The Dodgers are right back to losing. After dropping 15 out of 20 during one of the most dreadful stretches in recent memory, the Dodgers rebounded to win 12 of their next 13 games, which included a nice little eight-game winning streak. But after splitting a two-game series in Houston the Dodgers returned home to play four games against the nasty San Francisco Giants. After sweeping them in Oracle Park the Dodgers folded up like a beach chair, losing three of four and firmly now entrenched into third place in the NL West.
One of the reasons the Dodgers are chasing the Padres and Giants early in the season is due to massive amounts of injuries to the bullpen and bench. It’s also due to design flaws in the roster construction. Bullpen games are really hurting the Dodgers and there is nobody in the organization that can start a baseball game. Or is there?
The Dodgers entered the 2021 season with five starting pitchers, and two additional starters for depth. The rotation consisted of Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Julio Urias, Walker Buehler, and Dustin May. Veteran David Price and Catman Tony Gonsolin were considered to be depth guys, with the Dodgers ultimately deciding that Price would be a full-time reliever while Gonsolin would be a spot starter/long-man. But then Gonsolin got hurt, and the Dodgers had already made up their mind about David Price, despite him being a starting pitcher his entire career.
But that was fine because the Dodgers had five healthy starters. Until they didn’t. Dustin May blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery, knocking him out for the rest of the season. That left a gaping hole in the rotation that either the Dodgers refuse to fill or were unable to fill. The leaky hole has sprung into a waterfall.
There’s nobody in the organization that can start, (other than Price) so the Dodgers have fully committed to using bullpen games when they are unable to skip the spot in the rotation with built-into the schedule off-days. The effect it is having on the pitching staff and the team in whole is bad overall.
Bullpen games are a terrible strategy, but especially when the team like the Dodgers has a poorly built bullpen. The Dodgers do. The club ranks thirteenth in bullpen ERA (3.90) and has now blown 15 save opportunities only 53 games into the season. They are actively using guys like Phil Bickford, and Alex Vesia in meaningful innings. It’s hard to watch.
The bullpen games negatively effect not only the game they start, but the next couple of games afterwards. When you burn the entire pen in one game, they are unavailable to pitch the next day, forcing the starting pitcher to pitch 8-9 innings. Here’s another terrifying thought. What if someone else gets hurt? What do the Dodgers do then? If there is an injury to another starter, the Dodgers would be forced to possibly do two bullpen games a week. That could be catastrophic.
The Dodgers have one of two potential options. Either they claim a starting pitcher off the waiver wire, or they insert David Price into the rotation for the immediate future. I do not mean just using Price for two innings and then bringing in Phil Bickford for three horrible frames. I mean actually letting David Price act as a real live starting pitcher, something he has excelled at (312 starts and over 2000 innings pitched over 13 seasons) for many years.
It’s possible Mitchell White could start a game or two as well, but it makes sense to hand the ball to a seasoned starter like Price to fill the gap. The Dodgers wouldn’t need Price to shoulder a heavy workload, just fill a spot so the club isn’t blowing through the mediocre bullpen once per week.
17 thoughts on “Bullpen Games are Hurting The Dodgers”
Absolutely agree, Scott. Especially when the starters are struggling, and offense unable to bring in RISP, the bullpen is on their heels, overused, and taxed.
Dave Roberts does not help matters, playing matchups, and wasting pitchers on one hitter, or two. He continues to expose the weaknesses of Uceta and Vesia, pitching them multiple innings while wasting Mitch White, Treinen, and Gonzalez on one inning or less. Burning out the pen also puts undo strain on struggling starters, like Urias, who was pressed to endure 5 excruciating innings, while yanking pitchers like Price the other day, while he was on a roll with 5 K’s, and 2.2 innings of perfect frames.
Sure, the ace starters have failed the last few games. Bauer, Buelher, Urias, and Kershaw. Something has to be done about the Dodger pitchers serving up the “meatballs”, especially the starters. I think the veteran Barnes calls a better game, gives the pitchers a sense of comfort defensively, and is a hot bat right now. Why does he sit? Those, coupled with bullpen games, is not the best thing for the bullpen.
Starters have been held back, given an extra days rest, or pitched on 4 days rest. I really feel that this contributes to the inconsistencies with the rotation. Pitchers need to be on a routine schedule.
With the absence or a 5th starter, the Dodgers just have to select and stick with a temporary 5th starter…. Price is the perfect candidate, or even Mitch White, and hope Gonsolin will return strong.
Lastly, Jansen is really not the pitcher you want on the mound in extras, when there is a runner starting the inning on 2nd base.
They seem reluctant to let Price pitch more than a few innings. Probably the second time through the order thing.
Gonsolin is sorely needed.
A few things may make things more difficult for the Dodgers soon. MLBs enforcement of sticky substances and the mandate to reduce pitchers on the roster down to 14.
Great article Scott. Lot of different looks at the situation.
Nobody likes the bullpen games. Not the pitchers, not the manager, not the management.
Obviously, Gonsolin is being stretched out. But there are no options. Gray is injured, no other pitcher is worth either moving onto the 40 or starting their service time clock.
It stinks, but it’s the best route.
It’ll be over soon.
Don’t you think not having anyone in the organization that can start a game is a huge problem?
The problem will only get worse when MLB is done with investigation on Dodger pitchers using foreign substances. Bauer practically admitted he used/uses it, who else is guilty? Obvious it has not helped Bauer much.
