The Dodgers Need a Long Man, and Clean Up The Bullpen Mess

J.P. Howell

This latest series loss to the Giants has greatly exposed the Dodger’s primary weakness. That weakness is middle relief. I am specifically referring to the lack of a long man in the bullpen. The Dodgers lost to the Giants by a score of 9-6 on Sunday afternoon, losing the series 3-1. Scott Kazmir blew a 5-run Dodger lead within the blink of an eye. He lasted only 4 innings allowing six earned runs on seven hits. The Dodger bullpen then did their thing by allowing three more earned runs and making the problem even worse. The gas can squad was in full effect.

Looking at the Dodger pitching staff, I’ve noticed that it’s very poorly constructed. During the series with the Giants, the Dodger bullpen allowed 12 runs on 15 hits across 8.2 innings pitched. That comes out to a 12.46 ERA with a 2.31 WHIP. Yeah that’s not going to work. You can’t blame first year manager Dave Roberts. He doesn’t have any good options available. The real fault lies with the front office.

This is the main problem I have with the front office. They build terrible pitching staffs. I don’t know why. Is it because of arrogance, or incompetence? Or do they really believe these below average relievers are suddenly going to start pitching like Mariano Rivera. Sorry but that’s just not going to happen.

The brain trust was supposed to fix the problem with the bullpen during the winter and did nothing to address it. As a matter of fact, they made it worse. Their “solution” to the problem was signing mediocre arms like Louis Coleman and Joe Blanton. The rest of the bullpen is the same as last year. Returnees Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell, and Chris Hatcher haven’t changed at all. Perhaps Garcia has potential to be good one day, but the rest of those guys are horrendous. How do the Dodgers get the ball to Kenley Jansen? That’s the question we ask every year.

The main problem is the lack of a long man, or long reliever. Is that supposed to be Blanton this year? I don’t understand why the Dodgers refuse to use one. The reason a long man is so important is because of games like on Sunday. That game was a perfect example of why the Dodgers need a long man. During a game when a starter struggles, or gets hurt, or is unable to go deep into a game, you need to use a reliever who can give you some innings. Otherwise you end up using one pitcher per inning and burning up your bullpen.

That can be very inefficient bullpen usage. The Dodgers just have a bunch of one and done guys. They need somebody that can give them some innings.

The new excuse I am hearing is to blame pitching coach Rick Honeycutt instead of just admitting that the front office made a huge mistake. Honeycutt has been one of the better pitching coaches in all of baseball during his tenure with the Dodgers. It’s not his fault. Honeycutt can’t turn water into wine. He’s not a magician.

It’s time to face the facts that the front office is just not capable of building a reliable pitching staff or bullpen. The Dodgers didn’t have to go out and buy 7 relievers on the free agent market. All they needed to do was sign 2 reliable middle relievers. I’m Not talking about Coleman or Blanton. Those guys suck. If you are not willing to use the depth in the farm system to address the problem, then you have to acquire arms via free agency or trade.

Now the bullpen is a mess again. It’s bad enough that they only have one left hander. They desperately need a long reliever as well. The Dodgers need 2 or 3 middle relievers, with one preferably being left handed if they are going to compete this season. You can’t win without a bullpen. Until the Dodgers clean up this mess they will continue to lose games.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic Cheap MLB Tickets

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42 thoughts on “The Dodgers Need a Long Man, and Clean Up The Bullpen Mess

  1. Good writing Scott . . . what bothers me is the lack for fixing THIS team.

    The Dodgers have the money, or suppose to have the funds. The Dodgers have minor league talent to offer in a trade.

    But they seem not to want to commit the money or give up the talent to fix the problem. They keep trying waisted, tired, old, etc. arms and then hope that some of the young kids can finally get it. Almost an acceptance that the games will be like this . . . win some and blow-up in others. This is no way to be a championship team.

    I know the fear of making that trade . . . for pitching help. Dodgers traded Paul Konerko in 1998 to Cincinnati for All-Star closer Jeff Shaw — to fix the bullpen problem. Shaw pitched 4 years with the Dodgers. He was only 9-17, but in saves he had 129. He was 31 at the time the Dodger traded for him.

