When the news broke that Kenley Jansen would be out for a while due to his reoccurring heart condition, it definitely had Dodgers fans a bit nervous. Any time your All-Star closer goes down, it’s a
concern, but it’s especially concerning when you have an already suspect bullpen.
Still though, only the most extreme pessimist could have predicted just how bad it would be. The first six games without Jansen have resulted in six late-inning collapses, each by a different reliever.
Again, that’s six straight games. Six different relievers. Five of those were loses. Each one where the Dodgers either had the lead or were tied late in the game.
Tough losses like that have some Dodgers fans ready to rip their own heart out and give it to Jansen. It’s
Sure, the offense hasn’t helped matters very much. They scored only nine runs combined in the last three games at hitter-friendly Coors Field, and were shut down by Chad Bettis and his league-worst 5.67 ERA. They then scored only two runs in Monday’s loss against the Giants, and followed that up with a whopping one run on Tuesday. They were blanked for 5 innings by Derek Holland on Wednesday before finally coming through with a few runs.
Although the offense isn’t helping any, there’s no escaping the bullpen issue facing the Dodgers. The fact remains that for five games straight the Dodgers relievers haven’t done the job. There’s really no sugarcoating it.
So, who’s mainly to blame for these bullpen woes you ask? Great question. Let’s examine the suspects.
The Front Office
As mentioned already, the Dodgers bullpen has been a concern all year. While not the worst in the league by any means, it was still no secret that the one glaring area this year that could probably be improved on was the bullpen.
While most were expecting the front office to add a relief arm before the trading deadline, Andrew Friedman & Company had other ideas first. They traded for Manny Machado, probably the biggest impact player on the trading block. They also added Brian Dozier to sure up second base.
Their offense was improved. Their depth was boosted. But as far as that whole bullpen thing? The Dodgers simply added John Axford. Not exactly the kind of upgrade many were hoping for.
However, before anyone can assign too much blame to the front office for their actions (or inaction in this case,) it’s important to understand their thought process.
First, the available relief options weren’t as plentiful as in years past. Also, the bigger names that were
available had questions or concerns surrounding them.
The San Diego Padres asking price for Brad Hand was outrageous. They were somehow able to get the Indians to meet that price though, as Cleveland parted with their top prospect to acquire Hand. The Dodgers front office hasn’t been known for trading away their top tier guys, which has allowed them to keep players like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Julio Urias, and Walker Buehler. So Hand was probably never a realistic option.
The Orioles dealt away Zack Britton, and some were hoping the Dodgers would have got him packaged up in the Machado deal. But Britton hadn’t been his old self this year, and there were some concerns about his stuff. He was putting up his worst numbers since becoming Baltimore’s closer, and since going to the Yankees, Britton hasn’t fared any better, sporting a 7.36 ERA and 2.045 WHIP over eight appearances.
It’s impossible to know every other move the Dodgers could have made. Perhaps some other relievers were available. Maybe some deals were left on the table. But it’s hard to fault the front office too much when there may have just been slim pickings for any bullpen help. In addition, it was impossible to predict Jansen’s injury, although if the Dodgers had a solid set-up guy, like they did last year with Brandon Morrow, they would certainly be in a better position to deal with such an injury.
Percentage of blame: 25%
Just as the manager gets a lot of the credit when a team is going good, so too do they get some of the criticism when their team struggles. And rightfully so.
Take last Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rockies for instance. Roberts’ late inning decisions could surely be questioned. Just a day after saying that Scott Alexander was going to be the primary option late in games, Roberts pulled him after he gave up a one out hit in the 9 th inning. He went with JT Chargois who gave up a game-winning 3-run homerun to Ryan McMahon.
Pulling Alexander could be debated, as he’s been one of the more consistent options behind Jansen lately. But if Roberts really wanted to go with a righty to face Nolan Arenado, fine. He could have went with Dylan Floro, who has been a lot more effective than Chargois.
Roberts surely had his reasoning behind his decisions, but there were two questionable calls there in one half of an inning, and it helped lead to a Dodgers loss.
Of course, you can’t blame Roberts for every move. Perhaps learning from his previous decisions, Roberts went with Floro in the 9 th inning in Sunday’s game, and had to watch him walk in the winning run. On Monday, he stuck with Alexander to close out the game with a one run lead and it back-fired. Alexander gave up four runs in the 9 th and took the loss.
Seemed like no matter what strings Roberts pulled, it wasn’t going to work out.
Roberts is certainly in a tough situation with his closer out and no one to fill those shoes at the moment. No manager is going to make the right call every single time. Still, there’s no question that each decision Roberts makes with his bullpen, especially late in the game, is going to be magnified.
Percentage of blame: 15%
The Actual Players
A crazy concept, I know. But sometimes it’s actually on the players themselves to produce. And right now, the Dodgers relievers are just not producing. Practically every relief pitcher has contributed to the Dodgers recent skid.
Alexander, Chargois, Floro, Rosscup, Maeda, and Ferguson. Each have gotten the call late in games over the last week and came up short. Although no bullpen is immune to slumps, these guys need to do better. They know that. Dave Roberts knows that. And every Dodgers fan out there surely knows that.
Without Jansen, there’s no rock at the back of the bullpen to rely on. But the Dodgers do have a capable group, who has shown they can be good at times. Now, it’s just a matter of them having the confidence to go out there and preform to their capabilities.
Percentage of blame: 60%
Perhaps the influx of normal starters like Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling will boost the bullpen. Julio Urias is also nearing a return, and would probably be used as a reliever if and when he comes back. And trades could still be made for players who clear waivers, so maybe there’s some upcoming moves ahead.
Regardless of who’s to blame most for the current situation, one thing is certain. The Dodgers have to correct this problem, and correct it fast. And everyone is responsible for doing that.
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