Unstoppable Dodgers – Relief Pitching
Thirty games into the abbreviated regular season and the Dodger record is very much what everyone expected. The best in baseball. How they got there however is not quite what I expected.
I felt the Dodgers would have a good bullpen with the additions of Graterol/Treinen but so many things needed to go right for it to become a great bullpen, and for the most part, they all did.
Kenley Jansen is once again throwing with confidence and ease, and giving Dodger fans a reason to relax in the 9th inning. Kenley has only given up one run in thirteen appearances and is firmly entrenched in the role as Dodger closer. Fangraphs says he using a cutter 73% of the time so far in 2020. Whatever he’s throwing it is working.
Caleb Ferguson in 2018 looked like the next coming of Andrew Miller, but took a big step back in 2019. In 2020, the Andrew Miller Caleb is back and providing dominant setup action.
Dylan Floro doesn’t walk anyone so he doesn’t get hurt when he gives up hits which so far in 2020 have been far and few between.
Jake McGee was once a huge prospect with the Tampa Bay Rays but had spent his last few years getting knocked around in Coors. He still had the big left arm and the Dodgers took a chance and once again found a nugget that had been cast aside by other teams. That nugget has the highest K% on the Dodgers at 40.50% and the 8th best in baseball right now.
Adam Kolarek looked like he might be a victim of the new three batter rule given he was a LOOGY, but he has thrived and continues to pitch as though everyone is Soto. Adam hasn’t walked anyone yet in 2020. He is one of only three pitchers left in baseball who has thrown at least ten innings without a walk.
Brusdar Graterol does not strike out as many as you’d think given his 100 MPH heater but he has been effective.
Blake Treinen looks to have the best stuff in the bullpen when he is on. Most of the time he has been on, but he had one clunker early on and one late. He might be the best addition to the Dodger bullpen since the 2017 version of Brandon Morrow. Blake was the best relief pitcher in baseball as recently as 2018. He may not be at that level in 2020, but he looks like a stud to me and could really be a difference maker in October.
Scott Alexander started off the year striking out everyone but lately has gone back to what he normally does well, getting ground balls. His 73% ground ball percentage is 2nd on the team for those who have thrown meaningful innings. On the down side is that his walk rate is the highest of his career.
Dennis Santana had an early brilliant game that displayed what he could do when he is on. He has struggled since that point, and I can’t see how he makes the October roster.
Joe Kelly became a Dodger folk hero by throwing at someone’s head and making silly faces. I don’t condone either action so he’s nothing but a jerk for me and hasn’t pitched very well either. He’s now hurt.
One quick tidbit. Eight relief pitchers have yet to give up a home run in 2020. The exceptions are Santana (3), Baez (2), Alexander, and Ferguson Those eight have combined for 78 innings without giving up a home run.
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At the halfway point we can look toward October where it looks like a huge strength. You have your closer in Jansen. You have right / left setup studs in Treinen and Ferguson. You have left/right/left middle relief options in McGee/Floro/Graterol/Kolarek. Alexander might make it. That doesn’t even take into account what the bullpen might look like when some of the starters bounce to the bullpen like May/Urias/Gonsolin/Stripling. It will be crowded, it will also be very hard to score on.
Maybe the best option for a postseason game three is a May/Urias humpback start.