    As for Paul Konerko who retired after the 2014 season — he had 439 HRs and had 1,412 RBIs over 198 seasons.

    Gee, Dodger great 1st baseman Gil Hodges play 18 seasons and had 370 HRs and 1,274 RBIs. Mike Piazza in 16 seasons had 427 HRs and 1,335 RBIs.

    Giving up on a rookie can hurt. Konerko will most likely make the HOF some day.

  2. I’ve been saying for months the staff is short winded. If you don’t hire 200 inning pitchers you better strengthen the pen. They didn’t do it, only they know why. I keep saying they are waiting this Colletti structured squad out. The moves to be made to actually go for it just have not been done. From Anderson McCarthy to Kazmir Coleman have all been from the same model – mid range players to mark time until the minor league talent steps in for the departing $20+ million Colletti dudes. Not everybody agrees with that, but if the goal is to manage payroll and develop the system, that vision is obviously going to take some time to get organized. Even if we do manage to stay competitive until July 31st, and I think we will, do you really believe they will pull the trigger in something big? If they didn’t do with last year’s team, why would anyone believe they would do it with this year’s?

    It seems clear to me. This organization has hit the pause button and are looking forward. That said, there is talent here. Hatcher, Baez and Garcia are all throwers with great arms. None are real pitchers yet. The starting staff, after Kershaw, is middle of the pack. Our offense has a lot of potential. We are going to win some games, especially against teams that have less talent. But we will often struggle against the better teams. There are a few very good teams in the NL. Make no mistake, SF is one of them. And you know Bochy will have them believing.

    1. Yes, grab guys like Greinke and Miller. Then we would be 2 – 5.

      Badger: “Even if we do manage to stay competitive until July 31st, and I think we will, do you really believe they will pull the trigger in something big”? I do. It just has to be the right deal!!! The players you wanted at the trade deadline last year were just too expensive. Look what Theo did last trade deadline. Ned tried your way and it didn’t work. Patience Grasshopper, opportunity will knock and FAZ will have the assets to answer.

      Badger: “This organization has hit the pause button and are looking forward. That said, there is talent here”. Yes, there is. Lots of it, with more on the way in the minors and DL. Agree, FAZ is looking forward to Either/Crawford contracts ending (aren’t we all?).

      Reading alot of the comments on this board makes it very clear to me that many suffer from Fox, GM Lasorda, Malone, McCourt/Ned delusional syndrome. Maybe venting helps!!! This new ownership group is the best, they spend the most on salaries, Cubans, infrastructure, etc. Championships are elusive under the best of circumstances (See Theo Epstein). Like it or not LAdodgerreport board, FAZ is the management ownership wants. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I bet, ownership is very happy with the progress of the DODGERS under FAZ.

      1. My apologies to anyone who was offended by my diagnosis of “Fox, GM Lasorda, Malone, McCourt/Ned delusional syndrome”. My medical transcriptionist misread my diagnosis, said it was my handwriting, however, the truth is, its hard to find good help when operating under the budget constraints of Obamacare.

        My actual diagnosis is “Fox, GM Lasorda, Malone, McCourt/Ned derangement syndrome”. Happily, while this malady can lead to delusion, like believing FAZ has been in charge for 28 years, the prognosis is much better. Symptoms have been known to vanish as soon as PLAYERS start performing like they are capable. Good Luck.

  3. Good stuff Scott… Especially on Honeycutt… Some folksjust don’t do their homework on him…
    So Zack’s AZ miseries are due to not having Grandal!??! That’s as good as it gets among the comments..
    A little early to stick a fork in the pen, but lets take this day off and come back and get em in the Ravine… Walk Goldy every chance yo get…
    Piazza had a lil help I’d say…

  4. I am going to disagree with you Scott. We needed to let Honeycutt go. We needed a shake up with our pitchers. We needed new thoughts and ideas. Look what Searage has done with Nacisco. I would bet Kershaw had some influence in the decision to keep Honeycutt. FAZ made the decision to keep Honeycutt, so either way it is still their problem. Blanton was a bad signing. Once Utley was signed, we did not need Kendrick. Look, we have four people capable of playing second. Put that on FAZ. I like the depth FAZ has acculated and I have supported FAZ. However, they have made some bad decisions.

