The latest Dodgers bullpen disaster played out like a predictable fairy tale, the kind you read to your children late at night before tucking them into bed. You know how and what will happen in the story, but are still surprised to see it happen nonetheless. It’s because it shouldn’t happen, especially to a club that has the best record in the National League.
The disaster took place in Southern California’s Orange County in an infuriating 5-3 loss to the Angels. The game was played at Disney but there was no pixie dust or fairy tales in the Dodger’s corner. There is no magic when the Dodgers have a small lead in the seventh or eighth innings.
Let’s be Frank here, the Dodger’s bullpen is a loser. It doesn’t take a scientist, or forensic expert to figure this out. The collection of arms the Dodgers have in their bullpen as a whole is a failure. It’s not going to work and no amount of shuffling them around is going to fix it. That’s what the Dodgers seem intent on doing before it really catches up to them.
Unfortunately it won’t catch up to them yet. Sure they lost another lead in the late frames as multiple incompetent middle relievers were unable to secure outs. I’ll say it over and over and over until the apologists either finally accept reality and agree with the logic that is staring them in the face, or until they finally succumb to the frustrating results of more losing. The Dodger bullpen sucks. Say whatever you will about manager Dave Robert’s tactics but if the entire bullpen consists of mediocre arms than is there really any way to use them properly?
When I say mediocre arms, I’m being kind. Today’s losers were Dylan Floro, Ross Stripling and of course loser poster boy Joe Kelly. For the record I like Floro, but he’s been struggling lately. The rest of the guys, who knows? It all started when Hyun-jin Ryu had reached 99 pitchers after the sixth inning. Ryu had once again turned in another sterling effort and the Dodgers had a 3-1 lead with nine outs to go. The bells started to chime.
A mark of a good bullpen is the ability to hold a one-run or two-run lead which is the slimmest of margins in a baseball game. If a relief corp is unable to do that then they are in fact a collection of duds. Losers if you will. They may be making millions of dollars and are better than 99% of the general population but against their peers on the major league level they are bad. Don’t get this twisted.
Stripling had managed to record two outs in the bottom of the seventh but allowed a single base runner to reach first base. There was a big problem, the next hitter due up was mega god Mike Trout. You know, Mike Trout the best player in baseball over the last decade or so. There’s a runner at first and Trout represented the tying run. Roberts did what he usually does, he went to a matchup, bringing in right hander Dylan Floro to pitch to Trout instead of taking the logical route and walking him and taking their chances with whoever was on deck.
Of course Trout predictably homered tying the game. Once this happened I think everyone could see what was going to happen. If you didn’t allow me to explain. Right now the Dodgers are a little banged up. The normally excellent lineup is a bit streamlined. Cody Bellinger is experiencing the first slump of the season and David Freese, Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson are all battling nagging injuries. Verdugo and Pederson’s are of the sore back variety. So this means they haven’t been scoring as many runs lately. This also means that there will be more low scoring and potentially close games in the late innings. The need for reliable relievers is never more apparent in those situations.
But back to the trainwreck on Monday night in Anaheim. For whatever reason, Joe Kelly was brought into pitch in the eighth inning with the score tied at 3-3. Unsurprisingly, Kelly (he of the 7.59 ERA) allowed two runs to cross the plate. There was a walk, an errant pick-off throw, an intentional walk, a wild pitch, another wild pitch and a fielder’s choice. To be fair the throwing error from Max Muncy didn’t help Kelly’s situation. Yet that matters little. He didn’t hold the lead. The Dodger bullpen didn’t hold the lead.
The problem with this situation is that there is no sense of urgency right now for the Dodgers to make a change. The bullpen desperately needs to be rebuilt but the club has a huge lead in the National League West. They’re winning despite the dreadful pen and it’s too early to make any deals. Besides there are little viable options on the trade market anyways. The time to build an effective bullpen has always been during the winter.
There may not be a sense of urgency right now, there will be one soon. Because a terrible bullpen like the Dodgers have may not bother the Dodgers in mid June, but it will certainly cause problems in October. As a matter of fact it may prevent the Dodgers from reaching their third consecutive World Series. It would definitely prevent them from winning it.