Phenomenal bullpen key to Dodgers’ revival

It’s hard to overstate the importance that Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig have had in the Dodgers’ turnaround from a 30-42 to a 30-7 team. They have had an enormous impact on an offense that otherwise has not performed much better in the second 54 games of 2013 than it did in the first 54.

A.J. Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. – five starters and three key bench players – all had lower OPSes in the middle third of the season, when the Dodgers went 36-18, than at the outset, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

The starting pitching has been steady as she goes during the hot streak, with everyone – including, of late, Chris Capuano – keeping the Dodgers in games. In addition, the team has been better hitting with runners in scoring position, some recent events in Chicago notwithstanding.

But when you look at how the Dodgers have been playing .811 ball since June 22, winning games like they were free throws, much of it comes down to this – the bullpen simply just keeps getting guys out.

Perhaps no moment epitomized that more than when the Dodgers inserted Brandon League, simply horrible for much of this season, into the seventh inning of Saturday’s game with Cubs at the corners and the tying run at the plate.

Since entering the All-Star break with a 6.25 ERA, League hadn’t allowed an earned run or an inherited run in eight innings over six appearances, with opponents OPSing a scant .343. Don Mattingly had slowly moved League out of mop-up situations into higher-leverage moments, but this was the first time League had been used to protect a lead of three runs or less in nearly seven weeks since June 25.

League threw four pitches, induced the Dodgers’ fourth double play of the game, and strolled off the field.

In the next inning, Ronald Belisario gave up two singles to the four batters he raced – a relatively shocking development for a bullpen that has been so reliable – and then making matters worse, Paco Rodriguez came in and threw six straight pitches out of the strike zone, loading the bases with a 2-0 count to the go-ahead run, Chicago’s cleanup hitter, Welington Castillo (admittedly, not your prototypical cleanup hitter).

Rodriguez got the count back to 3-2, then struck Castillo out.

If teams don’t score against you, they’re not going to beat you. The Dodger bullpen has smothered nearly every single fire they have encountered since the fourth week of June.

Keep in mind the bottom four guys are not really relevant to the conversation, having mainly pitched in the rare garbage situations the Dodgers have been in since June 22. The four primary relievers (five if you count Withrow) have ERAs below 2.00, opponents’ OPS below .600 and have stranded 31 of 34 inherited runners. Thrown in a temporarily improved League as a bonus, and that’s a hellacious bullpen that could also find addition by subtraction if Carlos Marmol is jettisoned for someone more reliable, unless Marmol follows in League’s footsteps.

Can they keep this up? Well, no. Not bloody likely. Relievers don’t stay hot forever, particularly guys who are proven inconsistents like Belisario. The question is whether it will be a blown save here or there, or the more frequent meltdowns of the season’s first 72 games.

There’s also concern over how many games some of the relievers have been appearing in – especially Kenley Jansen. But the good news is that Jansen has been so efficient lately – he has retired 22 consecutive batters with 10 strikeouts – they’ve essentially been low-stress outings. Here are Jansen’s daily pitch counts since June 22 …

There was an eyebrow-raising stretch the week of June 23 and another following a 28-pitch outing July 23, but for the most part, Jansen has kept his pitch counts in check and had a nice checkerboard of days off.

Of course, the fastest way for the closer to get rest is for the Dodgers to start losing again. Otherwise, yeah, there will be a day when the Dodgers are in a tight one and they’ll want to try to get by without using their big ex-catcher.

The Dodgers’ surge has been too good to be true, but there’s no denying it has happened. Whether you should believe it can continue should depend in large part in your belief in this bullpen.

Dodgers at Cubs, 11:20 a.m.

  • foul tip

    As expected, Fife activated to start today.

    As maybe not expected, countering roster move is SVS to ABQ. Does dude have a million frequent flyer miles yet?

    As maybe expected, Marmol was not the one to go. Guess mgt is not ready to pull the plug on that particular experiment yet.

