The Dodgers pen needs help and internal options won’t do it

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in relief during the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on May 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 08: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in relief during the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on May 08, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Joe Kelly looked to the bullpen, toward the dugout, then down. His glove, still on his non-dominant side, would soon be held by his throwing hand to make the long walk to the Dodger dugout showered by the thousands of boos in the stadium and millions more on TV.

“Joe Kelly is a lost cause,” one fan said on Twitter. “Can the Dodgers just send him back to Boston? We don’t want him here,” another one said.

The booing at home and the widespread passionate reactions on Twitter often feel like overreactions. On Monday, when Kelly gave up three hits and two runs without recording an out against the Mets, they, in a way, felt justified. However, Kelly was just the scapegoat. His numbers were, and still, are the worst in the pen. But, lately, Kelly is just one of many. Monday night saw his face and arm behind the blunder other nights it was someone else.

The Dodger bullpen has been worth boos in a home ballpark lately.

Their 4.63 ERA this season is the 22nd best in major league baseball and they find themselves sandwiched between teams with just over half as many wins as they do. When runners get on base, the Dodger pen has allowed them to score at an MLB second worst 44.5 percent.

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Kelly has been the face of that struggle. His numbers are undeniably bad with an 8.83 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched and the month of June about to get started. He was the big get for the bullpen this offseason after beating the team whose uniform he now wears just a few months earlier.

Kelly has been the easy target for it. He’s been called a waste of money and the Dodgers’ biggest 2019 mistake but the picture and the disaster is just about as bad as it can get and for it, the rest of the roster has been like a tow truck.

A tow truck’s job is to bail cars out. You break down, you blow a tire, your battery dies and you can count on the tow truck to be there for the jumper cables, the tire replacement or the tow and it gets the car out of a bad situation.

For the tow truck, a car hitched the back is extra baggage. It must drive carefully, fully conscious of the vehicle attached to its back while driving.

The Dodgers offense and starting pitching have been that tow truck this year and they’ve towed a semi behind them, not just a normal car.

But, a team in the Dodgers’ standing has little room for a car-in-tow situation. After 54 games played and about a third of the season already complete, the Dodgers have set themselves on 108 win pace. Cody Bellinger is on track for an MVP trophy, a gold glove, 57 home runs and 147 but the bullpen would indicate none of that is happening around them.

For that, the Dodgers need to put themselves in a position to find a solution and they need to that quickly. That solution may not be on the roster.

Dylan Floro is as close as the Dodgers have gotten to a consistent reliever. Up until May 11 against the Nationals, Floro hadn’t surrendered an earned run. A solo shot in that game and four runs surrendered in Tampa Bay have been the difference between a perfect season and 2.18 ERA for Floro.

Outside of him, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Yimi Garcia and others have had a rough go of things lately.

Ross Stripling has been middle of the road since joining the bullpen but his killer has been consistency. The odd thing is it’s not his consistency that’s killing him, it’s the team’s. The Dodgers haven’t been Stripling in games on a regular basis and that has fairly obviously come back to bite him.

As far as a fix, it’ll come in a trade.

Amir Garrett fits the Dodgers needs and more options could make themselves clearer as the season goes on but for the sake of this conversation, the exact names of the potential acquisitions are not important. The fact is the Dodgers could use a trade now regardless of who it is.

To trade, for anyone really, would be a welcomed change of pace for a bullpen that needs one.

To write that in such a desperate tone is odd given the team’s standing but getting a large problem fixed is necessary and rather urgent.

Next. Dodgers: Could Andrew Friedman Turn to a Rival For Bullpen Help?. dark

Joe Kelly is a part of a large problem. That problem needs fixing and trade could do it.