The Andrew Friedman era has been characterized by deep playoff runs, but an overall failure to get the job done. Los Angeles has not seen their Boys in Blue win a World Series title since 1988. Since that year, the Dodgers have won their division ten times, but the ring remains elusive.
Four Division Series losses, four Championship Series losses, and two World Series losses, all bringing their own version of hurt to fans and the city of Los Angeles. There is one common denominator to it all — the bullpen.
The Dodgers have had recent success, if you consider six consecutive divisional wins to be success. It isn’t. In a city that has boasted some of the best sports franchises, most notably the Lakers who have won six titles since the Dodgers have won their last, the Dodgers are an utter disappointment. This problem is one that has a simple fix, frankly. The bullpen.
The Dodgers have some guys who can flat-out play. Cody Bellinger is the early favorite for Most Valuable Player. Corey Seager and Joc Pederson both have some real talent. Alex Verdugo has quickly became a fan favorite and is a star in the making. Justin Turner is still getting it done at age 34. On the other side of the ball, they have budding ace Walker Buehler, one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen in Clayton Kershaw, and current ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu.
All of these players’ accomplishments have gone by the wayside. The Dodgers are now characterized by their failure to play well when it matters most, because let’s face it — nobody cares about your regular season record. They only care who hoists the trophy and celebrates with a parade through the streets of their town. Most of the team’s October failures can be directly attributed to a lack of a shutdown bullpen.
In It to Win It?
If you are 30 years old or younger, you have never seen the Dodgers win a World Series and there is something wrong with that.
The Dodgers organization has consistently put a great team on the field for quite a few years running. The offense is there, the starting pitching is there, but it is as if one portion — one that has heightened significance in today’s era of baseball — is completely neglected.
The Dodgers are notorious for their bargain bin hunting under Andrew Friedman, searching through an island of misfit toys hoping one can be made new again. The strategy does not work. It has proven ineffective and it is about time that the front office realizes it.
It comes to a point where you have to question whether or not this current regime of the Andrew Friedman brain trust is the one that leads the Los Angeles Dodgers to victory to end their drought. Under his direction, the organization has had peak functionality but the decision-making regarding the bullpen has been pedestrian at best.
Bargain Bin Bullpen
The Dodgers do not spend money on bullpen help, they search through the bargain bin. They do not utilize prospect capital to get shutdown relievers, they search through the bargain bin. Enough is enough.
The club decided to allocate a decent amount of funding to sign Joe Kelly, who holds a 8.83 ERA this season.
I feel bad for Joe Kelly. What a nightmare for him.
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) May 28, 2019
Kelly did not appear to be a bad signing coming into the year and the verdict is still out in all honesty, but the prospects of Kelly turning it completely around do not look pretty. At least for this season. Approximately $8 million down the drain. Negative production. Joe Kelly’s career ERA is 4.01, so why did we sign him when we could have paid just a few more million for a long-time established guy like David Robertson or Adam Ottavino? Andrew Miller or Zack Britton? Craig Kimbrel? It has come to the point where it is comical. As Albert Einstein once said:
Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.
True insanity indeed. The concept of bargain bin hunting does not work and it has been proven. Just check Andrew Friedman’s track record with the Tampa Bay Rays. Sure, he was forced into a situation with limited funding, but the bullpen was not his strong suit there either. Although the Rays lost the World Series in 2008 to a far superior Philadelphia Phillies roster, the bullpen aided in their defeat.
The Dodgers traded for John Axford and Ryan Madson instead of Ryan Pressly or Brad Hand. They went through an entire offseason of one of the best relief pitching classes ever and decided that Joe Kelly was their guy. The guy they wanted to pay up on. It is truly uncanny.
Yimi Garcia is still on the roster because he is out of option years, but JT Chargois is pitching lights out down in Oklahoma City. Joe Kelly is struggling. Caleb Ferguson is not who the Dodgers hoped he would be this season. Dylan Floro is getting overworked and is slowly tiring. These are all by-products of the missing ‘bridge to Kenley Jansen’ that fans have alluded to over the years.
The only reliever in the Friedman era who can genuinely claim to be the bridge for any period of time is Brandon Morrow and that was for three-quarters of 2017. Even he burned out in the World Series because of ineffective bullpen management by Dave Roberts, which we have become accustomed to in October.
Friedman puts a makeshift bullpen (lemons) together and asks Dave Roberts to win a World Series (make orange juice). An obvious losing equation.
The problem has no doubt carried into 2019. If the Dodgers front office fully expects to be World Series favorites come October, they are fooling themselves. An entire element of baseball is missing from this Dodgers roster. They have one of the best offenses this season to add to a fantastic defense and starting pitching corps. Their bullpen is their kryptonite. They have a 4.76 bullpen ERA this year, good for the 8th-worst in Major League Baseball. The seven teams behind them have a combined winning percentage of .387.
The Dodgers have the 8th-worst bullpen ERA in all of Major League Baseball. The seven teams behind them have a combined winning percentage of .387.
— Daniel Preciado (@DanJPreciado) May 29, 2019
If the Dodgers claim to be amongst the class of the MLB, they are wrong. When an entire facet of the game is missing, you are no better than your weakest link. This was proven true in 2017 against the Astros and once again in 2018 against the Red Sox.
It doesn’t matter how good the offense is. It especially does not matter how good the starting pitching is when great starts are erased by terrible bullpen performances.
Dodgers pitching in May:
Starters: 42 runs, 146? IP
Bullpen: 38 runs, 55? IP
— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) May 29, 2019
It is an utter disgrace that requires a solution and the solution is not difficult to find. Allocate more attention to the bullpen. It is really that simple.
When we discuss the best three teams in baseball, it is often the Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros who are mentioned. The difference between the Dodgers and the other two teams is significant due to the fact that the guys those teams run out in the sixth inning would arguably be the best pitchers out of the Dodgers ‘pen. The gap is wider than you think and the gap might not close in time for playoffs.
The Yankees have Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances, and Adam Ottavino. The Astros have Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, and Chris Devenski. The Dodgers have…wait for it…Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, and Dylan Floro who are supposed to pitch high-leverage innings. If the Dodgers had any one of those Astros or Yankees relievers, it negates all of Yimi Garcia’s innings. The opportunity cost. Addition by subtraction.
You want Ross Stripling coming in to face Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts or George Springer come playoff time? Yeah, neither do I.
The trade deadline will most likely come and pass without any real move. Craig Kimbrel probably will not be a Dodger.
We all want bullpen help. More importantly, the Dodgers neeeeeeeeeeed bullpen help.
Kimbrel is not signing with LA.
Who are you willing to trade to get better this season?
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) May 29, 2019
The Dodgers will pull some guy you have not heard out of the trash bin from some non-contender and hope it sticks. If that happens, the Dodgers will not win the World Series, even if they do get there.
It hurts to say it, but it is true. The Dodgers’ World Series drought has gone on long enough and the key to ending it is shoring up the bullpen. The true contention window for us may be closing within the next few years as stars age. Let us just hope and pray that Andrew Friedman and Co. come to the same realization before it is too late.