There's no denying how bad the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen is right now. The team's 4.75 bullpen ERA ranks 26th in MLB. Their 1.36 WHIP ranks 23rd. Their .253 opponents' batting average ranks 26th. This is not your usual lockdown Dodgers 'pen.
This offseason was problematic. The Dodgers made no upgrades and took flyers on Jimmy Nelson, Alex Reyes and JP Feyereisen. They guaranteed the contracts of injured relievers Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson. They banked on a bounce back from Phil Bickford and relied on Yency Almonte to replicate his flash-in-the-pan 2022 performance.
The result? Disaster. On top of that, Alex Vesia has been terrible. Evan Phillips isn't entirely himself. And Brusdar Graterol has felt like more of a liability than an asset with how underwhelming he's been.
What also doesn't help is that manager Dave Roberts isn't exactly a bullpen whisperer. He's had many problems putting his relievers in the right spots over the years, and it happened again Tuesday when he called upon Caleb Ferguson to face three right-handed hitters, something he typically cannot handle.
So that's why fans really aren't sure if Roberts has the right to call out his guys for their poor performance this year. On top of them being bad, he hasn't necessarily helped with pressing the right buttons -- historically, too.
Dave Roberts ripping Dodgers bullpen feels out of place
If this is a managerial tactic to light a fire under his guys, then great. But it certainly didn't work on Wednesday, because the one bullpen rock in Phillips surrendered a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to a rookie who's never homered before.
Roberts also explaining how a taxing first inning from Tony Gonsolin eventually put the Dodgers in a precarious position also provides nothing of substance. Yeah, that happens, so it's the manager's job to navigate that? Very rarely are teams gifted with seamless performances from starters that lay out a self-explanatory bullpen plan.
The embarrassing part is that even with Gonsolin's five innings, the Dodgers were still up five runs before his exit! The bullpen gave up another six runs to lose. The defense made two errors. Phillips was brought in to face the Reds' best hitters in the eighth when LA was up by two runs -- did that really need to happen? The Reds' 2-4 hitters are solid, but it's not like you're facing Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. And, by the way, that move paved the way for Ferguson's entrance against the 5-7 hitters, all of whom were righties, when Roberts was reminded two days prior of Ferguson's inability to get righties out when he surrendered a game-sealing two-run homer to Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe, who is batting .190 on the season.
Phillips should be the closer. Shelby Miller should be one of your more relied-upon soldiers. Where was Victor González? Trying to steal outs with Ferguson is a fool's errand. And Almonte and Graterol need to be banished to mop-up duty because of how they keep faltering in bigger moments.
The bullpen is bad, yes. But that's Roberts' problem now. And he needs to fix it rather than criticize the crew everybody knew was probably going to be underwhelming entering the season.