Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Bullpen (Page 1 of 5)

Pedro Baez — yes, Pedro Baez — shows why he belongs

Someday soon, Pedro Baez will give up a run — a meaningless run or a critical run — and Twitter will erupt anew with demands for his release and querulous queries of how he could possibly still be on the Dodgers?

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Dodgers will attack NLDS Game 5 inning by inning

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Rich Hill (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

What’s the ideal scenario for the Dodgers at Washington tonight in the deciding game of the National League Division Series?

Pretty simply: An early lead, six or seven combined innings from Rich Hill (officially announced as today’s starting pitcher) and Julio Urías, and matchups from the set-up men before Kenley Jansen sends Los Angeles to Wrigley Field.

It’s hardly implausible, given that the Dodgers scored four runs in the first three innings against Nationals starter Max Scherzer in Game 1. Then there’s the potential of Hill and Urías.

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Bullpen usage key in decision to start Kershaw

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
Pedro Severino, C
Joe Ross, P
Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P

By Jon Weisman

Two critical factors in favor of Julio Urías starting today’s Game 4 of the National League Division Series fell away Monday.

No. 1 was that the Dodgers lost, making today’s game an elimination game. No. 2 was that the Dodger bullpen, already on its heels after Saturday’s postponement and Sunday’s 3 2/3 innings, was forced to throw 131 pitches Monday after Kenta Maeda’s fourth-inning exit.

Whatever you might speculate about Clayton Kershaw’s durability at this point, his typical outing is longer than a typical outing for the 20-year-old Urías. With that in mind, the Dodgers decided to put their best pitcher out there today.

One whom, it must be added, has actually thrived on three days’ rest, with a 1.89 ERA in 19 such innings over three starts.

“With Clayton, we had complete certainty from the training staff (and) doctors that health wasn’t a factor,” Dave Roberts said. “Obviously, it’s a game we need to win. One, Clayton gives us the best chance to win, and two, he gives us the best chance to go deeper into a game.”

Basically, the Dodgers need to play 18 innings of winning baseball over the next three days. The Dodgers will start attacking those innings with Kershaw, and then use the remaining 10 pitchers on their staff (except, one supposes, for Kenta Maeda) to cover the rest.

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Dodgers ride homers, bullpen to NLDS Game 1 triumph

kershaw-pitching

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Clayton Kershaw didn’t have his best stuff, not by a longshot. But he had some of his best guile, some his best perseverance and all of his best bullpen.

With four Dodger relievers throwing four shutout innings, the Dodgers survived a nail-biting, seat-squirming Game 1 in the National League Division Series, edging the Washington Nationals, 4-3.

Kershaw lasted five innings, punching out seven batters but bobbing and weaving through three runs on nine baserunners. Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton, Pedro Báez and Kenley Jansen worked the back end, to make a Dodger offense led by homers by Corey Seager and Justin Turner stand up.

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Dodger bullpen runs deep heading into NLDS

Kenley Jansen and Joe Blanton (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Kenley Jansen and Joe Blanton (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Dodgers
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Josh Reddick, RF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Andrew Toles, LF
Clayton Kershaw, P
Nationals
Trea Turner, CF
Bryce Harper, RF
Jayson Werth, LF
Daniel Murphy, 2B
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
Danny Espinosa, SS
Pedro Severino, C
Max Scherzer P

By Jon Weisman

Any Dodger game that starts with Clayton Kershaw on the mound ideally ends with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

But with seven relievers who have performed strongly down the stretch, the Dodgers can be as aggressive with their playoff bullpen as they have been in years.

Of the six relievers the Dodgers would use to preserve a lead, none had a September ERA higher than 2.00, and only Joe Blanton had a September WHIP above 1.03.

Kenley Jansen, of course, is the primary candidate for the ninth inning, and if necessary could be drawn into the eighth inning. This year, Jansen entered six games in the eighth and saved five of them.

In the set-up roles, the Dodgers can mix and match righties Joe Blanton, Pedro Báez and Josh Fields with lefties Grant Dayton and Luis Avilán, with Ross Stripling held back for extra innings.

That means even if Kershaw only goes six innings, the Dodgers could go batter-to-batter against a Washington starting lineup that goes R-L-R-L-R at the top.

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Depth propels Dodger pitching to the best in MLB in September

San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

All summer long, it seemed likely that once rosters expanded in September, the Dodgers would be poised to take advantage thanks to their pitching depth.

That’s exactly what has happened.

Los Angeles has played 10 games in September so far, and already the Dodgers have used seven starting pitchers. With Julio Urías pitching tonight, seven of the first 11 starts this month will have gone to pitchers (Urías, Jose De León and Brock Stewart) who began the season in the minors or to a pitcher (Rich Hill) who was acquired in exchange for minor-leaguers.