  5. I want everyone to know that I am not knocking Honeycutt as a pitching coach. We needed a complete change and we kept one coach. I am very happy Mattingly and coaches are gone. We did not finish the job.

    1. We kept the best of the bunch. Check the pitching staff’s under Honeycutt’s ERA and league standing every year. The guy is an outstanding pitching coach. But even a pitching coach can only do so much. They have so many walking wounded pitchers and reclamation projects that it boggles the mind.

  6. Scott: “Those guys suck. If you are not willing to use the depth in the farm system to address the problem, then you have to acquire arms via free agency or trade”. WRONG, Just watch the waiver wire. There will be plenty to pick from!!

    Tolleson, TX 22.50 ERA
    Rodriguez F., DET 20.25 ERA
    Pelfrey, DET 14.73 ERA
    Withrow, ATL 13.50 ERA
    Soria, KC 13.50 ERA
    De La Rosa, AZ 12.46 ERA
    Cashner, SD 11.25 ERA
    Greinke, AZ 9.90 ERA
    Lackey, CHC 9.00 ERA
    Cahill, CHC 9.00 ERA
    Wacha, STL 8.31 ERA
    Leake, STL 8.31 ERA
    Miller, AZ 8.18 ERA
    Fernandez, MIA 7.94 ERA
    Carrasco, CLE 7.20 ERA
    Archer, TB 7.20 ERA
    Smyly, TB 6.75 ERA
    Kluber, CLE 6.75 ERA
    Bauer, CLE 6.00 ERA
    Corbin, AZ 5.14 ERA

    And there are others. I think we all agree, FAZ is very good at grabbing reclamation projects. Just grab other team’s mistakes!!

    1. Boxout7, that is only after four or five games, and with the starting pitchers, that is only after two games. There is no way that any of these teams, will release these pitchers.

      The front office, obviously thought the Dodgers needed a stronger bullpen, or they wouldn’t have tried to get Chapman. And the bullpen can be judged on there early performance, because the bullpen, has been a big problem, for four years now.

      And this front office, trying to go after Chapman, and then instead, signing Blanton, has to be the worse move, that any fan can hear. And is one of the worse moves the front office could make, after going after Chapman.

      Bottom line, if this front office, would have brought Chapman to the Dodgers, that move alone, would have made the Dodgers, a much better team, and would have helped compensate, for the weak pitchers, they signed for the starting rotation.

      And the Dodgers would have won at least, three games in SF. I know they didn’t want Chapman, because of his off the field problems, but they should have made a move, to get a reliever, that is almost as good as Chapman, or a really good set up guy.

      People are really tired of having a bullpen, that constantly gives away games, and this has been a problem, for way to long. And if the front office would have got a top set up guy, the Dodgers would win many more games, and the fans would have a better prospective, about the front office.

      And when I’m talking about many games, instead of the bullpen giving up 21 games, maybe this figure would only be 9 games. That is a eleven game, turnover, in the standings, and who knows what it would do in the post season, where the bullpen, often plays a even bigger role.

  7. I thought the bullpen was supposed to be great this year after being terrible last year. I mean, it’s the same group of guys plus Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman, who could have ever envisioned this.

    Instead of the gloating attacks to come, how about we all come together in unison and agree how bad FAZ has f’d this up? Now I will probably be asked, what would you have done Mr. GM? Well, guess what, that’s not my job or anyone else’s on this board. All I know, is that the saviors of Dodger town have failed miserably in their “attempts” to fix it, just because a LADODGERREPORT.COM blogger doesn’t have the answer does not mean FAZ is off the hook.

    Here they come……

    1. lol….yeah. Let’s all come together in unison, hold hands, and chant “FAZ sucks” over and over.

      I’d rather try to be a baseball fan the same way I try to be a voter – informed and understanding the issues. Your alternative is to be a pitchfork mob. That gives us embarrassingly stupid Presidential candidates, and gives less than substantive solutions to building a successful baseball team.

