If there is one thing that could prevent the Dodgers from winning the World Series this season, it’s the lackluster relief pitching. The lineup is elite. The starting rotation is strong, and the bench is solid. Even the defense that at times appears sloppy is good enough to win with. The bullpen however is just not very effective. There are little to no reliable options and closer Kenley Jansen has been frustratingly inconsistent. But let’s stop putting the blame on manager Dave Roberts.
Once again Jansen blew another game on Wednesday night during the Dodger’s 2-1 win over Toronto. The Dodgers are at home playing a series against the Blue Jays. It’s really just a precursor until the Yankees come into town. The Jays are terrible this year, sitting in the bottom of the American League East standings. The Dodgers had a 1-0 lead entering the top of the ninth inning after Walker Buehler fired off seven shutout frames, yet Jansen who is clearly old and in decline gave up a solo home run to .227 hitting Rowdy Tellez that tied the game and then was seen cursing to himself while walking off the mound. Jansen, just as frustrated with his crappy pitching as we are has been infuriatingly poor in 2019. He’s now allowed 8 home runs, posted a 3.70 ERA and has blown 6 saves. The rest of the bullpen is bad.
But let’s stop pretending like Roberts has some kind of magic elixir that he’s refusing to drink. None of the other relievers are particularly intimidating. The lone reliever pitching well is Joe Kelly. And he was horrendous throughout the early part of the season. The rest of the relievers all suck. Do you feel confident in Pedro Baez? Julio Urias is serving a 20-game suspension for an alleged domestic violence incident and the Dodgers refuse to pitch him on consecutive days. The rest of the choices are guys like Casey Sadler, Caleb Ferguson, Adam Kolarek, and Yimi Garcia. Those guys all clearly suck.
It’s not Jansen’s fault that he’s getting old. Let’s not kick him while he’s down. He’s given us a decade of elite relief pitching in the ninth inning and he should be respected for what he’s done for the organization. It’s easy to pile blame on Roberts, but I pose a question. If all of the relievers suck, then what good choices does Roberts have? Who can he use?
The burden actually falls on management to build a good bullpen and the time for that was during the winter. The onus falls squarely on the moronic shoulders of Andrew Friedman, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter to ensure that Roberts has reliable options in the late innings. I understand that relief pitching is volatile and changes from year to year. Yet it shouldn’t be that difficult to acquire one, maybe two decent relievers. Friedman and Kasten refused to do what was necessary during the offseason knowing full well that the Dodgers were in desperate need for a rebuilt bullpen for the second straight season. Now the Dodgers must rely on their excess load of starting pitchers to supplement their middling relief corp.
For the record, the Dodgers won on Wednesday night anyways like they usually do. Max Muncy smacked a walk-off home run to give the Boys in Blue a 2-1 win. That’s the Dodger’s eleventh walk-off of the season. They can’t walk-off every game in the postseason. If the Dodger’s mediocre bullpen and lack of reliable relievers prevents them from winning the World Series in 2019 then we know who to point the finger at.