How will the Dodgers bullpen shape up in 2020?
On paper, the Dodgers bullpen looked fairly solid in 2019, ranking 5th in reliever ERA (3.85), 1st in WHIP (1.12), fifth in home runs allowed (73). With the club winning league-best and team-record 106 games last season, the relief corp was masked in a lot of ways.
However, the team tallied the fourth-most blown saves last season, with only the Athletics, Mariners, and Nationals having more than the 28 saves Los Angeles relievers blew. Dodgers relievers also ranked 21st in baseball with a Win Probability Added of -0.21 despite ranking middle of the pack in both average leverage index (pLI) and leverage index when entering the game (gmLI). Essentially, this means that Dodgers relievers typically came in during standard relief situations without having to enter under high leverage conditions.
Perhaps it was that lack of tests during the regular season which provided the back-drop of the bullpen failures in the NLDS. As we previously discussed, Dodgers relievers surrendered 15 runs over 18.2 innings of work during the series. Unfortunately, this is the last picture that Dodgers fans have of the team’s relievers, leaving many to question where the crew stands to enter 2020.
For their part, the Dodgers front office understood that it needed to add some higher leverage arms to the bullpen. However, those two arms come with just as many questions in their own right.
The Dodgers inked Blake Treinen as a free agent, in hopes that he could become an answer in the set-up group. Treinen is only one year removed from an otherworldly performance that saw him put up a 3.6 fWAR on the back of a 0.78 ERA, a 1.82 FIP, an 11.2 K/9 ratio, and 38 saves for the Athletics. However, he crashed down to Earth in 2019 (4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 1.33 HR/9) and lost his closer role before being non-tendered this past winter. The Dodgers are hoping that he can find some semblance of his 2018 magic with a change of scenery.
Graterol, who was once ticketed for the Red Sox in the Betts trade before Boston raised issues with his medicals, will ultimately slot into a bullpen role with the Dodgers instead. He’s a sneaky acquisition with an interesting arsenal that could make him a future closer in the majors, but he also comes with a lack of MLB experience and question marks about whether he could be a starter or a reliever in the big leagues.
The Dodgers are hoping that the team can add the pair of Treinen and Graterol to Pedro Baez and a rebounding (hopefully) Joe Kelly to form a solid set-up group ahead of closer Kenley Jansen. Their success as a team will depend on this group not only finding their niche but also keeping it together when the postseason hits.