Los Angeles Dodgers: Phil Bickford’s been an unlikely bullpen hero

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 17: Phil Bickford #52 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on August 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 17: Phil Bickford #52 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on August 17, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /
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If I had told you back in May that one of the most reliable pitchers in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen would be a rookie picked up off the waiver wire, you might’ve slapped me across the face.

Phil Bickford was an expendable rookie in the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen the Dodgers acquired on May 3. He was brought up May 23 due to a slew of injuries that left the pitching staff thin and he’s stayed with the big league club ever since.

With the Dodgers, Bickford has maintained a 2.21 ERA and 1.03 WHIP across 40.2 innings, while striking out 50 batters. He has relied on two basic pitches — a four-seam fastball and a slider. Despite possessing that limited of an arsenal, batters have struggled against him, hitting just .207 vs his fastball and faring even worse against his slider (.196 BAA).

Bickford has really shown his worth in the late innings, too. In frames 6-8, Bickford has thrown 26 innings and faced 97 batters, allowing just four runs and seven walks while striking out 28. At this point, he’s proven himself to be the bridge to Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen, having appeared in the seventh inning 11 times out of his 43 appearances.

In August alone Bickford has been lights out, making 12 appearances so far and striking out at least one batter every time he’s taken the mound. Over that span, he owns a 1.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts and just four walks.

With so many injuries to the pitching staff this season, Bickford’s emergence has truly been a saving grace, especially with Brusdar Graterol and Victor Gonzalez taking steps back after being so valuable during the 2020 run.

Through great front office work, the Dodgers have found a diamond in the rough in the form a reliable bullpen hand who has contributed to the team’s success and will likely continue to do so through October.

The best part of it all? Bickford was a former first-round pick of the division-rival San Francisco Giants and never threw a pitch for them. Now, he’s among the best in the entire MLB when it comes to expected ERA, strikeout percentage, expected slugging percentage and whiff percentage.

What a turn of events.

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