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Common sense says that by not getting enough innings from your starting rotation you can and will put too much stress on your bullpen. Basic logic would dictate that if you use eight relievers per game that eventually some or a few will get tired, or get hurt. The Dodgers are in trouble because they’ve already blown out the majority of their middle relievers and we’re only in July.
Once again as I have decried on this blog for several years now, if you use your bullpen for five plus innings every single night that one or two or more of your prized middle relievers will blow their arms out soon enough. It’s a poor strategy that can only lead to failure and disabled list trips for many of your relievers.
If we look at the Dodger’s innings usage we can see a familiar pattern. The Dodgers rank 28 out of the 30 clubs in innings pitched from their starting pitchers. The Dodger starters have provided just 431 innings. Meanwhile the Dodger relievers have logged the second most innings in the National League and the third most in the majors with 323.1 frames. The Dodger starters have registered only about 108 more innings that the relievers have. That means the Dodger starters are averaging only a little over five innings per start and that is a recipe for disaster.
You may think this bullpen heavy usage and short outings from the starters is a good idea and the future of baseball. If you do then hey who am I to burst your bubble? But the facts are the facts. Once again I am merely reporting and not making this stuff up. As a result of their heavy bullpen usage the Dodgers have not one, not two, but three middle relievers on the disabled list with fatigued arms or shoulder problems.
I’ll say it again, facts are the facts. Pedro Baez, Tony Cingrani and Josh Fields are all currently on the disabled list with uncertain timetables for returns. Baez has right biceps tendinitis and his arm is very sore. He threw a bullpen session on June 30 but the Dodgers don’t know when he’ll be ready to come back. Cingrani is reported to have a rotator cuff strain. He’s also suffered from dead arm earlier in the season as well. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session too, but who knows when he’ll be activated. Fields had right shoulder inflammation and was reportedly ready to be activated on June 30, but has not been yet.
The bridge to closer Kenley Jansen has never been more rickety. Right now the Dodgers are using Scott Alexander and Erik Goeddel as their seventh and eighth inning guys. Both of them are pretty bad with Alexander being atrocious all season long. If your bullpen consists of ineffective middle relievers then you’re going to lose a lot of games.
With the middle relief corp so unreliable, the Dodgers have been reportedly discussing some trade options with the Miami Marlins. The Dodgers are said to be eyeballing three relievers, right handers Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider, and left hander Adam Conley. The Marlins are terrible and have no use or need for any of those guys mentioned above this season due to them being eliminated from the playoff race around opening day.
The lone saving grace for the Dodgers is that their starting rotation is finally getting healthy. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda are all back almost fully recovered from their respective injuries. Walker Buehler is working his way back and hopefully will take the mound at Dodger Stadium as soon as possible.
I understand that the game changes and the Dodgers are big believers in taking a starting pitcher out before they face the opposing batting order a third time. Numbers say that most starters (not all) are less effective later in the game. But common sense also says that you should find a balance or suffer the consequences. The bullpen can’t pitch 5-6 innings every game. Otherwise guys start to get hurt, tired or ineffective. The Dodgers have 1…2…3 middle relievers on the disabled list.
The Dodgers need more innings from the starters. They need healthier and more effective relievers and they need a balance between the starters and the bullpen. If they can’t find this soon then they may earn an early and lengthy winter vacation.