The Dodger Bullpen is in Shambles


The morning after the knockout blow to the Dodgers by the Cardinals is excruciating. I can’t help but go over all the mistakes and what ifs during the series in my head. A huge reason why the Dodgers will be sitting out the rest of October while the two most vile National League teams duke it out for a pennant is that horrible and unreliable Dodger bullpen. The Dodgers will have a lot of work this offseason rebuilding the bullpen for 2015. Let’s take a look at who will be staying and who won’t be serving up late inning homeruns any longer.

Who will be back:

Kenley Jansen (Free Agent 2017) is the exception. Jansen has been phenomenal since being converted from a catcher and transforming into an elite relief pitcher. Unfortunately we only got to see Jansen pitch one perfect inning in the Dodgers’ only win in Game 2. Jansen had a great season for the Dodgers (although perhaps not as dominating of a season than the previous year when he struck out 111 and had a 1.88 ERA in 2013) and finished with a 2.76 ERA in 65 1/3 innings pitched. He struck out 101 batters and only walked 19. 44 saves was a career high for the 27-year old. It’s reassuring to know that we will have many more years to enjoy Kenley’s beautiful cutter.

J.P. Howell (2yrs./$11 million with $6.25 million team option for 2016) blew the save in Game 2 of the NLDS after allowing that horrific

J.P. Howell made one bad pitch in the NLDS, but he has been great out of the Dodger bullpen. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

homerun to Matt Carpenter in the eighth inning, but he had been so very good all year for the Dodgers. Behind Jansen, Howell was the most reliable arm out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2014. Before Carpenter’s homerun, Howell had only allowed two homeruns all season long over 49 innings pitched. He appeared in 68 games for the Dodgers, and finished with a solid 2.39 ERA. Howell has shown that he is effective versus left-handed and right-handed hitters, but perhaps he was feeling the late season fatigue after being called upon so much during the regular season by Mattingly.

Brandon League (Signed through 2015 with 2016 vesting option) will be back next year, and I’m actually okay with that. I wrote an entire article about how effective Brandon League was for the Dodgers in 2014, and he was equally as good in 4 games for the Dodgers in the NLDS not allowing a run in 2 innings pitched. Brandon League is no longer the biggest problem out of the Dodger bullpen, and he has become very useful in inducing groundballs when needed. No longer a closer, League has been reworked by Rick Honeycutt and has overcome his horrendous 2013 season.

Brian Wilson ($9 million player option for 2015) will be back with the Dodgers in 2015 after exercising his player option on Wednesday. The option will be worth between $8.5-$10 million based on appearances. The option becomes official after the conclusion of the World Series. By the time the NLDS rolled around, Don Mattingly had lost all confidence with Brian Wilson and only used him once during the series opting to go with the rookie Pedro Baez in the late innings. Wilson pitched to two batters in Game 3 and recorded one out while serving up a double to Jhonny Peralta and intentionally walking Matt Adams before striking out Yadier Molina. Wilson hasn’t been the same pitcher the Dodgers signed to a 1-year $10 million deal last season after being very effective in late 2013. His velocity has been down, and after two Tommy John surgeries, I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out he had been injured all along. His 4.66 ERA over 48 1/3 innings and 61 games with 5.4 walks per nine innings was less than desirable. With a player option for next year, it is a scary thought that he will be back in the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2015.

Pedro Baez (Free agent 2020) was suddenly thrown into the postseason fire by Don Mattingly this October, and the rookie flame thrower wasn’t able to contain the bats of the much more experienced Cardinal hitters. The 26-year old right-hander had barely played 20 games and 24 innings for the Dodgers before being thrust into the NLDS. He impressed in that short time by collecting 18 strikeouts during his brief regular season time, and he’s sure to be a part of the Dodgers’ bullpen moving forward. The three-run homerun he served up to Matt Holliday in the seventh inning of Game 1 was disastrous, but the rookie shouldn’t have been in to pitch to the right-handed slugger anyhow. With a limited arsenal of heat and nothing else, Baez will need to be used correctly by Mattingly (or whomever the Dodger manager is next season) in order to utilize his stinging fastball to the Dodgers’ advantage.

Paco Rodriguez (Free agent 2019) was left off the Dodgers’ postseason roster for the second consecutive year after battling injury and

If it wasn’t for Kenley Jansen, the Dodger bullpen would have sent me to crazy town even faster. Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

fatigue during 2014. Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti seemed to lose confidence in the left-hander and opted to use Scott Elbert during the late season and NLDS instead. Paco, who has shown that he can be a very effective LOOGY, will be back and hopefully a part of the Dodger bullpen in 2015. With left-hand pitching at a premium, a southpaw like Paco can be an integral piece to any team’s bullpen. Paco just needs to gain his confidence back and return to his 2012 form when he pitched impressively. The 23-year old was promoted to the Majors in the same year he was drafted, and I have a feeling the quick leap may have started to show in his late season tiring the past two years. Paco only pitched n 19 games for the Dodgers this season and had a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings with 14 strikeouts.

Carlos Frias ( Free Agent 2020) will be starting the 2015 season in Oklahoma City, but we will surely see the 24-year old right-hander at some point in 2015. He pitched in 15 games for the Dodgers during the regular season and made 2 starts. His 6.12 ERA over 32 1/3 innings really doesn’t reflect his value since his numbers were skewed after that disastrous start at Coors Field. Frias will remain a viable option if the Dodgers need spot starter or long-man next year.