As for the 13-man bullpen, no reliever has thrown more than Joe Blanton’s 4 2/3 innings (spread over 13 days), and only one is averaging above 1.0 innings per appearance: Pedro Baez, who has 3 2/3 innings in three games. Blanton and Jesse Chavez lead Dodger relievers with 19 batters faced in the 10 games.

Even with Dave Roberts numerous visits to the mound, on only four occasions has a Dodger reliever worked back-to-back days this month: September 2-3 (Blanton and Kenley Jansen) and September 6-7 (Baez and Jansen).

The results? Dodger pitchers have a 2.15 ERA in September, with a 0.91 WHIP, 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a 4.4 strikeout-walk ratio (equivalent to Miami’s Jose Fernandez). Opponents are hitting .183/.250/.266 this month.

Every single one of those stats leads the Major Leagues, except for on-base percentage, which is second to Boston. No Dodger opponent has scored more than four runs in a September game so far.

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Dodgers have baker’s dozen in bullpen — and counting

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Diamondbacks at Dodgers, 5:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrián González, 1B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Josh Reddick, RF
Howie Kendrick, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Kenta Maeda, P

By Jon Weisman

Luis Avilan has been recalled for the third consecutive month by the Dodgers, boosting the current relief corps to 13.

Behind this week’s scheduled starting rotation of Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart against Arizona and Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Maeda at Miami, the Dodgers have the following in the bullpen:

Right-handed pitchers (9): Pedro Baez (expected to be recalled Tuesday), Joe Blanton, Jesse Chavez, Louis Coleman, Josh Fields, Casey Fien, Kenley Jansen, Bud Norris, Josh Ravin

Left-handed pitchers (5): Luis Avilan, Grant Dayton, J.P. Howell, Adam Liberatore, Julio Urias.

Having neared his workload limit, Urias has been shifted to the bullpen, though the Dodgers haven’t definitely said he won’t make another start. Jose De Leon, who made his debut Sunday, doesn’t have an obvious next date to take the mound.

Following a bullpen session today, Alex Wood is scheduled for a short simulated game soon. Out since May, Wood is expected to return in a short relief role later this month.

Pedro Baez’s practically perfect July

Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

Rays at Dodgers, 12:10 p.m.
Howie Kendrick, LF
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Scott Van Slyke, RF
Adrián González, 1B
Chris Taylor, 2B
Joc Pederson, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Brandon McCarthy, P

By Jon Weisman

It might be easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to convince a Dodger fan that Pedro Baez is pitching well.

Making the case that Baez has been extraordinary? Oh, dear — heaven forfend.

But the facts speak for themselves. In July, Baez has faced 39 batters. Three have reached base, on a double and two walks. More than 30 percent of the 39 have struck out.

Baez has allowed a .077 on-base percentage and .054 slugging percentage this month. He has stranded all five runners he has inherited. His ERA is 0.00.

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How the revitalized bullpen keyed Dodgers’ surge

San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

In the Dodgers’ final inning before the All-Star Break, the best closer in the National League, Kenley Jansen, entered the game to protect a one-run lead against the fourth-place team in the National League West.

At that moment, the Dodger bullpen was several weeks into an extended resurgence that was forcing fans and media alike to unlearn everything it thought it knew about the team’s relievers. It progressed in stages, as if reversing the five stages of grief.

  • Hooray — they actually held a lead for once.
  • All right, I’ve stopped throwing things every time a reliever comes in.
  • I know this won’t last, but thank you for at least being adequate.
  • Hmm. Some of these guys are actually pretty good.
  • I don’t want to jinx this. But … wow.

Dodger bullpen failures have been branded into the collective memory of recent years, the scar tissue making it nearly impossible for most to feel the moments when the relievers were doing well — which, of course, was more often than the distraught and cynical could concede.

But by the time Jansen took the mound Sunday, the bullpen’s growing success was no longer possible to ignore.

Dodger relievers lead the Major Leagues with a 2.83 ERA. They lead the Major Leagues with a 1.02 WHIP.

In fact, as Dodger broadcaster Joe Davis pointed out, the Dodger bullpen’s opponents batting average of .192 is currently the lowest in modern baseball history. The team’s WHIP is the lowest in NL history.

That’s extraordinary. And that’s not wishcasting. That’s something that has been happening. The Dodger bullpen has become the opposite of an albatross. It’s a primary reason that, despite the “I Love Lucy” chocolate conveyor belt of injuries, that Los Angeles (51-40) is on a 91-win pace and once again a team to be reckoned with.

In terms of inherited runners stranded, the Dodgers were seventh among MLB teams at 72 percent — in the upper echelon but with room for improvement. The good news — the great news — is that the improvement is already underway.