      I don’t worry too much. I think the Dodgers will win a few games and, much like turning the light on in the kitchen, Truther will scurry away into the woodwork like a cockroach. 😉

      1. Welcome back Dr. Cabbage Patch, did FAZZkisser 101 let out early today? OR did your students stop listening to your BS?

  8. I would like a little more in depth analysis than simply spouting that the bullpen is a “steaming pile of crap.” What is “Moneyball garbage”, anyway? It’s easy to vent. It’s easy to say the FO didn’t do this or that, but what should they be doing? More specifically, look at what the teams with successful winning models do: the Royals with their bullpen, the Pirates and even the Cubs. What system in place do the Royals have that makes their bullpen arms so good? Somehow the Royals and the Pirates manage to make a Blanton look pretty good. Is it the coaching? Is it an acquisition process that stockpiles hard throwers or reclamation projects like Blanton or Nicasio? or maybe it’s a combination of those factors. It seems like the Dodgers have the system in place to acquire the arms, so maybe the issue is Honeycutt. Right now, it seems like, if you’re a reliever, going to the Dodgers is where you go to end your career. Does anyone even know if Johnson, that guy the team got from the Braves last year, is even still in the game. Meanwhile, our castoffs thrive in Pittsburgh.

    AC made a good post about this, and I tried to elaborate a little. I think it’s agreed that the Dodgers should use the resources to build a good bullpen, but that’s a little easier said than done. As was brought up, you can spend money, but, as with the case with Wilson, League, et. al., that’s not necessarily an effective way to use your resources. That’s not how the Royals or the Bucs do it.

    So, rather than just an exercise in spewing frustrated rhetoric, I’d rather look at this as a rational exercise. What are solutions? If this game was easy, then there wouldn’t be 29 teams with frustrated fans every year.

    One more thing: I do disagree with Dodgerrick’s take that the offense still doesn’t play good fundamental ball, or the Moneyball Garbage approach to just playing station to station is in play. I think the offense has been pretty good so far, and has shown a pretty good aptitude in advancing runners and getting good at bats. That bunt in the first inning that put the run over should be evidence that Roberts is managing the team his way

  9. You think this is Honeycutt’s doing?

    COACHING CAREER
    Rick Honeycutt enters his 11th season as Dodger pitching coach, the fourth longest tenure of any Major League pitching coach. Since his first season as pitching coach in 2006, Dodger pitchers rank first in the Major Leagues in ERA (3.65), WHIP (1.27), strikeouts (12,605), SO/BB ratio (2.55), fielding-independent pitching (3.69) and all opponents’ slash-line numbers (.247/.312/.378/.691)…the Dodgers led the NL in ERA in 2008 (3.68) and 2009 (3.41, first in MLB) and were second in 2012 (3.34) and 2013 (3.25)…………

    Not bad Rick.

    We also have Hershiser and Maddux in house and Koufax in Spring Training every year. I’m going to wait it out on those guys that need to master a second, off speed pitch, but at the moment I am not prepared to blame Honeycutt. Maybe Hatcher, Baez, and Garcia suddenly get it. If they do then our bullpen problem is solved. If they don’t, who’s fault is it? Honeycutt’s? Yeah, maybe. But what if it’s simply cement headed young pitchers? What if management has handed Honeycutt the wrong group? There isn’t much he is going to be able to do about the starters here. That group is going to put pressure on the bullpen all year. Good luck to any pitching coach with this group.

      1. You bring up a good point. I think it’s the disloyal fans that are the root cause of the Dodger’s problems. O ye of little faith. You blaspheme the Lord FAZ. Apostate!

        1. The Great and Powerful FAZ!

          One could make the argument that the men behind the curtain are relying on tricks and cons to take people’s money and steal fans hearts, but all for a short time, leaving them forever chasing fame and fortune but never getting much of either…..

          Ok I stole that from a review of the new movie. But, it might fit here.

          1. More like the great and powerful CABBAGE PATCH! …..

            Watch out Badger, here comes the vulture and cockroach insults or the Dback fan comments, so predictable and she can’t help herself.

