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Dodgers: Time to Step Away From Bargain Bin Pitchers

While smart shopping and bartering has led the Dodgers to back-to-back World Series appearances, they haven’t won. With the surrounding talent, the time is now to go all in.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 01: Austin Barnes #15 looks on as manager Dave Roberts #30 pulls Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh inning of the game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 1, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen is bad. I realize that Pedro Baez has been much better and that Kenley Jansen has seen a little resurgence, but they are just a flickering candle in an other wise dark room. Not too long ago, I wrote about how the Dodgers’ middle relievers were “unsung heroes”, well, the jig is up and I was duped. I’m beginning to think the front office was too. Either way its time to step away from the bargain bin bullpen and invest in some proven talent.

Best NL Starting Rotation

The Dodger currently have a starting rotation that leads the National League in Wins (45), Fewest Losses (22), Lowest ERA (2.73), Shutouts (9), Innings Pitched (396), Fewest Earned Runs (120), Fewest Runs (130), Fewest Walks (80), Lowest Batting Average Against (.219), Lowest WHIP (1.01), and Strikeout to Walk ratio (4.89). The are without question, the best starting rotation in the National League.

One of the Worst NL Bullpens

By contrast however, the Dodgers bullpen has been up there with the worst! They have the 5th worst ERA (4.42), fewest Strikeouts (194), 4th most Wild Pitches (13), and are 2nd in Hit Batsmen.  Collectively they have been responsible for 13 of the Dodgers’ 22 losses this year. They have blown a 5th worst 11 save opportunities and have the second highest percentage of inherited runs scored (39%). In fact, Scott Alexander and Dylan Floro have allowed the 2nd most (10) and the 8th most (8) inherited runners to score.

On the surface the Dodgers relievers don’t look so bad. Yimi Garcia (4.38) and Joe Kelly (7.59) are the only two relievers above a 3.63 ERA. However, Floro and Alexander’s ERA’s are inflated from all the inherited runs they’ve given up. They rarely start a clean inning where the runs scored wrack up their own ERA. Don’t get me wrong, Kelly’s command has been awful, and Garcia has been inconsistent as well, they just haven’t been brought in as much with runners on.

The point is, the Dodgers don’t have that tourniquet reliever when the game gets out of hand.  No one to call in to stop the bleeding, to get that big strikeout to get out of a jam. Even if they did though, would Roberts trust them to do it? Roberts’ utilization and micromanagement of the bullpen could be a whole other article, but I digress.

Friedman Era Strategy

The Dodgers have been so successful in the Friedman era, largely in part by their ability to stock up the farm system with prospects and diamonds in the rough. They didn’t budge on trading away their future talent like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, and most recently, Alex Verdugo. As someone who has loved that about the front office, I think its time to temporarily adjust strategy. 

Time to go All In

There is a time when a team is on the cusp of becoming champions, that they need to go all in. At some point the front office needs to back away from the bargain bin and pay for top shelf goods.  That time is now. Trade a prospect or two. Spend some money. Maybe a little of both, but add this piece to the puzzle. Instead of trying to limp into the playoffs and hope for some post-season sleeper heroics, go get that top tier reliever. Better yet, get two and step on the necks of every team in the way of holding that Commissioner’s Trophy above your heads.

Written by Jason McClure

Technically a Dodgers bandwagon fan. At 5 years old, I decided they were my favorite team after hearing they won the World Series on my mom’s car radio in 1988. My father (technically my stepfather) watered that seed, teaching me the game and introducing me to the beauty of Dodger Stadium. We got to know each other and bonded over games. Even when we couldn’t get along during my teenage years, we could come together over Vin Scully’s voice and a game. Dodger baseball is, and will always be, so much more than just a game.

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  1. Not gonna happen unfortunately and fortunately Friedman is who he is and thats not going to change. We’ll see changes in the bullpen but nothing thats breathtaking or huge. Just some tweaks here and there.

    • Osvaldo! Good morning, you are absolutely correct. It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part! Thank you for reading!

