The Dodgers best chance to get over the hump is for the bullpen to right the ship.
After a team-record 106 wins during the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers were unceremoniously shown the door in a first-round loss to the eventual champion Washington Nationals. Of the many reasons for the Dodgers loss, none was more prevalent than the lackluster effort of the bullpen.
Over the course of 18.2 innings pitched during the series with Washington, Dodgers relievers gave up 15 runs to Nationals hitters, including four in the 10th inning where the Nationals came from behind to capture the deciding Game 5.
That performance was sort of the wheel falling off scenario that the team didn’t see coming during the regular season. After all, the team placed 9th in baseball in relief ERA in 2019, floating a mark of 3.85 on the season. That wasn’t drastically different than the underlying numbers with the team placing 6th in FIP (4.06) and 7th xFIP (4.25).
While the ship didn’t show it, it sank nonetheless and the Dodgers went into the winter knowing that they needed to improve at the back-end of the pen. Instead of relying on miscast starting prospects being utilized as relievers, the team felt they needed to bolster their set-up crew.
Step in Blake Treinen.
Treinen was an All-Star in 2018, when he went 9-2 with a 0.78 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9 rate on the way to a 3.6 WAR season for the Oakland Athletics. However, he wasn’t able to duplicate that season in 2019 and found himself on the reclamation pile this winter, where the Dodgers picked him up hoping to find a diamond in the rough.
If Treinan can get back to form (which may be a tall ask for a 31-year-old reliever), he could feasibly make the process to Kenley Jansen that much more difficult for opposing hitters.
Speaking of Jansen, he’ll be looking for a bounce back season of his own. While his K/9 jumped up to 11.43 from the season prior, Jansen struggled with stranding runners (73.6% LOB%) and saw his hard-hit rates rocket to a career-high 38.7% in 2019. Jansen will need to see his fastball velocity start to climb back up or level off if he wants to regain effectiveness in 2020.
If the Dodgers want to succeed in October, they are going to need to find the right mix of those arms to hold down the fort.