The last time Joe Kelly walked off the mound as a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, it was due to an injury to his pitching arm that sidelined him for the rest of the 2021 postseason. It was a fitting end for a pitcher who was brought in to be the perfect setup man for closer Kenley Jansen, but either because he was too injured or too wild, expectations never met reality.
At the start of the offseason, the Dodgers declined to pick up Kelly’s $12 million option, making him a free agent. With his injury, it made it very unlikely that Kelly would start the 2022 season healthy, making it an easy choice for the Dodgers to move on.
In three seasons with the Dodgers, Kelly pitched in 115 games, and in 105.1 innings, Kelly carried a 3.59 ERA (116 ERA+), striking out 121 while walking 44. Those numbers fall in line with Kelly’s career average, but in the playoffs, Kelly really struggled, posting an 8.44 ERA and walking eight batters in just 11.1 innings.
Kelly’s time with the Dodgers and its up and down nature does not mean he didn’t have his moments.
He’ll always be remembered as a member of the 2020 World Series champions, and even if his fastball didn’t always hit the strike zone, there was never a dull moment when he took the mound.
3. Joe Kelly Puckers Up
Obviously, any moment that got its own mural deserves a spot on this list. On July 28, 2020, the Dodgers faced the Houston Astros for the first time since Major League Baseball revealed the Astros’ cheating scheme from 2017. The revelation was that the Astros used a sophisticated plan including cameras and monitors behind the plate to know what pitches were being thrown by the opposition — including, it’s believed, in the playoffs, where they beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
Despite not being on the 2017 Dodgers, Joe Kelly either took it upon himself to send a message to the Astros or he was the same wild Joe Kelly as always who couldn’t find the strike zone. Kelly started his inning by throwing ball four over Alex Bregman‘s head. With two outs, Kelly then faced Carlos Correa, and another errant throw brought a glare from the star shortstop. When Kelly struck him out a few pitches later, the righty walked down off the mound mocking Correa’s facial expressions.
Before Kelly reached the dugout, the benches cleared, spurred on by the relief ace visibly mocking the Astros and challenging them. As with most baseball dust-ups, no punches were thrown, and Kelly was suspended by MLB, but he forever endeared himself to legions of Dodgers fans.