      2. Truth there is enough pitchers that the Dodgers have released, and went to the Pirates, and became good. There has been four, that the Dodgers had, and went straight to the Pirates, and we’re released, by the Dodgers.

  10. I agree with everyone except idahoal here. The problems with this squad were played out in microcosm in the series with the Giants:
    1- mediocre starting pitching. Of course Kershaw was Kershaw and I loved what Stripling did, but Wood has never impressed me and Kazmir is not a #2
    2- bad bullpen. They have some strong arms down there and won’t always pitch as badly as they did against SF, but one of the reasons that they flamed out of the postseason the past 3 years has been the difficulty in bridging the gap between the starters and Jansen. The Braintrust has done nothing to fix the problem (unless you think adding Blanton fixed anything).
    3- bad situational hitting. It’s not just hitting with RISP – it’s doing things like moving runners over. Roberts commented yesterday about how the Giants were able to do this yesterday.

    Talent alone won’t win – it takes execution.

    The Dodgers’ pitching problems are structural. It’s the way the Braintrust built the staff. The offense will not achieve all it can without better execution.

      1. Me too.

        There is enough talent here to be a good club. Offensively anyway. The pitching staff, between Kershaw and Jansen, scares the crap out of me.

  11. I blame Roberts for not bringing in Jansen during Friday’s game, unless someone else told him who to bring in.

    Do long relievers exist these days?

    1. Artie I thought about that, but Kenley, is not always dependable on getting five outs. Hatcher should have never thrown that Rookie, a fast ball, right down the middle of the plate, especially after, Stripling, struck him out two times, with his curve ball.

  12. Okay, it’s a small sample and maybe we are overreacting. But when the Dodgers score six runs and lose, Dodger fans are going to vent. We’re used to leaving runners on base, but we expect the pitching to be better. Of course you can’t give up on a guy who has had years of success after a couple of bad games, but at some it’s going to be adios.

    I don’t know about Honeycutt. It seems like guys should be taught how to pitch before they get to the majors, but it seems like our pen always needs help and they rush guys up. I thought Blanton was supposed to be the long man, but it seems like they don’t trust him, either.

  13. I don’t trust Blanton. Not yet anyway. Maybe the bright lights of LA have a different effect on some people. A lot of expectations here.

    If the young arms in the bullpen don’t mature, we’re toast. This staff has 1 200 inning pitcher and 4 guys that will be lucky to complete 150. Actually, after Kershaw, we are going to see ….. 10 different starters. Maybe more, who knows. The point is that bullpen is going to get a lot of innings. We may need to carry an extra pitcher for most of the year. Kiké can play anywhere. I wonder if he can catch.

  14. One of these two statements is the truth. 1. Baez, Hatcher, and Garcia have been told to use off speed pitches. Or, (2) they have not been told to use off speed pitches . If they have been told to use off speed pitches and do not, then you fire them. No different than any working place in America. If they have not been told to use off speed pitches, then you fire the pitching coach. I do not know which statement is correct, but one has to be.

    I just read an article about Nacasio. The writer said he had two good pitches and he needed to develop a third pitch. Isn’ t that a novel idea. The same can be said for our bull pen. Where s the pitching coach on that idea. Honeycutt has learned too much from Mattingly. Run it like a country club.

    1. They say a starter needs three good pitches but a reliever can get by with two. Maybe our young guys can’t command their second pitch, which begs the question: why are they in a major-league bullpen? Probably because they can hit 95+ on the gun…and they’re cheap.

  15. Someone cue the Dennis Green meme:

    “This team is who we thought they were, and we let him off the hook!!”

    Bullpen struggles could be seen from a mile away. Will be only worse without a second ace in rotation.

    1. That’s one of the potential outcomes. I believe that’s where we were last year, and where we are at the beginning of this year. Will Maeda be the second ace? It’s possible. I sure hope so because I don’t see any of the others stepping into that role.

      I think I’ve seen some progress with the three young guys. Hatcher has thrown what looks like cutters or sliders, Garcia has looked good and Baez has thrown more fastballs down in the zone. Maybe these guys get it and are privately working on command of different pitches. I sure hope so. I like all those guys. Wish I could throw 97. I already have the off speed pitch.

  16. The thing I noticed after that nerve racking Giant series is none of the relief pitchers (Jansen excluded) have any command! I couldn’t keep up with how many times our relief pitchers were behind in the count. When they finally did throw a strike it might as well been batting practice. As we saw the Giants don’t miss mistakes. I think Hatcher has the ability to turn it around. He’s shown it before. However, I have no faith in Baez or Garcia. They always give me the feeling the moment is too big for them.

  17. I hear that bullpen arms can’t be depended on, year to year. If that is the truth, why did the front office, sign Blanton, after his only one decent year, in the bullpen? And why did they give him, a guaranteed contract, instead of a spring training invite.

    And how can they sign Blanton, after almost having Chapman?
    They signed Blanton, at his highest worth, and if you believe that relief pitchers, can’t be consistent, year to year, they should have not signed Blanton.

    This reminds me of, when they signed MCCarthy, on what he did, in one half of a season. And that was probably, at McCarthy’s highest worth, in his entire career. Both of these signing, seem to go against what this front office is suppose to believe in.

    When we heard that the front office, had got Chapman, everyone felt really good, about the team, because the bullpen problem, was finally fixed. And then we heard that they signed Blanton, after we thought the Dodgers had Chapman, this sounded like a nightmare, and almost a really bad joke.

    And if relief pitchers can’t be depended on, then we are going on a terrble ride this year, with Blanton, and have already witnessed him, giving up a game winning HR, and he didn’t look to convincing yesterday, in the innings, he pitched.

    And like Badger said, Blanton pitches really well, as long as the ball, is hit right to the defense. And the Dodgers are suppose to have enough players, to deal with this year, unlike last year, so why couldn’t they get something more comparable to Chapman, or at least, a good set up pitcher?

    And there are bullpen arms, that are dependable, and consistent, out there, but your either going to have to trade or buy a arm, like Scott has said, and really, you usually pay for what you get, if you know what real talent is worth.

    We understand that they thought Greinke was to much, for to long, but why didn’t the front office, use there resources, to go with there next plan?

    And when Chapman became a bad deal, then why didn’t the front office, just get a quality arm, to shore up the bullpen. And to compensate for Greinke’s loss, and to be there, for the pitchers in the starting rotation, that they signed, that can’t be depended on, for more then five innings.

    The front office did save a lot of money not signing Greinke, and by signing pitchers, that are cheaper, and they had the right idea, by bringing Chapman to the Dodgers. But when that didn’t happen, they had to get a quality arm for the bullpen, or a good set up pitcher.

    And signing Blanton, is not even a good attempt, and is certainly not close to the answer. And that is to bad, because Roberts, and his coaches, have this team playing better

    . And the offense is also better this year. I know they could be better, with runners in scoring position, but I think that they will get better. And Roberts acknowledging that the Giant’s offense, was doing everything right, and had a good team offense, shows me, that he wants that, for this team.

    And I think he has already stressed this, to his team, and he will continue, to stress this type of play, along with his coaches. And the Dodgers have already shown some of these things, and I think they will get even better, throughout the year.

    And there hitting now, is more sustainable, then all of the HRs, they hit last year. And the Giants really didn’t out hit the Dodgers by much, if they did. And they wouldn’t have won a couple of those games, if they hadn’t hit HRs.

    And that won’t be as sustainable, as just hitting, especially in there big park. There was a lot good, that came out of the last series, the Dodgers played against the Giants. And that series was much closer, then the final results show.

    I just hope something will be done with the bullpen, and I hope Mark is right, that they will bring up some young pitchers, if the bullpen, continues to fail.

    Also, I heard that JP’s fast ball speed, was down two, from last year.

  18. Well 2016 down the tube after 7 games so guess I’ll just hope for the best for 2017. Living in negville a drag drag drag.

    1. I guess it is acceptable to you, to have a bullpen, that consistently gives away games. 21 last year, and we have already three games, given away this year, and that is in 7 games.

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