Don’t Look Now, But The Dodgers’ Bullpen Has Quietly Come Back

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Then came the hell that was the series in San Francisco.

In a horrendous series the Dodgers fumbled away leads of 4-0, 5-0, and a rainy day, no-hitter that Ross Stripling took into the eighth inning. The previously untouchable bullpen proceeded to give up 12 runs in 10 2/3 innings.

When they returned home to face Arizona, the bullpen still stunk. At one point skipper Dave Roberts just tossed the other relievers and went straight to Kenley Jansen for a 5-out save when Pedro Baez came in with a 3-1 lead and immediately put the tying runs on base.

In their first eight games the Dodgers had leads in each, but managed to implode and lose half of them. Dodger starters had allowed 14 runs in 49 1/3 innings, but the bullpen allowed 16 runs in 21 2/3. That’s more runs than the starters in less than half the innings. The Dodgers went from a potentially dominating division leader, to a mediocre assembly of has-been’s and never will be’s.

Dodgers writers, fans, the blogging community, and Twitter-heads were up in arms. One could only imagine the hand wringing that was taking place behind the blue doors of the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

All of that has since changed. Slowly, one inning at a time – one batter at a time – the Dodgers bullpen has gotten up off of the mat and has gained new life as Blue Firemen.

Here’s the latest bullpen update: Dodger relievers have allowed one earned run over their past 26 1/3 innings (0.34 ERA).

J.P. Howell, who was earlier blowing up the curve for the bullpen’s stats with a personal ERA of 54 (!), has dropped it to 10.13. At least that’s traveling in the right direction. Since returning from the paternity list Chris Hatcher has retired 13 batters in a row.

And the big man, Kenley Jansen has been absolutely devastating for opposing batters. Through the ups and downs of this young season, Jansen has been solid from day one. There can be no discounting what his presence has meant to the bullpen.

Every time he steps through those bullpen gates and onto the field, everyone in Dodgers Nation, from the front office suits to the folks who still love the team despite not being able to watch them on TV, knows it’s settled. He’s human, but he’s sure been carrying the Dodgers bullpen like he aint.

Speaking of giving credit where credit is due, skipper Dave Roberts has managed the pen very well these past few games. He has taken a collection of smoldering and busted odds and ends, and coaxed new life out of them by skillfully inserting – and then replacing them – as needed.

As a result, the bullpen has emerged from the Dodgers doghouse, and it’s once again functioning as a well-balanced unit capable of getting the job done. I’m sure that plane flight to Colorado saw the Boys in Blue feeling like a complete team.

Of course, all of this feel good doesn’t fix the lousy bullpen construction brought to us over the past two years, or lousy starters who can’t go beyond 4 innings – courtesy of a front office more concerned with maximizing immediate profits than actually putting a credible pitching staff on the field that’s worthy of wearing the Dodgers’ name.

However, those are points for another column, on another day. Today the bullpen has earned the kudos that I bring. Bravo and well done, indeed.

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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33 thoughts on “Don’t Look Now, But The Dodgers’ Bullpen Has Quietly Come Back

  1. Fair comments Oscar.

    If I remember the upturn started when Doc asked Kenley to pitch the 8th & 9th for a six out night because he didn’t trust anyone else.

    Since then confidence has returned and Hatcher looks like he is enjoying fatherhood.

    Seems mighty quiet in these parts.

  2. Oscar – will it continue – in a word – no freakin way. And this is how sure I am of that – I got 500 push-ups that says in the next 26 1/3 innings their ERA will be over 0.34. Bet starts tonight. And I KNOW nobody is taking that one.

    This team is finding its way. About the time things settle in, 100+ at bats, 30-45 games in, even if it looks good it won’t matter because guys will be coming back and more moves are imminent. Oklahoma City should be a deep team.

    I’m still anxious to see them play against the stronger teams east of here.

    Arrietta is pretty good.

  3. Location and command are so important. Hatcher now throws the first pitch slider for a strike and gets ahead in the count. He’s settled into a rhythm and, hopefully…maybe.., he’s a little more like he was at the end of last year, in which case the Dodgers have a setup guy for Kenley.

    I think the Cy Young might be between Arrieta and Syndergard, with Kershaw in the top three again.

  4. I was hoping the Dodgers would bring a pitcher up from AAA, to have a long guy in the pen, in Colorado. Especially with Wood, and Kazmir, not pitching deep into games.

    Maybe they should have brought up Frias, in case the Dodgers need a long guy to help with the bullpen. Colorado is bad enough place to pitch, for any starting pitcher, let alone, a pitcher, that can’t pitch beyond four or five innings.

    And the bullpen is still needing a little rest, from having to pitch for Wood, in that first game against the Braves. I hope Turner and Cory, can get out of there little slumps in Colorado.

    But Cory did get the game winning hit, in this last game they played, even if the umpires couldn’t get the call right, so maybe that will help Cory’s confidence.

    1. Snider I forgot about Frias’ Colorado game, maybe that was a bad idea. But I blame Mattingly for leaving Frias out there, so long.

  5. “Relievers are like volatile stocks….They’re the one asset you need to watch closely, and trade for quick profits.”

    Moneyball

  6. Good start tonight.

    Bullpen. The arms are there. I think bullpen guys have to throw 99 – or have more than 2 pitches they can spot. If you throw Chapman hard you can get away with fewer pitches and more location mistakes. I still think our three hard throwers need a two seamer they can hit the corners with and they will be fine. Mix it up and throw strikes.

      1. I wonder how long it is going to take for Howie to start hitting. He doesn’t look to good right now. He is striking out a lot.

  7. Puig’s throw — he never would have had to make that throw if anyone else had been pitching. But with Kazmir out there . . . lots of throws.

    Is Jansen with the team? On down on sea level?

  8. Did you see Roberts talking to Puig. That would never happened with Mattingly. What a throw by Puig. Kasmir is hanging in there. If he stays on the corners, he is fine. I do not know how long Kendricks deserves to start. Right now Thompson or Kike are better options.

          1. For as much money that Kazmir is getting, he is sure not pulling his weight. He is never going to opt out.

            They gave him a better contract, then almost any team would. After what happened with the Angels, I would have never gave him, a multi year contract.

            They acted like that was a good thing, with what happened with the Angels. The front office, acted like he would opt out, so he would only be here, for one year.

      1. And the the Rockies closer, we just saw throw, or a pitcher comparable, is who the front office, should have got for this bullpen.

  9. Rockies are playing well enough to win. They won’t hang around all year, but they can win in their own park. I’m not concerned about them long term.

    Our pitching. I am concerned about that

  10. The title of the article is ironic given the game’s outcome. The ‘pen pitches well at times but not consistently (except for Jansen).

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