Entering Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers lead the National League West with a grand record of 7-2. They have outscored their opponents 72-42 and everything seems to be going their way. If anything has worried the Dodgers and its fans, it’s the bullpen.
Joe Kelly was signed to be the dominant reliever he was in last year’s World Series, but he has yet to pick up any slack. His six runs allowed through three and one-third innings of work is among the team’s worst. He’s been relied on to hold a lead multiple times already and he’s given up the lead two times in three appearances. Add to that a comeback line drive that hit him on his throwing hand in Friday’s win over the Rockies and things aren’t looking pretty for the Dodgers’ reliever.
Along with Kelly, Yimi Garcia who’s been sidelined with injuries for the past couple of years and Brock Stewart who has struggled to establish himself as a Major League level reliever are struggling heavily. Kelly, Garcia, and Stewart combined have allowed 21 of the bullpen’s 23 total earned runs allowed.
Despite the trio’s early struggles, the bullpen is still one of baseball’s best with Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, Scott Alexander and Kenley Jansen each putting up zeroes in their combined 20 appearances. Also worth noting is Kenley Jansen has successfully converted four save opportunities into saves while striking out six and allowing only two hits and one base on balls. While it’s not feasible to rely on one man to carry the bullpen, Alexander, Ferguson, Floro, and Pedro Baez who has been solid provide sufficient versatility to get the ball from the starter to Jansen.
Speaking of starters, the Dodgers’ deep starting rotation depth is another reason that the bullpen shouldn’t be a huge concern. The starting rotation combines for an amazing ERA of 2.92 and 1.01 WHIP despite being without longtime ace Clayton Kershaw. Although the starting rotation is only averaging a little over five and one-third innings, their ceiling is much higher. Since the season only started, they are not going as deep as they have showed they can go. With their rise of innings pitched, the bullpen will be far less of a concern because they won’t be overworked even if it comes to the point that the Dodgers have to rely on five relievers.
Another reason that the bullpen shouldn’t be as much of a concern as it is made out to be this early in the season is the fact that the Dodgers’ lineup is one of the strongest in the Majors. They are first in the Majors with a .974 OPS and are second only to the Mariners in runs scored with 72 and home runs with 22. And they are showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Not to mention that the Dodgers didn’t make many expensive acquisitions this offseason, so they have the luxury of reaching out to another team for bullpen depth if it comes that, as they have historically picked up multiple relievers mid-season to pick up any slack. Also worth noting is that Craig Kimbrel is still a readily available option if the Dodgers are willing to spend a hefty amount and have two “closers.”