    It may be looking at him as the anti-Gregg. What Gregg has done after being cut has stung, I think.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      Go BLUE!!!!

    • Anonymous

      Gregg is pretty awful, and I’d rather see him in a Cubs uniform.

      • foul tip

        Kinda back toward earth now after a strong start. Not young either.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    I kind of thought Marmol would go – not that I didn’t think it was
    quick – in the sense that I didn’t think they would make the Fife move
    if they weren’t prepared to let Marmol go. And with Puig ailing a bit, I’m surprised by the Van Slyke move.

    But overall, as awful as Marmol has been, the Dodgers wouldn’t have gone after him if they were ready to give up so quick.

    • Adrian Garcia

      I think Marmol gets until Wilson is ready, if he hasn’t shown anything I think it’s clear he’s gone when Wilson is ready

      • Anonymous

        Twitterboy would simply be Mármol 2.0.

  • foul tip

    Actually, a 6-man starting staff may be smart given how many games are coming up.

    Wonder how the team will juggle the roster if that’s the intent?

    Juggling will be trickier when Wilson is available…

  • foul tip

    Good for a chuckle or two. Let’s hope Wilson is as good on the mound as with Photoshop.

    http://wapc.mlb.com/cutfour/2013/08/01/55498294/brian-wilson-photoshops-little-league-scene-of-him-dodger-greats

  • Anonymous

    Great stuff, Jon. Thanks.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Dodgers lineup::
    Crawford LF
    M Ellis 2B
    Gonzalez 1B
    Ramirez SS
    Ethier CF
    A Ellis C
    Schumaker RF
    Uribe 3B
    Fife P

  • Anonymous

    Good to have Agon back in the lineup. I’m not sure I agree with Donnie that Adrian is the MVP, but for me, he has definitely been the most consistent offensive player, if only because he’s played roughly twice as many games as Puig or Hanley.

  • Spence

    I really dont like going with such a short bench. 13 pitchers currently on the roster.

    • Anonymous

      On the other hand, Greinke and Kershaw can pinch hit, and possibly even Kenley (a former position player) if he’s unable to pitch on a given day.

      • foul tip

        Anyone know who Dodger emergency catcher is? If they ever had to use Kenley, that wouldn’t be good several ways: couldn’t pitch that game, injury risk, whatever.

        Hope NOT to see that.

        • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

          something makes me thin it’s JH jr

          • Anonymous

            correct

        • foul tip

          Not to mention who knows how many errors throwing cutters on return pitches to the mound. ;-])

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    AJ!!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Here are screen caps of Dioner breaking Hanley’s bat:

    http://imgur.com/LarEPhy

    http://imgur.com/VrkkROp

    http://imgur.com/wpbQ4CL

  • Anonymous

    Anyone know how many times Van Slyke has been sent down to Albuquerque this year?

    • Anonymous

      based on the question I guess you think more than the correct # which is 3 after today. He also had a rehab assignment at Alb. while on the ML DL.

  • foul tip

    WGN broadcasters on about that if Barney faced Fife, it’d literally be Barney-Fife. Groan. I think.

    • foul tip

      And just flashed a shot of Lasorda nodding off, saying Chicago “proved to be too much for the man.”

      Guess when you televise the Cubs it helps to be able to laugh a bit.

  • Spence

    The Cubs are like a minor league team compared to who the Dodgers are going to face this upcoming week.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Dre!!

  • Anonymous

    Boston 2, Arizona 0, after 5 1/2 innings.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Nice Play MEllis!!

  • Anonymous

    Boston 4, Arizona 0, after 6 innings.

  • Anonymous

    This was just posted on the Dodger website. Note the second paragraph:

    CHICAGO — Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he believes outfielder Yasiel Puig will miss only one or two days with a bruised left thumb that he injured while making a diving catch on Saturday.

