The Dodgers’ bullpen this year is somewhat of an enigma as we begin the season, but it has the chance to be strong again because of some under-the-radar names.
Gone are Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson; two guys that were key ingredients to an outstanding Dodgers’ bullpen from a year ago. In are J.T. Chargois and Scott Alexander, who are relatively unknown and carrying question marks around them. Alexander, to his credit, is viewed as an upgrade over Watson, even though he does not have the same experience. Chargios’ peripherals suggest that he can be another Dodger revelation, but it is too soon to say.
One guy who has flown under-the-radar since his arrival, however, is Tony Cingrani. He was acquired from the Reds at the trade deadline last year, as an intriguing buy-low option to revamp the bullpen and improve upon the left-handed arms in the bullpen.
However, because of his then 5.40 ERA, his acquisition was either met with indifference or confusion. Why were the Dodgers bringing in a guy who had struggled all season? But the Dodgers, as they always are, were few steps ahead of everyone and looked beyond the surface numbers.
During April and May, the converted-reliever had a 2.51 ERA in 14.1 innings, but then hit a rough patch in July where he gave up ten earned runs in just nine innings, inflating his ERA by more than double.
Then, he came to the Dodgers and turned his season around. In 19.1 regular season innings, he had a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 13.0 K/9, while allowing just one home run.
In his first appearance as a Dodger, however, he allowed three runs on the lone home run he allowed as a Dodger. He allowed just three runs over the next 18.1 innings. And when the postseason came around, Cingrani allowed only one run in five innings, showing the damage he can do when the pressure is up.
The 28-year-old’s success was no fluke. The Dodgers utilized him better than Cincinnati did and his 1.86 FIP showed that. He has a hard fastball, no doubt, but you need more than that to be successful. The Dodgers had him throw his new slider much more than he did as a Red, which led to more success.
In Cincinnati, he threw it 2.16% of the time while in Los Angeles he threw it 20.66% of the time (including playoffs). And coupled with that, his fastball and slider velocity increased along with his groundball rate. Thus, he became an excellent left-handed specialist out of the pen. A guy who can not only keep the ball on the ground but also miss bats.
More from LA Dodgers News
- Kevin Kiermaier being ‘top target’ to replace Cody Bellinger is bad sign for Dodgers
- Giants laughably sign pitcher that Dodgers absolutely own
- Dave Roberts’ quote about Padres in NLDS should motivate Dodgers
- Former Astro seemingly takes uncalled for shot at Cody Bellinger after Cubs deal
- Dodgers’ 2023 lineup without Trea Turner isn’t as impressive as it should be
He limited left-handed batters to a sub-.200 average, but his success went beyond that. Right-handed hitters hit just .211 off him. So it is surprising, with all his success, that his name is still ignored by many. It does help that he has an excellent defense behind him because that will only make him better, but he himself has improved since the trade.
During the season’s first game, he was part of a perfect three innings from LA’s bullpen, throwing a flawless inning with a strikeout in 15 pitches (11 strikes) and taking care of two left-handed hitters in Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford.
This may be just one game, but his success in blue goes back to last year. He has thrown 25.1 innings for Los Angeles (regular and postseason), and in that time has accumulated a 2.48 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 32 strikeouts and two home runs. He will have a significant say in how the bullpen performs this year.
The Dodger will need people to step up to support Kenley Jansen because of the offseason losses, and Cingrani looks to be one of those guys. He looks as if he will be an improvement over Tony Watson, but will not have to be the sole left-specialist because of Scott Alexander. But he can do damage against both sides, and he will get the chance to show, in a full season, that he is another gem that Andrew Friedman and Co. have unearthed.
While he may not be getting any shine right now, 2018 will be the season that fans know who he is due to somewhat of a breakout. If he performs well, the bullpen as a whole will be strong. He has a strong defense behind him paired with a front office and manager that knows how to utilize him correctly to his strengths. And because of this, his success will prove to be legitimate, and 2018 is when he will become one of the anchors in the bullpen.