It doesn’t matter how well the starting pitchers are performing, if they can’t go deep into games then the bullpen is going to be burned up by May. This is the problem that’s facing the Dodgers now. Dodger starters are not going deep into games, and it’s killing the bullpen.
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You can’t expect the bullpen to pitch four innings or more every night, but that’s what’s going on. And it’s happening every single game. I’m not saying the starters are not doing a good job. Just the opposite, they’ve been awesome. Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren have been otherworldly. But they’re not pitching past the sixth innings. It puts a lot of strain on the bullpen.
Dodger starters are averaging barely six innings per start. The starting pitchers rank 15th in MLB in innings pitched with 130.1. Meanwhile as a result, the bullpen is forced to pitch more innings than they normally would. The Dodger’s relievers are second in all of Baseball in innings pitched with 83.2. Only the Dback’s bullpen has thrown more innings.
I don’t know why the starters aren’t able to pitch past the sixth innings. Maybe the shortened spring training has had an effect. Maybe the starters haven’t built up enough arm strength? Or perhaps all of the strikeouts the club is getting from the pitching staff is adding unusually high amounts of pitches.
Pitchers who strikeout a lot of guys tend to make a lot of pitches. Ground ball type pitchers are more efficient. But the Dodgers don’t really have any ground ball type guys. Nearly all of them are power pitchers. They strike out a ton of guys, but they’ll be at 100 pitches by the fifth or sixth inning.
You can’t expect the bullpen to throw four or more innings every night, and not allow runs. You just can’t. The Dodger starters are fifth in MLB in number of pitches thrown (2,209). Dodger relievers have thrown the second most amount of pitches in MLB (1421). Once again only the Dbacks have thrown more pitches.
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This is why the bullpen is blowing games left and right. They’re exhausted. The truth is the Dodger bullpen hasn’t been that bad. Actually if you look at the numbers, they’ve been decent. Not great, but league average at worst.
The Dodger relievers have a 3.56 ERA, ranking them 15th. They rank second in whiffs with 92, and opposing hitters are batting just .235 against them. So it’s not like they’re a bunch of Todd Worrells or something.
What the Dodgers need more than anything is for someone, anyone to go seven or eight innings. Doesn’t matter who it is. All that matters is that the bullpen needs a break. Otherwise they’re not going to last the entire season. We’re already seeing all the signs of exhaustion. Brian Wilson’s elbow is shot, and Kenley Jansen is on pace to pitch in about 130 games. This can’t go on.