Sunday, June 2, 2013

What's wrong with the Dodgers? Start with the bullpen

After the Dodgers blew a lead for the second consecutive game, this time resulting in a loss to the Rockies on Saturday, Don Mattingly is once again searching for answers.  If the middle relief does well, the closer stinks.  If the middle relief stinks, the closer doesn't get a chance.  It's been that ugly.

Let's take a look at some key stats for the team and individually for the 'pen.

Team Bullpen Stats:
ERA: 4.24 (23rd)
Losses: 14 (1st)
Saves: 14 (14th)
Blown Saves: 11 (tied for 2nd)
Save %: 56 (27th)
Earned Runs: 75 (tied for 8th)
Batting Average Against: .262 (26th)

It's hard to put any sort of positive spin on these numbers.  The loses could be inflated a bit because the offense doesn't score enough runs.  But still, a 56% save percentage is really bad.

Brandon League
20 1/3 IP, 1-2, 5.31 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 11 SV, 3 BS, 10 K
Things have gotten a little worse and worse for League, as he continues to give shaky performances when they count the most in the ninth.  He's certainly not blowing anyone away, which suggests that he'll have a tough time turning things around.  I just don't see him as a reliable closer anymore, which is a shame considering he was signed for three years before the season.  I'm guessing Ned Colletti would like to take that contract back.

Kenley Jansen
26 2/3 IP, 1-3, 3.04 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2 SV, 1 BS, 11 HLD (Holds), 37 K
While Jansen may not be quite as dominant as previous seasons, it's hard to ask him to continually match that success.  He still has nearly 12.5 K/9, which is outstanding.  I still wish he had another pitch other than a cut fastball, but at this point, it's time he gets save opportunities.

Ronald Belisario
27 1/3 IP, 3-4, 3.62 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 1 SV, 3 BS, 5 HLD, 21 K
Belisario emerged last year as a very good reliever, but once again has fallen off.  This has been his MO during his career: one good year, then one bad.  His ERA is pretty high, but his WHIP is very high, which obviously means way too many baserunners allowed.  He shouldn't be handed the ball late in the game with a lead anymore.  You never know what you're going to get with him.

J.P. Howell
24 1/3 IP, 1-0, 2.22 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 0 SV, 0 BS, 3 HLD, 23 K
I know Howell is looked at as more of a situational left-handed pitcher, but that needs to change.  Think about it - would you rather see Howell pitch late, or Belisario or Matt Guerrier?  Exactly.  Howell doesn't allow many baserunners and has a good strikeout rate.  That's a great sign.

Matt Guerrier
20 2/3 IP, 1-2, 3.92 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 0 SV, 1 BS, 3 HLD, 10 K
Much like League, here's another guy with a three-year deal who has underwhelmed, to say the least.  His numbers are just OK.  He'll look good one day, then bad the next.  A good way to sum him up is Saturday's game.  He relieved with one out in he 10th, got the next batter with ease, then three straight hits led to the a Dodgers' loss.  I trust him a little more than Belisario, but that's not saying much.

Paco Rodriguez
18 2/3 IP, 1-2, 2.89 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 0 SV, 2 BS, 7 HLD, 20 K
Not only are Paco's numbers very good, but they've only gotten better as the season has progressed.  After posting a 4.32 ERA in April, he lowered it to 1.93 in May.  He knows how to strike people out, and opponents are only hitting .133 against him.  Like Howell, I'd like to see him get the ball later in the game, as he's earned the opportunity.

To sum it all up, here's how I would like to see the pecking order in the bullpen:
Closer: Jansen
Setup: Howell, Rodriguez
Middle Relief: League, Belisario, Guerrier

The wild card in all of this is Peter Moylan, a righty who pitched sparingly with the Braves the last couple of seasons.  He was once one of their most reliable relievers, gathering 25 and 21 holds in 2009 and 2010, respectively.  If Mattingly insists on using a righty in the eighth, why not give him a shot?  Better than watching guys like League, Belisario, and Guerrier flop again.

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