Add to that, the offense fails to provide adequate run support, putting pressure on the Dodger pitchers to be perfect, even if they have to cheat. Nomar has hit the nail on the head…. the offense needs to stop worrying about launch angle and hitting HR’s, and start shortening their swings and putting the ball in play.
They have the best starting position in MLB. I think that qualifies as ‘anyone’.
This is about a fifth starter in the midst of a rash of injuries.
Molehills are not mountains.
You’re misquoting me here. I asked if the club not having anyone within the organization to fill in and take Dustin May’s spot in the rotation is a big problem. You basically agreed with me, and now you are back pedaling. For what reason I don’t know. Think about it, because if someone else gets hurt, then who fills in? It actually could become a big issue if they are forced to do two or more bullpen games per week because they have no starting pitching depth, beyond the big four. You’re glossing over how bad those bullpen games are, how much it effects the entire staff the next couple of games after burning through most of the staff, and even you admitted it yourself. I’ll quote you here,
Nobody likes the bullpen games. Not the pitchers, not the manager, not the management.
Yes it does stink. Having no starting rotation depth does stink. Hopefully nobody else gets hurt between now and through the postseason. Otherwise they are just one more injury away from Alex Vesia opening every week.
Just because it stinks doesn’t mean it’s a big problem.
It’s a small problem because it’s a short-term problem.
Over the short-term it stinks, but it’s working out fine. Over the medium and long-term the starting pitching is great.
If you not understanding my point is me back-pedaling, cool!
Everything could be a big problem with further injuries. If Mookie and Bellinger get hurt, OF is a big problem.
If Lux and Taylor get hurt, IF is a big problem.
If Turner and Neuse get hurt, 3B is a big problem.
The team has great depth, but that depth isn’t without conditions.
So you consider Neuse and Luke Raley great depth? Those guys are hitting around. 170. I guess they are “depth” in that they are guys that can wear the uniforms and hold a bat.
I never said or was a huge problem, but only that it was a problem that can turn into a huge problem. Yes not having a fifth starter during the regular season and doing bullpen games once or twice per week is not good. Having minor league retreads batting .180 in the starting lineup is a problem. Just pointing this out.
Looks like its a big problem now Bluto. Doesn’t it? The Dodgers now have 2 starting pitchers. Bullpen games every day now. Can they win with a patchwork pitching staff of mostly middle relievers? Possibly, but its a big struggle. Thats where we’re at. Looks like I was right yet again. Seems like that’s a recurring theme here. I see a potential problem miles before it happens. I warn you and everyone about it. You tell me I’m being too concerned. Then problem happens. Me- “HEY BLUTO THE DODGERS HAVE SUPER THIN PITCHING DEPTH. IF SOMETHING HAPPENS INJURIES OR OTHERWISE THEY WILL STRUGGLE TO FIND A WAY TO WIN GAMES AND FILL INNINGS. Bluto- ” Stop worrying! You’re making a “mountain out of a moelhill”. Are you getting tired of being wrong all the time Bluto? Have fun watching the middle reliver Dodgers.
Add to the pitching whoas (taxed BP, Pitchers serving up the dingers, starters struggling to go 6 innings), the boring offense has been struggling. Still too many KO’s, pop outs, GIDP, FC ground outs, and RISP. Add to that, the inability to even get runners past 1st base. Hitters inability to take advantage of struggling pitchers who are wild, hitting batters, and handing out walks.
Add to that, players are dropping like flies. So many injuries.
Good thing it is a long season, so all is not lost, yet. Still time to turn things around, if they can only stay healthy and off the IL.
Also may be time to seriously look for another dependable starter, not a dumpster find. These Bullpen games, like you say, do more harm than good. Especially if starters cannot go a strong 6 or 7 innings.
Seems poor Trevor cannot come to GRIPS with the Dodgers’ lack of offensive support.
Aside from Retreaded Tractor Tire Pujols and Astro Reject Souza, these are the Dodger Veterans who are petering out at the plate. Pop outs, Force outs, GIDP, RISP, KO’s…. Same old story, same old smell.
Not only do bullpen games hurt the Dodgers, so do these so-called scheduled days off. These days off only disrupts the batters. Lux, Smith, and JT were three of the hottest hitters in the lineup. The extra day off cooled them off. Especially when you have Muncy, Seager, Bellinger, injured. This should be an “All Hands On Deck” situation until their injured players return. Patchwork batting orders sucks.
Yup, Scott. I agree with you. the Middle Reliever Dodgers. Couple that with the stagnant offense, it is going to be a wild ride. Whoops, there goes another flying meatball from our patchwork pitching staff. I dreaded the day they signed Bauer. Now the pitching staff is cursed with the Bauer Jinx.
…. That’s what happens when you make a deal with the devil. Damn Dodgers!
7/9/21: another disgusting performance vs. D-Backs (Game 1). The 2nd worst team in baseball, just ahead of the Marlins, who just took 3-4 from the World Champs.
Revolving door continues to spin in bullpen. Throwing another rookie, Nunez, into the fire. Uceta scorched again, with self inflicted wounds. Walks are not defensible. Maybe he had no confidence with lackadasical defense after two more inexcusable errors. Bullpen games suck. Price not even close to assuming a starting rotation role. Dodgers need to get at least two quality pitchers, by hook or by crook.
Dodger offense continues to sputter. 0-8 RISP, 6 LOB, 7 KO’s
So what else is new? Still no time to panic? Geez! Time for fans to hide under the nearest rock. A total embarrassment.
Don’t think anyone is panicking nor embarrassed.