Chris Withrow (Free agent 2020) will be returning to the mound during mid-season next year. It was a big blow to the Dodger bullpen losing Withrow to Tommy John surgery, and you can’t help to wonder how he would have bolstered the bullpen during the year and postseason if healthy. He pitched in 20 games for the Dodgers with 28 strikeouts before succumbing to disability.

Yimi Garcia (Free agent 2020) could be a great asset to the Dodger bullpen in 2015. The 24-year old right-hander didn’t really get much of a shot during his September call-up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a spot in the Dodger bullpen after Spring Training 2015. The promising reliever had a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings pitched with 9 strikeouts for the Dodgers in his brief Major League stint.

Daniel Coulombe (Free agent 2020) was suddenly someone we had to look up on Baseball Reference when the Dodgers’ bullpen was so bad they desperately had to use the left-hander in 5 games in September. He allowed 5 hits in 4 1/3 innings, and let’s hope we do not have to talk about him again. Daniel is pitching for the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.

Onelki Garcia (Free agent 2020) only pitched in 3 games for the Dodgers in September, but the Cuban right-hander is certainly an interesting prospect looking to 2015. After rehabbing from multiple surgeries, Garcia will also could be a candidate for the 2015 Dodger bullpen if healthy.

Jose Dominguez (Free agent 2020) had a really bad showing in his 5 games which he pitched in for the Dodgers. He allowed 8 runs on 7 hits with 3 walks in 6 1/3 innings. He did strike out 8 batters, but his command needs work. Dominguez is another live arm who could be effective if refined.

Jarret Martin is the 25-year old left-hander on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster whom has yet to make his MLB debut. Martin, a Bakersfield native, pitched in 46 games with the AA-Chattanooga Lookouts last season. He finished with a 3.29 ERA in 54 2/3 innings pitched and struck out 64 batters. He will need to decrease the walks allowed. The southpaw gave out 48 free passes last season. Martin is definitely a prospect in the pipeline to watch come Spring.

On the bubble:

Scott Elbert (Free Agent 2017) has been a Dodger since 2008, and I have been rooting for him to make a comeback after succumbing to many surgeries over the years. Elbert had a great 7 game showing for the Dodgers after returning to the mound for the first time since 2012 this past September. He had a 2.08 ERA in 4 1/3 innings. Elbert garnered a spot over Paco on the postseason roster, and unfortunately took the loss in Game 3 of the NLDS after surrendering the seventh inning homerun to Kolten Wong. Once again, that mistake was partially due to Mattingly’s desperation and lack of confidence in the struggling bullpen. Elbert should have never been put in that position after only pitching a little over 4 innings in the past three seasons. I think Elbert still has value to the Dodgers, but he is out of options.

Who won’t be back:

Jamey Wright (Free Agent) most likely will not be back with the Dodgers for 2015. I really do like the 19-year veteran, and he has pitched admirably for the Dodgers during his two stints with the team. Wright unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity to pitch in the postseason for the Dodgers, but he did pitch in 61 games during the regular season finishing with a 4.35 ERA in 70 1/3 innings. I wouldn’t mind Jamey coming back on a one-year deal, and we all know how much Ned Colletti loves his veterans.

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  • Kevin Correia (Free Agent) thankfully will not be back. Correia was one of the desperation moves by the Dodgers after Josh Beckett ended his season due to injury, and the Dodgers needed starting pitching. Correia pitched in 9 fruitless games (3 starts) for the Dodgers after being traded from Minnesota, and those games will likely be soon forgotten in the long run. He went 2-4 with a 8.03 ERA for the Dodgers, and he was overall atrocious in the 24 2/3 innings he pitched in Blue.

    Chris Perez (Free Agent) shall be banished from our thoughts forever. Somehow the fallen closer pitched in 49 games for the Dodgers

    Will veteran Jamey Wright pitch again next season? Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    this season. He was left off the postseason roster after finishing with a disappointing 4.27 ERA over 46 1/3 innings. He had a horrendous May and June, and I kept waiting for the Dodgers to cut bait. Perez is the epitome of the struggles the Dodger bullpen had this season. With no other choices to go with, Mattingly had to use him many a time which resulted in many a runs.

    In conclusion, The Dodger bullpen needs some major refurbishment this offseason. Ned Colletti did nothing to strengthen the bullpen at the trade deadline, and those non-moves sunk the ship in October. While Don Mattingly’s bullpen management also helped doom the Dodgers this October and cost the Dodgers some wins during the regular season, you can’t reasonably question his lack of confidence in the bullpen which he was given.

    When the Dodgers are ahead with the lead and they hand the ball to Jansen in the ninth, they win. When the shaky middle relief is called upon to hold a lead or preserve a tie, the wheels often come off. Even though the NLDS outcome was excruciatingly heartbreaking, was the bullpen’s performance that much of a surprise? When your go-to guy is Pedro Baez, you know there is some major problems.

    The Dodgers need to  reinforce that week middle relief and obtain a solid set-up guy to pitch the eighth inning before Jansen. Brian Wilson never figured things out, and J.P. Howell should be used strategically in key situations along with the other lefties. While the Dodgers have a few left-handers at their disposal in Howell, Paco, Elbert and even Martin, I would like them to perhaps pick up another left-hander this winter. With such stellar pitching, it really is a shame that Colletti didn’t piece together an equally solid bullpen.