Rob Dibble for the 1990 Reds.
This ultimately leads back to the oft-made point of Friedman needing to acquire top relievers rather than scrap-heap discounts. I believe we’ll need three fresh hands to shore up the bullpen this summer, including someone who can be the eighth-inning setup man. With that problem finally solved, Floro wouldn’t be thrown into that role arbitrarily.
Even with his poor performance as of late, I still love our faceless reliever. He’s one of the few of this woebegotten relief corps I’d be fine with seeing on the playoff roster. But it would be far more reassuring if he earned that spot through better numbers rather than by default.
What do you all think? Is Floro a mediocre reliever regressing to the mean? Or is he elite, and just being worn down? Let us know in the comments!