Thursday, October 16, 2014

How much blame should be on Colletti for the failed bullpen?

As Andrew Friedman gets settled into his position of the man pulling all the strings for the Dodgers, Ned Colletti is quietly getting adjusted to his new role as well.  A new role that will no longer allow him to be the trigger man in player movement.

Much of the focus since news broke this week of Friedman getting hired has been about the construction of the bullpen under Ned Colletti.  As the Royals have shown in the playoffs, a top-notch bullpen can carry a team a long, long way.

Something the Dodgers didn't come close to having.

So now, the question can be asked of how much blame Colletti should receive for the bullpen he put together this season.  There's definitely two ways of looking at it, so let's dive right in.

1) Bringing in ex-closers like Brandon League, Brian Wilson, and Chris Perez is an easy move to make.  They have experience pitching in big situations.

When looking at the bullpen on paper before the season started, the breakdown looked something like this: Perez for the 7th, Wilson for the 8th, Kenley Jansen to close things out.  That certainly looked like a good trio in the final innings, especially after the success of Wilson at the end of 2013.

With the great starting pitching the Dodgers have, it looked like they could turn games into six-inning affairs.  It's not a stretch to say that they felt like they were going to win lots of games when they had the lead going into the late innings.  Either they had a starting pitcher rolling along, or their bullpen full of former closers would close the door.

2) There's a reason League, Perez, and Wilson are ex-closers.  It's because they're washed up and clearly not what they used to be.

Unfortunately for Colletti, this turned out to be the case, especially in the NLDS when the middle relief time and time again failed to bridge the gap to Jansen.  It was an ugly way to end the season to say the least.

Everyone but Jansen was a disaster pretty much all season long.  Perez had a 4.27 ERA in 49 games, though it seemed like it was much worse.  Wilson lost all of the zip on his pitches, and ended up with a 4.66 ERA in 61 games.  League was improved at 2.57 in 63 games, but that was mostly in low-pressure situations.

My guess is Colletti went with the experience of guys who have been there, done that over guys who are more comfortable pitching in the middle innings.  It was a chance he was willing to take, and while the Dodgers did win the NL West, it was mostly in spite of the ex-closers.

One interesting little tidbit that has been whispered is about Colletti being handcuffed from making trades at the deadline, as management labeled the top prospects like Corey Seager, Julio Urias, and Joc Pederson as untouchable.  Remember how Colletti said he wanted to improve the 'pen, yet nothing came of it?  It seemed pretty strange at the time, especially considering this team's recent history of taking on all sorts of money to get more talent.

Well, it sure looks like we should cut Colletti some slack, as it appears as if he was willing to get more arms, yet was blocked.  Who knows what those deals may have been, so possibly in the long run, it's a good thing to hold onto the prospects instead of getting the short-term fix.

Bottom Line:

While I can understand Colletti's thought process in regards to the ex-closers, the end result is that it completely blew up in his face.  There's no way any of us thought these guys would be THIS bad, but the reality is they were.  So that makes Colletti's moves to be failures.

Much of the blame needs to be with the pitchers themselves, as they not only made Colletti look like a fool, but completely dropped their stocks as well.  This group was so lousy, even a little bit of improvement would have still made them bad.  That's how poorly they performed.

So let's just call it even down the middle: Colletti gets half the blame for signing the wrong guys, and the ex-closers get the other half for stinking up the joint over and over.  We'll settle at that.

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