Dodgers: Good Signs in a Bad April Going into May

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Yasmani Grandal
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 22: Yasmani Grandal /

The Dodgers are putting a very mediocre April behind them, and look to turning things around in May. As the calendar turns, the Dodgers are actually heading into the new month with positive signs.

The Dodgers have been notoriously slow starters, though this year feels different. Last season, the Dodgers were right around where they are now but with an exciting rookie in Cody Bellinger shot them out of numbness and they never looked back. This year, Walker Buehler has performed brilliantly in his first two starts and Alex Verdugo was called up in San Francisco like Bellinger. However, the Dodgers limped out of the Bay losing three of four. No rookie catalyst this year it seems.

Though the climb over .500 seems to be impossible, the Dodgers have been playing without their best player in Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood can’t seem to buy a win, and an inconsistent bullpen reflecting Kenley Jansen’s 2018.

Offensively, there have been bright spots but the entire lineup has only clicked a couple times this year. Yasmani Grandal has been the best hitter all of April, although has slowed down lately. Matt Kemp has more than proven his worth in his spot starts. Joc Pederson is hitting .286 with his first four-hit game under his belt. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger seem to be hitting their stride.

Though the numbers aren’t ugly, the offense has looked spectacular at some points and completely absent from others. This is where the steady presence of Turner in the three spot is missed. Turner started swinging a bat this past weekend and is expected to receive a rehab assignment in the next week. Having him back will put the offense back on track.

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The starting pitching has been the most consistent part of the Dodgers so far. Hyun-Jin Ryu has spearheaded the rotation this season with a stellar 2.22 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 34 K’s, and a perfect 3-0 record. The rest of the rotation hasn’t been bad, just unlucky.

Kershaw and Wood both have some of the lowest run support in the NL. Wood has a 0.89 WHIP, but an ERA over four. That spells that the very few hits and walks he is giving up have scored. Kershaw has a 2.84 ERA and aside from his last start against the Marlins, has looked like vintage Kershaw.

Another example of unlucky starting pitching was Sunday’s game. Kenta Maeda was caught in a first-inning jam and should’ve got out of it with a high strike to Brandon Belt, but was called a ball. The inning continued and Evan Longoria hit a three-run home run that the Dodgers never came back from. Once the offense wakes up and if the bullpen finds its identity again, the starters will rid their curse.

The bullpen has been a complete mystery so far. Kenley Jansen has looked better than his normal self at times and very hittable in others. The inconsistency in the closer’s spot has infected the rest of the pen. Dave Roberts said it is difficult matching up and defining roles when he doesn’t know exactly who is in his bullpen.

Josh Fields, Toni Cingrani, and Pedro Baez were front-runners for the set-up roles. But Cingrani has struggled of late with a dead arm and Baez can’t find the strike zone. Fields’ numbers look good, but in the few appearances, he’s made he’s given up some hard-hit balls for outs.

New additions Scott Alexander and Daniel Hudson are or have struggled. J.T. Chargois’ numbers look good but he has allowed inherited runners to score several times this year. The brightest star (and I use that loosely) has been Ross Stripling who has given Dave Roberts a handful of solid clean innings. Adam Liberatore is another name finding early success.

Next: Why did Dave Roberts bench Cody Bellinger?

Where it starts is where it ends. The bullpen issue won’t be fixed until Kenley Jansen is lights out again. Since 2013, in years Jansen’s ERA was lower than two and WHIP was lower than one, the Dodgers bullpen was one of the best in the NL. This year his ERA is at 5.59 and whip at 1.5, with only three of five saves converted.

Good news going into May, he’s looked much better in his last three outings with the exception of two unearned runs. May is usually when the Dodgers put the foot on the gas so hopefully, Jansen can shake off the early bullpen struggles.