Dodgers: Josh Fields’ 2017 season grade
By Hector Ponce
A huge part of the Dodgers success in 2017 was the dominant performance of the bullpen all season long. Josh Fields played a huge role in that bullpen and their success this season.
Andrew Friedman acquired Josh Fields in an under the radar move during the 2016 season. Friedman traded prospect Yordan Alvarez to the Astros to get Fields to the Dodgers. Typical Friedman move as he got him when the asking price for Fields was at its lowest.
During the 2016 season with the Astros, Fields was struggling. He had a 6.89 ERA in 15 appearances with Houston. Also, his three seasons prior had not been anything special. So when Friedman acquired him it was just another one of those low risk, high reward moves that he loves to make.
Although he struggled with Houston in 2016, when he got to Los Angeles he looked and performed like a new pitcher, posting a 2.79 ERA in 22 games with his new club. He gave up fewer runs in more innings pitched with the Dodgers.
In 2017 Fields had a career year. He had a 2.84 ERA in 57 appearances and a WHIP below 1.0. He did, however, have one flaw this season, the long ball. He gave up a career-high ten home runs this season. But to be fair, it is hard to find a pitcher with their HR numbers down in 2017. *cough juiced baseballs cough. *
Fields was asked to pitch in different situations this year. He played the setup role for awhile bridging the ball to Kenley Jansen. He also was asked to get outs in high leverage situations and against tough matchups.
That’s what was so great about the bullpen; they performed wherever they were needed. Fields even had two saves in 2017 showing he could close a game if needed. Whether it was one out or three outs, Fields was as reliable as they come during the regular season.
However, the postseason was a completely different story as he was lit up in the playoffs and the World Series in particular. The NLDS and the NLCS he did not see much work. He faced two batters in the Division Series and two more in the League Championship Series. He didn’t allow a run and only allowed one of those four batters to reach base.
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In the World Series, he faced three hitters, and all of them reached. Two of them took him deep. He technically currently possesses a career World Series ERA and WHIP of infinity because he failed to retire a single batter that he faced. This rough outing was just one of those nights for him. That seemed to be the case for many relievers in that series.
Like I said not to make excuses, but the balls just seemed to be jumping off the bat of every single batter that stepped foot in the box this World Series. I’m not saying the balls are juiced (even though they were), but there was definitely something different about the World Series baseballs, and every pitcher felt the difference.
It was only one bad outing in the playoffs, but I’d admit, it was an awful place to have that meltdown. Fields was solid all season long and in the limited playoff time he got was useful, but in the World Series, he fell apart.
Fields was kind of like the forgotten man of this bullpen. Brandon Morrow got a lot of attention with his dominant season. The two Tony’s acquired at the deadline were also always talked about, and Fields was just an afterthought in that bullpen despite being reliable all season long.
Josh Fields performed well when he got a constant amount of opportunities. For example, his most dominant month came in May when he posted a 0.63 ERA in 14.1 innings. That was the month in which he saw the most work, and he was able to get himself into a groove and have a very good month. Not touching the ball that often in the playoffs may have affected him.
Fields is up for arbitration this year and will likely get himself a pay raise because of his solid 2017 season. He is not a free agent until 2020. His 2018 outlook is a question mark as of now. He will have to battle this spring to reclaim his spot on the opening day roster. Especially with the return of Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore from injury, and hopefully the signing of Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.
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If he does make the roster, I know he will be productive. Fields quietly had a solid year in the dominant bullpen of the Dodgers. He may have had a sour ending to the season, but his overall body of work was still very good. Fields was solid all year and was an undervalued piece to this very special season.