The Dodgers’ bullpen has been up-and-down this season due to its workload. However, one guy who has been lights-out is almost going unnoticed.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has been severely overworked this year, tying the San Diego Padres for third-most innings pitched, in three fewer games. Because of this increased exposure, there has been more fluctuation in their performance caused by fatigue and hitter familiarity.
One reliever that is flying under-the-radar who has not been affected by this, but in fact exceeding expectations, is Erik Goeddel. And it is time he finally gets the recognition he deserves. On the season, he has allowed just one run in 19 innings while striking out 21 batters. That is a 0.47 ERA while striking out an excellent 26.9% of opponents.
Hitters have hit .179 off him and compiled a .492 OPS. He has been near unhittable, let alone extremely difficult to score against, which makes his lack of exposure and praise baffling.
So far, he has been another gem that the Dodgers’ front office has unearthed. No one gave it a second thought when Andrew Friedman & Co. picked him off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. But he had allowed just one run in 7.1 innings for Seattle before being designated for assignment, bringing into question why he was DFA’d in the first place.
Since he’s come over to the Dodgers, he has yet to allow a single run in 11.2 innings. So why isn’t he getting any more credit? Well, coming into 2018, Goeddel had a career 3.96 ERA and has had problems with control this year.
With Seattle, he issued six walks (one intentional) and two wild pitches in less than eight innings. He walked just under 21% of hitters. Since joining blue, his control has improved a little, but it is still a bit erratic.
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He has issued seven walks (one intentional) and one wild pitch in 11.2 innings to go along with a 14.3% walk rate. Better, but room for improvement. If this continues, his ERA will increase. His FIP of 2.59 shows that his success is legitimate but not as dominant as his minuscule ERA puts him out to be.
But Goeddel has done an excellent job of working around the free baserunners he allows. The right-hander has left over 95% of runners on base, and that is something to pride yourself on. Whether he can keep up is trend remains to be seen, but it explains why walks have not come back to bite him.
One significant reason for this is the type of contact he is allowing. According to Statcast, his average exit velocity on balls in play is 83.5 mph, well below the MLB average of 87.3 mph, and just 19.6% of hit balls allowed constitute as ‘hard-hit’ while the major league average is 34.1%.
This explains his .261 BABIP. Groundballs are softly hit, leading to easy outs and when he allows a flyball, 29.4% stay in the infield, which is rather high and extremely useful for getting outs.
He does not throw the hardest fastball or have the nastiest breaking balls, but his pitches are good and effective. He is throwing them in the right spots to help limit the type of contact. And he has not allowed a run during the seventh inning and beyond.
So while this extreme success will not hold up, there is no doubt he has been among the top two relievers in the Dodger bullpen and will continue to perform as one of the better ones. For a bullpen that has been nothing but inconsistent (for valid reasons), Erik Goeddel has been a sign of consistency that they need. The Dodgers have gotten another gem and this one deserves more light.