The Dodgers made a big turnaround during the last two months of the first half of the 2016 season. The boys in blue finished the first half with a 51-40 record, 11 games above .500. The Dodgers had two 6 game winning streaks and have won 7 of their last 10 games to take over the National League wild card lead. So what was the catalyst for this big about face from mediocrity towards playoff contention? Believe it or not it’s been the incredibly fantastic Dodger bullpen.
The Dodger bullpen’s story is one of redemption. Much maligned at first by myself and social media, the relief crew has become the best in baseball. The dominant Dodger bullpen has kept the club in game after game, night after night slogging through a slew of bullpen games. With the Dodger rotation in flux from injuries, underperformances, and lack of innings, the bullpen has rode to the rescue. The collection of holdovers and castoffs have come together to form the top bullpen in all of baseball.
Despite the early season injury to Yimi Garcia, the bullpen has weathered the storm. It all starts with Adam Liberatore who set a record with 24 consecutive scoreless innings. Liberatore has been one of the most dominant relievers in the majors. The left hander has posted a 0.61 ERA over 38 appearances. He’s allowed just two earned runs all season and has limited opposing hitters to a .145 batting average against.
Free agent signings Joe Blanton, and Louis Coleman have been extremely effective all season. Blanton, most surprisingly to me and social media has limited hitters to a .140 batting average against. Blanton has a 2.09 ERA and has allowed just 5 earned runs all season. Coleman has made 40 appearances and limited hitters to a .246 average against. Blanton has struck out 48 and walked just 13.
Newly acquired Casey Fien has been steady as a rock. Fien has made 19 appearances posting a 2.49 ERA and limited opposing hitters to a .208 average against. He’s struck out 19 and walked only 3. He’s mixed lively heaters with impressive off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance. Right hander Pedro Baez who can make time stand still when he pitches has performed well too. Opposing batters are hitting only .172 against him and he’s struck out 50 against only 12 walks. Even guys like J.P. Howell and Chris Hatcher have been pitching better over the last two months.
Since May 22 the Dodgers have the best Reliever ERA in all of baseball. As a matter of fact, the Dodgers bullpen has stranded 85% of runners that they’ve inherited since then. The Dodger bullpen ranks number one in all of baseball with a 2.83 ERA. The Dodger’s bullpen is actually in the top ten or top five in almost every single pitching category.
The Dodger relievers rank eighth in holds (52), First in WHIP (1.02), first in batting average against (.195) fifth in strikeouts with (303), ninth in innings pitched (299), seventh in saves (27), eighth in K/9 (9.1) and number one in runners left on base with an 85.8 percentage. The Dodger bullpen has a 1.57 ERA in July.
Of course I can’t finish this article without talking about their elite closer, all time franchise save leader and all-star Kenley Jansen. The island boy has recorded 27 saves and posted a 1.16 ERA. He’s whiffed 51 while walking only 6 and posting a 0.65 WHIP. Jansen broke the all time Dodger save record earlier this season. He’s really been the best closer the Dodgers have ever had.
The bullpen has done this, day in day out, every single night. They’ve pitched 4 innings, 5 innings, 6 innings and sometimes more. They’ve held opponents scoreless night after night and they’ve done it all quietly without complaining about the above normal workload. I have to give kudos to Friedman, Rick Honeycutt, Dave Roberts, and the entire Dodger’s organization for building an excellent bullpen this year. It’s something we’ve always wanted, and now finally have. What’s scary is that it could even get better.
Good Job Dodgers! Now if we can just fix the rotation……..