    Disclaimer: Mattingly is in an 0-for-2013 slump on medical predictions.

    But Mattingly said Puig would be partially available Sunday for defense and pinch-running.

    “Actually, he’s pretty good,” Mattingly said of Puig. “He’s better today than we anticipated. There’s a little soreness, for sure. He wore the brace overnight and it was stiff this morning, but as he got moving it got better. We anticipate the way he plays, he’s going to get some stuff. He’s been durable, really.”

    The injury is near, but not as bad, as a similar one Puig suffered earlier this season with Double-A Chattanooga that sidelined him 10 games. Among the injuries Puig has dealt with since his promotion two months ago are a sore wrist and shoulder from a head-first dive into first base and a sore hip slamming into the wall at Coors Field.

    “I feel like we’re out of the woods by the way he came in,” said Mattingly. “He’s had it before, so he knows what he can and can’t do. I’m hopeful to have him tomorrow. I’m not 100 percent sure, and if he’s iffy, we’ll wait another day.”

    The Dodgers waited for Puig to arrive Sunday before deciding to option Scott Van Slyke to Triple-A Albuquerque and make room for starting pitcher Stephen Fife.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    My newspaper had Greinke scheduled to start. Was there an explanation (I tuned in late) as to why Fife and not Zack?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      to push the good pitches back so they can pitch against the cards

      • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

        Tch. Not nice to Fife! ;)

        • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

          sure it is…give him and “easier” opponent coming off the DL…confidence builder

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Let’s scratch this inning

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Los Angeles Dodgers ‏@Dodgers1m
    Back at Dodger Stadium, the mound begins to be rebuilt: pic.twitter.com/Lm97lv5T5G

  • foul tip

    WGN guys talking a bit ago that if the wind weren’t blowing in, CC and Agon would have dingers.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      and Hanley

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    DP Time

  • Spence

    I feel sorry for the Cubbies.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      not me…I’ll feel sorry for them after we finish playing them

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Hanley’s shoulder

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Withrow seems to have done a great job in the sixth. I had the Giants’ game on the radio (that’s all I can get!) and Fleming said “The Cubs have been at bat for a long time in that inning. Bases loaded but still 1 – 0 Dodgers.” Then the Giants ended their at-bats and off to commercial the game went, so I never heard what happened. Had to look it up at Gameday.

  • Spence

    That was awkward. He should be ok.

  • Spence

    Hanley’s still holding that shoulder though. Injury looks worse than the impact.

  • Anonymous

    The Dodgers can’t afford to have Hanley AND Puig sitting for the Cards . . .

    • Spence

      Puig will be in there. He wont let a thumb keep him out of action

  • Anonymous

    What happened to Hanley?

    • Jack Dawkins

      Went over the wall on the 3rd base line at a high rate of speed. Ended up upside down in the stands. Came out holding his shoulder.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the report. Doesn’t sound encouraging.

    • Anonymous

      Hurt his shoulder diving into the stands — he made the catch, but now . . . ?

  • Anonymous

    Final: Tampa Bay 4, San Francisco 3

  • Spence

    lol Rizzo struck out on a ball that hit him.

    • Anonymous

      That’s something which would have happened to the Dodgers early in May.

  • Anonymous

    Final: Boston 4, Arizona 0

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      yea

  • Anonymous

    Final: Pittsburgh 5, Colorado 1

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      booo

  • Spence

    lol Rizzo

  • Anonymous

    The bullpen has to be phenomenal when the bats are MIA. Let’s hope that adjective continues for the ‘pen at least two more innings!

  • Spence

    Last 3 games the Cubs have 29 hits and 2 runs.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    1 more inning guys…would really enjoy an insurance run or two

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Eric Stephen ‏@truebluela54s
    Here is the catch by Hanley Ramirez that appeared to injure his shoulder (per @SBNationGIF) http://bit.ly/1cprcQu

    • Anonymous

      KT: Really appreciate how you make these in-game brief videos available for all to see. Thank you.

      • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

        if I find them I post them for those of you without “eyes”

    • Spence

      As long as its not his labrum…

  • Spence

    OUCH Dre!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Way to get on Dre

  • Anonymous

    I expect Jansen will come in to close, although I wish we could rest him in advance of the series with the Cardinals.

  • Anonymous

    This is already too costly a game . . . another run or two would be great to hopefully lock down the win.

  • Spence

    LET PUIG BAT!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Let’s go Kenley shut them down

  • Spence

    Dodgers going to win this game getting 2 hits all game.

    • Anonymous

      Don’t count your chickens…

  • Spence

    Jansen has retired 23 batters in a row.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    1 down

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    2 down

  • Spence

    Kenley’s last 8 games = 8 innings, 24 up 24 down 12 ks

  • Anonymous

    Get the K, KJ!

    • Anonymous

      Or an out by any other name!

  • Spence

    SWEEP!

  • Anonymous

    K-K-Kenley . . .to quote Jeffrey!!!

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      Perfect.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Ball Game Dodgers Win!!!!

    12 games over .500

    14-2 since ASB, 31-7 since 6/22

    5.5 gms ahead of the Dbags,

    #4 seed, 5.5 gms back of the #1 seed

    4 gm winning streak, 14 consecutive road wins (new club
    record)

    13 straight series win or tie 9-0-4, Still Streaking!!!!

    http://i.imgur.com/AMbO5zV.jpg

  • Spence

    Ok, the easy part of the schedule is over. Cards/Rays this week should be some competitive series.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think two hits are going to win it vs. them.

      • Spence

        Nope but fortunately Dodgers built up a cushion over the Dbax so even if they lose a few this week they’ll still be in good spot to win the NL West.

        • Anonymous

          Just as long as it’s only “a few.” :)

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      next two series are the toughest but after that cake

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Los Angeles Dodgers ‏@Dodgers 23s

    A jammed shoulder for Hanley Ramirez. We will know more information tomorrow.

  • foul tip

    Jon’s post about the dominance of the pen even more timely now.

    And if Bob H. was there, he STILL hasn’t seen a Cub cross home plate.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Two hits and only one affected the scoring, such as it was. How long can they keep this up?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      finding new ways to win every day

  • Jack Dawkins

    If they win 1 of the next 2, that will insure a .800 winning percentage over 1/4 of a season. That just boggles my mind.

  • foul tip

    ERAs don’t tell nearly the whole story, etc. But for these 4 Dodger pitchers after today:

    Fife 2.47
    Withrow 2.51
    Howell 2.17
    Janssen 2.04 (getting close to Kershaw territory)

    • Spence

      Kenley’s 25 straight batters retired is really impressive. I wonder what the record is for Dodger relievers?

      • Anonymous

        not sure but Mark Buehrle has the MLB record with45.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    This team is impressive:

    http://i.imgur.com/Y4Sx2Te.jpg

    Longest streak since 1957 reds at 15 straight

    3 more for the mlb record

    • Anonymous

      No, 3 more for NL record, AL record is 21 but I, unfortunately, know no more than that.

  • Anonymous

    In the last six games, six different starting pitchers combined for an ERA of 1.69 in 37 1/3 innings. The relievers in those half-dozen games combined for an ERA of 1.08 in 16 2/3 innings. Ironically, the only game we didn’t win was the one in which Kershaw went 8 innings and was not scored upon.

    • Anonymous

      The pitching needed to step up cuz the batters stepped back . . . but they found ways to win, which is the sign of a TEAM.

  • Anonymous

    Jon, your headline was descriptive and prescient . . . and thankfully not a jinx!

    • Anonymous

      Prescient was the exact word I was thinking after Jansen struck out the side in the 9th.

      • Anonymous

        Perhaps not “great” . . . but Blue minds think alike!

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT