In 2017 one of the strengths of the Dodgers was their bullpen. Unlike 2017, the relievers had a rough start to the season and not even Kenley Jansen could avoid the bullpen woes. However, the bullpen is slowly but surely coming along.
The Dodgers had a forgettable start to the season. One of the major reasons for this was the very bad bullpen. The offense was slumping, and anytime they would mount a rally to get back in a game, the bullpen would promptly give the runs right back to the opposition. They would kill the momentum the Dodgers had and made the offense start back from square one.
The biggest problem was their lack of consistency. This bullpen was feast or famine to start the year. They would either dominate and not give up a run or let the flood gates open and let the opposing team create an insurmountable lead. As of late, the bullpen has begun to be less unpredictable and more productive as an entire unit.
There are, however, some outliers to this improvement. But, for the most part, the improvement is evident. We will take a look at the two biggest improvements in this bullpen. The first of which is the big dog in that bullpen. Kenley Jansen.
During April, Jansen held a 5.19 ERA and had two blown saves in 5 opportunities which surpassed the number of blown saves he had all of last season. The bullpen as a unit is better when the closer is performing. If Jansen struggles, the entire Dodger bullpen takes a hit. Specifically, the morale of the bullpen would be at a low with their best reliever struggling to close out games.
Luckily for this bullpen and the Dodgers Jansen looks like he has his form back. In May, he boasts a 0.64 ERA and is perfect in all 9 of his save opportunities. As the leader of this bullpen begins to take over, the rest of the bullpen is at ease and in a better mental state.
So what changes has Jansen made to see this vast improvement? No real change from what he was doing in 2017. Jansen’s outings consist of him going out there and saying “This is my cutter I dare you to hit it “and in most cases, the hitter fails. In April of this season, he was not at his best.
His velocity was a problem, and if that was not bad enough, his cutters were not cutting. Jansen was going out there throwing 89 MPH fastballs over the heart of the plate. Not exactly a recipe for success in the MLB. He has since figured everything out and has looked like the 2017 version of Kenley Jansen as of late.
The second reliever who has seen a vast improvement since the beginning of the season is Scott Alexander. The man who was supposed to be a high leverage situation pitcher, faltered badly to start the season. After starting the season with a 6.97 ERA and more walks than he had strikeouts, he was sent to the minors to refine his delivery.
He has since returned to the big league squad and looked very good. The sinker ball pitcher has finally found the strike zone that was oh so elusive to him early on. That was his major flaw. When he is throwing strikes, he is a frustrating at-bat for anybody. He is not going to be a high strikeout guy, but the amount of weak contact he will produce is just as productive.
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That sinker is filthy when he can keep it in the zone and make a pitch that is going to end in the lower half of the strike zone look like a center cut fastball. That pitch is useless if it starts as a ball and ends as ball. While in OKC he worked on being able to repeat his mechanics every pitch and it seems to have worked for the veteran left-hander.
Josh Fields also deserves some recognition here. He has been consistent all season long and his numbers in April and May are nearly identical. 2.19 ERA in both months the only difference is, Fields has lowered his WHIP from 1.05 to 0.89. He has improved and gained the trust of Roberts to pitch in higher leverage situations.
Pedro Baez had a minor improvement in the two months. Cingrani started very bad but has graduated to just bad in May. Meanwhile, JT Chargois has taken the biggest leap backward and turned what looked to be a promising start into a pitcher that is finding it tough to be trusted in the bullpen.
Finally, the Dodgers seem to have found yet another hidden gem when they acquired Erik Goeddel. He has been fantastic in this short stint with the club. He has yet to give up a run in his six appearances with the Dodgers this season. He is slowly moving up the chain and will get higher leverage situations as the season progresses if he continues to pitch the way he has.
The bullpen had a forgettable start but is slowly starting to improve and become a very formidable group. This effort has been spearheaded by Kenley Jansen and Scott Alexander with their vast improvements. Only time will tell if this bullpen can continue to improve.