Dodgers: The Bullpen Has the Talent to Become a Strength

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 17: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 17, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Dodgers won 6-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 17: Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 17, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Dodgers won 6-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers’ bullpen has been the main Achilles heel of the 2019 roster.  Although they have struggled they have the talent to turn it around.

The Dodgers have had talented teams especially in the past two seasons in which they advanced to the World Series.  The 2019 roster could be better than the previous two NL pennant-winning clubs.  The one thing separating the 2019 team from being far and away better than the 2017 and 2018 versions is the shaky bullpen.

Coming into Friday night’s game, the Dodgers’ bullpen had a 4.62 ERA, ranking them 21st in MLB.  The bullpen has three core relievers that have been reliable for most of the season in Kenley Jansen, Dylan Floro, and Pedro Baez.  Yimi Garcia has even been dependable for most of his recent outings after a rough start.

The two relievers that have struggled but could turn the bullpen into a strength are Joe Kelly and Caleb Ferguson.  Kelly was lights out in the World Series, as the Dodgers could not get to him and in turn signed him to a three-year deal this off-season.  This season he has been anything but unhittable, sitting with an 8.35 ERA and 1.91 WHIP.  The good thing for LA is that Kelly’s stuff is still electric.

Joe’s fastball is averaging 97.4 miles per hour this season and his secondary pitches have looked good in stretches.  While he has looked terrible for much of the season, he had rough months last season before turning into the dominant World Series setup man that he was.  In June, July, and September of last season, he pitched to an ERA over 8.  His regular season ERA for 2018 was an uninspiring 4.39.

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Then there is Caleb Ferguson, the electric young southpaw who emerged as a dynamite reliever a season ago.  This year he has struggled and also spent time on the injured list.  He currently finds himself in Triple-A.  Last night Fergie pitched a hitless inning, striking out all three batters that he faced.  Last year he posted a 2.35 ERA in relief while holding the opposition to a .231 average.  He was effective against left and right-handed batters.

If Ferguson and Kelly can find their 2018 form, then the Dodger bullpen will suddenly become much better.  Kelly would fill the eighth inning setup role he was brought in to fill and Ferguson could become the primary left-handed specialist in the Dodger bullpen.  That would free up the team to use Julio Urias in a setup/long reliever hybrid role.

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While the bullpen has been mediocre so far, the problem has not been talent or stuff.  The current bullpen has plenty of talent and just needs to execute better outside of the few relievers who have done their job so far this season.  Once the pen turns it around, the 2019 Dodgers will be far better than the previous two teams that made it to the World Series but lost.