Despite a rocky start to the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen was off to a strong start. You can say that they blew a couple games, but truth be told, if the Dodgers’ offense hadn’t missed so many opportunities, the bullpen wouldn’t be taking the beating that they have taken from both opposing lineups and the Dodgers’ faithful. Now, that strong bullpen start has come to a halt and it’s making the Dodgers’ struggles worse and more noticeable. So here’s a look at how each of the current bullpen arms is faring.
Scott Alexander: After an inconsistent and horrid start to the season, in which Scott Alexander had an ERA of 6.35 and a WHIP of 1.85 through 11.1 innings of relief, he was optioned to Triple-A. During his stint in Triple-A, Alexander gave up only four hits and one walk along with five strikeouts through four innings of relief. On Wednesday, he was recalled and since then, he has been lights out. In 2.1 innings of relief, he has not allowed a hit, while walking one and striking out another. He has proven that his command is better now than it was at the beginning of the season and should continue getting reps in high leverage situations.
Pedro Báez: Once proven to be a potential closer, Pedro Báez has proven that he can shut down the opposition, but he has also proven to be wild at times. His walk per nine innings has increased since his 2014 rookie campaign. In arguably his best season in 2016, he allowed only 22 walks through 74 innings of relief. In 18.2 innings of work so far this season, Báez has given up 10 walks. In 18 appearances so far, he has inherited seven runners and four of them have scored, proving that he is not effective at holding base runners. Of the current Dodgers’ bullpen, Báez holds the highest WHIP at 1.71. Historically, he has been equally effective against both right handed batters and left handed batters, but this season, he has fared far better against righties. He has allowed a slash line of .296/.424/.615 to lefties compared to righties who slash .280/.340/.327 against Báez. Although he still gives up his fair share of walks to righties, they haven’t been able to square up the baseball as much as lefties have against Báez. Overall, he should be used out of the bullpen in new innings, coming in to face a string of right handed batters. By facing righties, he may be able to get back into his groove and continue being dominant as in previous seasons.
J.T. Chargois: J.T. Chargois is the epitome of the bullpen’s evolution through the season so far. Through his first 14 appearances, Chargois only allowed runs in two games, boasting an ERA of 1.46 with a WHIP of 0.97 while walking only six and striking out sixteen. In his last three appearances, however, he has given up five runs in only two innings of work, walking four and striking out only three. Chargois has been one of the most consistent and reliable relievers, but with his recent struggles, manager Dave Roberts may begin to confide in him less. Utilizing Chargois less, however, will only make things worse. Instead, Roberts needs to use him during low leverage situations, coming into new innings, to recuperate that confidence.
Josh Fields: Arguably the most consistent and reliable bullpen arm for the Dodgers at the moment, Josh Fields has proven to be downright dominant. After a rocky start to his career with the Astros, Fields has been one of the best bullpen arms for the Dodgers in the past 2+ seasons. No matter the situation, Fields has been able to effectively provide relief. Despite his high fly ball ratio, Fields has been able to limit damage by not allowing base runners. Among current bullpen arms, Fields has the highest strikeout to walk ratio at 3.20 and has a masterful WHIP of 1.04.
Daniel Hudson: It was a risky move to sign the veteran pitcher, but after 4.2 innings of no-hit baseball in Triple-A, the Dodgers felt he was still capable of producing quality relief appearances at the Major League level. After being called up, he has proven otherwise. He has been effective at holding inherited runners, but he has gotten himself into trouble more often than not, giving up one run or more in five of his eight Major League appearances so far. His high tendency to produce fly balls has hurt him in this era of launch angle and exit velocity.
Kenley Jansen: When the majority of the bullpen was providing quality innings of relief, Kenley Jansen was doing the opposite, surprising not only Dodgers fans but baseball fans everywhere. He allowed one run or more in three of his first seven appearances. Since then, he has only allowed 1 earned run in his last eight appearances, dropping his ERA from an absurd 8.10 to 4.02. In the month of May, Jansen has pitched six innings of relief allowing only one run and converting three save opportunities into three saves after blowing two save opportunities in the month of April. Expect Jansen to continue being the dominant closer we’ve known him to be.
Adam Liberatore: Unfortunately for him and the Dodgers, Adam Liberatore is currently unavailable with an ankle injury. He is listed as day-to-day and the severity of the injury is unknown. Before his injury, he was, for the most part, an effective call-up. Through 7.2 innings of relief, Liberatore has given up only five hits (three of which came in one outing that gave him his only loss of the season) and has struck out eight. In eleven appearances, he has inherited ten runners, all of which he left stranded on base, proving that he has the ability to get out of rough innings unscathed. As such, when he returns from his injury, expect him to make appearances in low leverage situations and once he proves he’s back to normal, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make multiple appearances with runners on in high leverage situations. Also expect Liberatore to be a key piece of the bullpen going forward as he has dominated right handed batters, limiting them to a slash line of .176/.176/.176.
Pat Venditte: After pitching 17.2 magnificent innings of relief in Triple-A, allowing only three earned runs, Pat Venditte has been called up to provide the same kind of relief at the Major League level. Historically, the 32 year-old switch handed pitcher hasn’t had much success at the Major League level, but in an effort to reshape the struggling bullpen, Venditte is being given another opportunity. In Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Reds, Venditte pitched 1.1 innings of relief, limiting the opposition to only one hit while striking out one. He threw 30 pitches and a whopping 24 went for strikes, demonstrating powerful command of his pitches.
Entering Sunday, the Dodgers bullpen have the 3rd worst ERA in the NL at 4.49, most of which has been inflated by a select few appearances, especially as of late. Expect this to be a slight hiccup in a long season as the Dodgers look to return to their winning ways.