The Dodgers finally dipped into the reliever free agent pool last winter brining in Joe Kelly. After a rough start, Kelly has been very good since June.
As Dodgers’ free-agent acquisition Joe Kelly found out earlier this season, it’s not hard to get Dodger fans to turn on you. After a brutal start to his season, the fact Kelly was getting a bobblehead this season became comedic relief for Dodger fans. Joe put up ERA’s of 13.50, 7.71, and 8.44 from March through May.
Then came June, and that is where Joe Kelly began to turn things around for the blue. Since June 2nd, Joe Kelly has posted a 1.83 ERA for the Dodgers across 19 2/3 innings while holding the opposition to a .176 average and .227 wOBA. Joe has begun to look like the World Series form of himself that the Dodgers thought they were getting last winter.
Across those nineteen plus innings, he has averaged 13.3 K/9IP and recorded 34.9% of his outs via the strikeout. Since June his average allowed has gone down every month from .194 in June, to .182 in July, to no hits allowed during August in a couple of innings. It’s a trend that the Dodgers need to continue after they were unable to strike a fair deal for a big reliever upgrade.
What has sparked the turnaround? Since June, Kelly has thrown his four-seam fastball less after throwing it over 50% of the time during the first few months of the season. In June and July, Joe relied on his 2-seam fastball and curveball the most while mixing in his changeup. Since March, Joe Kelly has abandoned his slider.
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So far in August, Joe has been feeling his curveball throwing it over 60% of the time. In Wednesday’s scoreless eighth inning he struck out the side and his curveball looked unhittable. It wasn’t just any part of the Cardinals’ lineup either, he struck out Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna, and Paul DeJong. Ozuna was responsible for the biggest hit of the game as he homered off May earlier in the game.
The Dodgers and Andrew Friedman may have decided not to add a big-time upgrade at the trade deadline, but if Joe Kelly can pitch like has the last few months than a big upgrade was not needed. Kelly was signed to be the primary setup man to Kenley Jansen and if he continues to pitch as he has then that is exactly what he will be.
The next two months the Dodgers will need to test Kelly in high leverage situations. His numbers in high leverage situations have not been good this season although most of those outings came during his initial struggles. Joe has allowed a .865 OPS in high leverage spots this season but over the last few months, he has been eased into lower leverage situations.
After an ugly start to his Dodger tenure, Joe Kelly has worked his way into being a fan favorite again amongst the Dodger fanbase. If he can help deliver a WS title to Los Angeles as he did against LA last season, then the Corona native will become a legend to Dodger fans just as he did in Boston.