  2. We could have added that top tier reliever in Craig Kimbrel but, he wanted to be the closer and well, Jansen is obviously our closer and didn’t want to give up that role. I don’t blame Jansen since his early season struggles he’s been really good but, I think some of this lands on Jansen. He basically said he would rather be the Dodgers closer than increasing the chances of becoming World Series champions….

    • Yeah, I read the same thing, that allegedly Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen both wanted to be the closer, hence, supposedly it was a big factor in the Dodger FO letting Kimbrel get snapped up by the Cubs. I don’t necessarily buy that and it’s just hearsay for now

      I mean, we’ve had two co-closers before under Manager Tommy Lasorda, when he utilized the outstanding left-handed Steve Howe and the equally skillful right-handed Tom Niedenfuer. Both of these closers were bad to the bone (apologies to Takashi Saito), brilliantly shutting down games during the regular season and Tommy had the luxury of inserting either one of ’em, depending on which way the batter swung.

      And for starting pitching, under Don Mattingly, we’ve had the pleasure and the luxury of have two legimate, proven aces (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) or some as some fans phrased it, “Ace 1” and “Ace 2”.

      So I really believe it’s feasible, because there’s already been a precedent set already and Dave Roberts is certainly capable of relating to his players and getting them to go along with grand scheme of things. I mean, he did immediately convince Brian Dozier to buy into being a bench player instead of an everyday player.

      But getting back to Jason’s original article, yes, Andrew Friedman’s (and the departed Farhan Zaidi’s) dumpster-diving pitching acquisitions (under the laughable guise of analytics) have hurt the Doyers over the recent years. It’s really the Ned Colletti-drafted/signed guys (Kershaw, Ryu, Turner, Seager, Bellinger, Pedersen, Verdugo, et al) that have overall kept the team competitive, in spite of Friedman’s and Zaidi’s horrible starting and relief pitching acquisitions/trades ala Brandon McCarthy (4 yrs/$48 mill), Scott Kazmir (3 yrs/$48 mill), Tom Koehler, Joe Kelly, Scott Alexander, Dylan Floro, Josh Fields, Chris Hatcher, Jim Johnson, ad naseum, ad naseum.

      Sorry for the long rant…

      • Wow, way to put things in perspective, Gustav! I never connected the dots so well. It’s really quite disheartening. Just praying for an anomaly/miracle at this point.
        Also, what a damned crime to waste this starting staff.

      • You made some really good points especially with the guys that Ned drafted/signed guys. And I can’t believe we’re still paying Kazmir 8 million for the next 3 years!!

        But, I’m not sure I can agree so much with some of the relievers that Fridman has brought on… Floro for example, when they traded for him he had a 2.70 era and after the trade lowered that to 1.63.

        Alexander… had a 2.48 era through 58 games with KC before the Dodgers traded for him. After the trade he pitched in 73 games for a 3.68 era. Now he pitched 3 fewer innings in 2017 than 2018. But, as it’s been said about pitchers having to warm up, throwing in the bull pen, perhaps going from 58 apperances to 73 appearances wore on Alexander.

        All that being said, what if it’s not th bull pen being as bad as it’s seems and more about the way their being used. How many times have we’ve seen Maeda or Hill cruising through games and all of sudden we look up and there’s a pinch hitter in the on deck circle in 6th inning?? I think the workload might be catching up.

    • Hi George! Thank you for reading! You bring up s good point about Jansen, however, if he were to slide over for Kimbrel he’d basically be saying Kimbrel is better. Closers don’t have that mentality, too much confidence! At best he could have said let’s split the closer role so I never have to go on back-to-back nights and Roberts would have what he loves, match up options!

  3. Great article. Wouldn’t you agree sir that Joe Kelly wasn’t a bargain bin purchase? I realize the Dodgers and fans thought they were getting the World Series version, but alas they got the year long version.

    • Hi Bob! Thank you for reading! You are absolutely correct Kelly was not from the “bargain bin”, but our other middle relievers are. Kelly seems to have been purchased based on his World Series audition last year. The point was, the Dodgers need to bring in a couple proven arms if they are to do anything in the post season, bring them on now and really steamroll the NL!

    • Inherited runners that score are charged to the previous pitcher that allowed them on. What I meant was Floro & Alexander’s ERA lower than they should be because of that. I appreciate the feedback and apologize for the confusion. Thank you for reading!

  4. The Dodgers Brain Trust has had bullpen trouble ever since they came to power. They have always lacked the “Set Up” man. It has killed them. It forces the starters into suddenly new routines. And Joe Kelly??. That POS broke the rib of Hanley Rameriz . I do not forget that intentionalooks hit. Now, we have him (Perry ), and should nickname him “Gasoline”

  5. In the previous article many suggested Kelly be sent to minors to work ‘work it out’. Work what out? Thats the same as him pitching now when we are ahead by 8 runs–no stress. I would say bite the bullet and DFA and swallow the loss.

  6. I like Hand better than Kimbrel, but I would be shocked if they pull off a major trade for a reliever. No BP help means no WS.

  7. We could resurrect Perranoski and Marshall and Regan and still wouldn’t win with Davey Robots

  8. Perfect way to put it, Friedman is obsessed with bargains and seems to love playing the sleeper game. Nothing about Joe Kelly looked elite in Boston except when the Dodgers hitters made him look like an all star. Friedman fell for it and suddenly was generous with a multi year deal. He has to stop acting like the Dodgers dont have the assets or money to attain elite level relievers. Joe Kelly may still return some kind of value but this feels like the year to stop screwing around and give this team the playoff tools they need to win it all, hell or high water.

  9. Our time has finally come to step up and unload any minor leaguers needed to pull the trigger and land whoever the top reliever on the market is, hopefully Hand. And perhaps one more. The 3 prior WS champions unloaded and got the trophy. Cubs with Chapman, Astros with Verlander, who by the way wanted to be a Dodger first, and the Red Sox with Sale. Our front office stayed on the sidelines. Ok, you didn’t trade away our top guys and they are now the core of the team. So pull the trigger to finally put us over the top…..PLEASE. Or else we will remain the best regular season team that nobody remembers.

  10. I watch condensed Dodger games same night or next day for fear the bullpen ruins my viewing experience. This clearly needs to be addressed. Please no more Joe Kelly, Dylan Floro, and Scott Alexander in competitive games. Floro and Alexander need to be designated for assignment now! Inconsistency in the regular season translates to liability in postseason hence no World Series rings. Enough is enough. Kelly will remain on roster due to inflated contract so the need to limit the baggage is necessary. No aging journeyman like Watson or Ziegler, clearly not the answer. Smith is costly coming from a division rival and would cringe to see a top prospect light us up frequently in future years. Shane Greene would be a good acquisition and even a bigger fan of Brad Hand. Living in San Diego, witnessed the lefty several times here in 2017 and 2018. The Padres would have only finished ahead of the Orioles and Royals in MLB standings if not for his dominating performances. A consistent dominant setup man to Kenley would make guys like Baez and Urias fully effective in their roles. Not a Ross Stripling fan in crunch time situations and that also needs to be addressed.

  11. I watch condensed Dodger games same night or next day for fear the bullpen ruins my viewing experience. This clearly needs to be addressed. Please no more Joe Kelly, Dylan Floro, and Scott Alexander in competitive games. Floro and Alexander need to be designated for assignment now! Inconsistency in the regular season translates to liability in postseason hence no World Series rings. Enough is enough. Kelly will remain on roster due to inflated contract so the need to limit the baggage is necessary. No aging journeyman like Watson or Ziegler, clearly not the answer. Smith is costly coming from a division rival and would cringe to see a top prospect light us up frequently in future years. Shane Greene would be a good acquisition and even a bigger fan of Brad Hand. Living in San Diego, witnessed the lefty several times here in 2017 and 2018. The Padres would have only finished ahead of the Orioles and Royals in MLB standings if not for his dominating performances. A consistent dominant setup man to Kenley would make guys like Baez and Urias fully effective in their roles. Not a Ross Stripling or Yimi Garcia fan in crunch time situations and that also needs to be addressed.

  12. Great article so spot on!! All of the Dodger Fans so agree with you!!
    It’s not like they don’t have the money!
    It’s past time for this team!

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