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NLDS Preview: Comparing The Starting Pitching & Bullpen



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Bullpen

The Dodgers come into the postseason with a lot of questions in their bullpen. Besides closer Kenley Jansen and left-hander J.P. Howell, Don Mattingly has a lot of inconsistency in the later innings. Jansen was near the league leaders for saves all season, despite having the highest ERA since 2011. He still throws hard and his cutter is one of the better pitches in the game. Howell struggled a bit towards the end of the season, but was lights out before that. He will likely serve as a setup man in the playoffs.

Mattingly could go with Brian Wilson and Brandon League for the seventh and eighth innings. While League had a 2.57 ERA, he also had a WHIP of 1.460. He relied on double plays to get him out of most jams and struggled to throw clean innings. Wilson never quite became the reliever he was last season. A 4.66 ERA and WHIP of 1.614 do not bode well for the right-hander, but the Dodgers do not have much else. He claims he will be able to ramp it up for the playoffs and the team will need him to do so.

Paco Rodriguez will likely make the roster, providing Mattingly with a second left-hander to use. Rodriguez spent most of the season in Triple-A after being one of the best relievers on the Dodgers last season. It appears that Jamey Wright and Pedro Baez will be the final two to make the cut with Carlos Frias also on the fence, depending on how many relievers Mattingly decides to take. Wright struggled all year, but gives the bullpen a long man out of the bullpen. Baez gives Mattingly a flame-thrower in the middle innings, while Frias would provide velocity and the ability to go multiple innings.

In the 2013 NLCS, the Cardinals bullpen blew away the Dodger hitters with fastballs from a variety of young arms. The young arms regressed a bit during the season, but still have the ability to shut a game down. Closer Trevor Rosenthal had an ERA of 3.20 and still managed to save 45 games. Seth Maness is the best lefty for the Cards. He posted a 2.91 ERA in 73 appearances.

Pat Neshek provides a different look in the later innings. He provides a submarine/sidearm delivery that is meant to deceive. Neshek posted a 1.87 ERA in over 70 games. Randy Choate is another soft-tossing reliever for Matheny. He is a situational pitcher meant to pitch to lefties.

Last year’s NLCS hero Michael Wacha will be used out of the bullpen, along with fellow hard-throwing youngster Carlos Martinez. Both use a mid-90s fastball and sharp off-speed pitches to get outs. Wacha has been injured for most of the season and may struggle in his role. The last spot or two could go to Sam Freeman, Kevin Siegrist or Jason Motte. None stood out this season and all posted an ERA above 3.50 in the second half of the season.

Advantage: Cardinals (While the bullpen struggled during the season for the Cards, they all have the potential to be shutdown pitchers. Adding Wacha and Martinez to the bullpen gives Matheny a handful of hard-throwing relievers. The Dodgers will have to hope that League and Wilson can be effective and avoid their season-long struggles.)

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