The Dodgers Bullpen: Then and Now


It seems like just yesterday Don Mattingly was forced to use Scott Elbert, Pedro Baez and Brandon League in the NLDS. That didn’t end well, but If you look at the last three innings of that disastrous Game 4, you can get a glimpse of Pedro Baez now. That game was Clayton Kershaw‘s loss, and Pedro Baez and Brandon League pitched 3 scoreless innings of relief after that fateful seventh inning and Matt Adams‘ final blow which knocked Kershaw and the Dodgers out of the postseason.

The Dodgers’ bullpen had been inconsistent and unreliable throughout the entire season. Even though before the 2014 season commenced, I thought the Dodgers had potentially potent relief talent in their bullpen, but sadly the results did not reflect that initial assesment. The depth was not there last year. We have already seen how this much-needed relief putching depth is important early this season during the first month. After the new front office accumulated a very solid variety of relief options to use throughout the season, Don Mattingly has much more tools to use in relief.

Don Mattingly should not have to rely on another Scott Elbert this October with the group of arms they have amassed, each showing early season dominance and ability to hold leads late into innings which was the detriment to last year’s team time and time again.

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Then: It was Jackie Robinson Day, and the Dodgers were up 2-1 on the Cubs with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Kenley Jansen, the only bright spot in the Dodger bullpen all season (although Brandon League wasn’t all terrible), allowed the game-tying double to Brandon Belt. The Dodgers offense was unable to come up big in late innings back then, and Brandon League ended up blowing it in the bottom of the twelfth inning. A typical 2014 Dodger bullpen loss.

Now: The Dodgers’ bullpen pitches seven shutout innings in the 1-0 game on Sunday which completed the three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The relievers struck out 9 batters (3 by Pedro Baez) to stop the Snakes in their path and hold the game until Yasmani Grandal hit the game-winning homerun in the bottom of the 13 inning.

Then: In 2014, the Dodgers’ bullpen allowed the fourth most runs in the N.L. (207). Dodger relievers allowed 38 homeruns last year (eight in the N.L.). They also walked the second-most, just behind the Reds with 206 free passes. The plethora of walks from the bullpen last season was a big reason for the late inning losses in 2014.

Now: The Dodger bullpen has racked up the most strikeouts in the league with 93. The Dodgers have the second best bullpen ERA in the National League (1.81). The postseason rival Cardinals are at the top with a combined 1.51 relief ERA. Dodger relievers have only allowed 13 earned runs this season so far. The bullpen has also only allowed one homerun all year.






The Dodgers seem to be on the constant lookout for even more depth. Just because it is early in the season, Andrew Friedman seems to always have a deal in the plans. The starting pitching depth is another discussion altogether, and I’m concerned about the injuries which have befallen the rotation already. Hyun-jin Ryu‘s injury has become a lot more concerning to me, and Brandon McCarthy‘s ill-fated four-start Dodger career left me frustrated. Yet the bullpen is a very bright spot on this roster, and with the amped up offense the relievers have been able to counter the weakened starting rotation.

Don’t forget about Chris Withrow. Withrow could also inject the Dodger bullpen with even more late inning weaponry. Withrow, who is recovering from Tommy John Surgery, is due back around the All-Star Break, and we can’t count the bearded reliever out from being a key right-handed guy for Mattingly to go to down the stretch.

Left-hander Adam Liberatore has also pitched very well for the Dodgers out of the bukllpen. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Yimi Garcia has burst on the scene, and Paco Rodriguez has been back to his effective self. I questioned Mattingly the other day when he lifted Carlos Frias and brought in Pedro Baez after Frias allowed a couple of singles in Friday night’s grand slam of a 8-0 shutout against Arizona. Mattingly made the right call that time. Pedro Baez struck out 2 batters after taking over for Frias, and Sergio Santos and J.P. Howell held on to preserve the beautiful shutout. The Dodger bullpen last season would have certainly at least ruined the shutout in those last couple of innings to our frustration.

With talent literally bursting at the seams, the Dodgers bullpen has been actually enjoyable to watch this season. Instead of hiding my head when Jamey Wright or any number of washed up closers went to the mound in the late innings last season, now I can yell Yippee for Yimi!

Even Juan Nicasio has looked good!

It only gets better. Kenley Jansen, one of the most dominating closers in the game, is almost ready to return to the Dodgers after coming back from foot surgery. Let me remind you, there was nothing wrong with his arm.

I cannot wait until the Dodgers have a Yimi Garcia-Kenley Jansen thing going on in the eighth inning and ninth inning.

Craig Kimbrel, who?