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Adam Liberatore sets Dodger record in victory

Image-1[47]

Adam Liberatore has become a key face in the Dodger bullpen. (Not pictured: Adam Liberatore)

By Jon Weisman

On Pups in the Park Day at Dodger Stadium, Adam Liberatore struck out both batters he faced to set a Dodger record with his 24th consecutive scoreless appearance, helping preserve a 4-3 Dodger victory over San Diego.

The 29-year-old Liberatore has thrown 18 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings during the streak, retiring 54 of 66 batters, 23 of them on strikeouts. Two of 14 baserunners he has inherited have scored, both harmlessly enough in Dodger victories.

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Dodger bullpen, brilliant for so long, succumbs in 14th

Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

As this sentence was being written, the Dodgers and Orioles were tied, 4-4, in the ninth inning. At that moment, two things were certain:

If there were going to be a Dodger hero today, a fine young man carried off the field, it would be a hitter.

And some Dodger reliever would either be a goat, or lost in the shuffle.

So what happened?

In the Dodgers’ longest game since they played 17 innings at San Diego on May 22 — on a day that Chase Utley became the first Dodger to have six hits since Shawn Green’s memorable day in Milwaukee on May 23, 2002 — Jonathan Schoop hit a two-out, sinking line drive in the 14th inning that barely eluded Trayce Thompson’s glove, driving in two runs for a 6-4 Baltimore win.

Chris Hatcher, who had thrown 31 pitches the previous night, took the loss. He also had the burden of making the final out, with the bases loaded, long after the Dodgers ran out of pinch-hitters.

Painful as that is for Dodger fans to process, the Dodger bullpen deserves a collective bow. In the six games of this homestand — in the midst of what has really become a rebirth for the relief core — Dodger relievers have done the following.

Through 14

The bullpen has averaged approximately five innings and 80 pitches per game for the past six games, yet had a 0.94 ERA on the homestand before the game-winning hit.

Dodger relievers are on pace to throw 524 innings this year, which believe it or not, would not be a record. In 2009, a National League Championship Series season, the Dodger bullpen racked up 553 innings.

Footnote: The Dodgers and Orioles combined to set a Dodger Stadium single-game strikeout record with 36. The previous Dodger Stadium strikeout record of 32 was originally set by the Padres and Dodgers in a 17-inning game June 27, 1989, and matched in an 18-inning Braves-Dodgers game August 3, 1996.

Also, Adam Liberatore, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning of relief, has made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances, tying the franchise record set by John Candelaria in 1991.

Video: Through the years with Kenley Jansen

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By Jon Weisman

Looking back, what Vin Scully had to say after Kenley Jansen’s first save on July 25, 2010 is pretty special …

So Kenley Jansen has faced six batters in the Major Leagues, and he has struck out four of ’em. He comes up with his first save. An unbelievable story: The progress of a man who came from nowhere but behind the plate, going to the mound last July — and now all of a sudden figures prominently in the Dodger pitching plans, believe it or not.

Enjoy this video celebrating Jansen’s achivement.

Looking at the Dodger bullpen, game by game

Bullpen log crop

Above is a snapshot of how each member of the Dodger bullpen has performed this season.

  • Green: A successful, no-complaints outing (no runs or inherited runs allowed)
  • Yellow: Under par, but inconsequential (such as mop-up work in a runaway game)
  • Red: Damage done (run or inherited run allowed in a non-runaway)

In 173 separate appearances this season so far, the Dodger bullpen had done its job 76.3 percent of the time, with that figure slightly higher in May.

— Jon Weisman

Dodgers press on with four on bench, eight relievers

Cincinnati Reds vs Los Angeles Dodgers

The Emirates ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Monday was a strike.

Reds at Dodgers, 7:10 p.m.
Chase Utley, 2B
Corey Seager, SS
Justin Turner, 3B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Trayce Thompson, LF
Joc Pederson, CF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Yasmani Grandal, C
Mike Bolsinger, P

By Jon Weisman

No one’s really a fan of an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench, but it has basically made sense for the Dodgers the past seven days, and they plan to continue that way for the next several.

Dave Roberts said today that the Dodgers would probably retain the eight/four split into their upcoming road series in New York and Chicago, a roster construction that began when Charlie Culberson was optioned May 18 to make room for Mike Bolsinger.

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Avilan, Bolsinger called up — Tsao to disabled list, Stripling optioned

Ross Stripling pitched three shutout innings Sunday. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

Ross Stripling, whose season began with 7 1/3 no-hit innings April 8 in San Francisco, pitched three shutout innings Sunday in his relief debut. (Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

By Jon Weisman

Regrouping after throwing 582 pitches in three games at San Diego — and losing one of their pitchers to the disabled list in the process — the Dodgers are bringing up two fresh arms for their pitching staff.

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