Comparing the teams
Time for the bullpen in the continuing series of comparing players on the NL West teams. I will be looking at the closer separately, then the rest of the bullpen as a group. All stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Stat explainers: FIP here, WHIP here. WAR here.
1. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
Last three seasons: 7-6/2.32 ERA/1.80 FIP/127 saves/13 blown saves/90.7 save %/0.864 WHIP/5.1 WAR
Two of the best closers in baseball pitch in the NL West. Jansen showed the nation how good he is in the playoffs last season and has the most saves in Dodgers history. In the last three seasons he has pitched 186 innings and struck out 285 batters.
2. Mark Melancon, San Francisco
Last three seasons: 8-9/1.93/2.45/131/10/92.9%/0.900/7.1
You could make an argument that Melancon deserves the top spot. He doesn’t strike out as many as Jansen, but no one seems to ever hit the ball hard off him, and if the Giants enter the ninth inning with a lead this season, they are probably going to win.
3. Greg Holland, Colorado
Last three seasons: 4-5/2.44/2.43/78/7/91.8%/1.140/2.8
Holland missed the last part of 2015 and all of 2016 because of Tommy John surgery, so the big question is whether his arm will hold up to being a closer again. When he was healthy he was really good. The Rockies are gambling that he will be that pitcher again.
4. Brandon Maurer, San Diego
Last three seasons: 813/4.16/3.43/13/8/61.9%/1.235/0.1
Maurer took over the closer job for the Padres in July last season and went 0-3 with 13 saves and a 3.09 ERA. He struck out only 25 in 32 innings, but had good control. He’s not the next Trevor Hoffman, but the Padres hope he will continue to grow into the role.
5. Fernando Rodney, Arizona
Last three seasons: 10-15/3.66/3.83/89/13/87.3%/1.379/1.2
Rodney is going to either strike out the side or cough up the lead in about 10 seconds. More often than not last season, it was the latter, as he had a 5.89 ERA for Miami. If you are a Diamondbacks fan, throw away your nail clippers this season, because you will be biting your nails enough when Rodney pitches and won’t need them.
2016 ERA: 3.35 (1st in the majors)
Setting Chris Hatcher aside for a moment, the Dodgers have a solid bullpen. Sergio Romo should be a good set-up man, and the rest of the crew are good pitchers, with Adam Liberatore and Josh Fields waiting for their chance. Unless he has become a different pitcher, Hatcher will probably be replaced by my second least-favorite reliever, Pedro Baez, when he is healthy. There is always a lot of hand-wringing over the Dodger bullpen, but they had the best ERA in the majors last season and most of that crew is back.
2. San Francisco
2016 ERA: 3.65 (15th in the majors)
The Giants bullpen was a big disappointment in 2016, but they should be better this year. Derek Law, Hunter Strickland and George Kontos should give good support to Melancon, and Bruce Bochy is too good a manager to let the bullpen be a problem two seasons in a row.
3. San Diego
2016 ERA: 4.18 (23rd in the majors)
The Padres rotation is atrocious, but their bullpen shouldn’t be too bad. Brad Hand, Ryan Buchter (34 hits allowed in 62 innings last season) and Craig Stammen should be solid, and any of them could step into the closer rule should Maurer falter.
2016 ERA: 5.13 (30th in the majors)
The Rockies rebuilt their bullpen after last season’s disaster, bringing in Holland as their closer and giving a three-year deal to free agent Mike Dunn. Add in a returning Adam Ottavino and Carlos Estevez and they should be much improved. Of course, when you had the worst bullpen in the majors, much improved could merely be 10th-worst in the majors.
2016 ERA: 4.94 (27th in the majors)
The Diamondbacks have a problem in their bullpen. Not a star pitcher in the bunch. They have added Tom Wilhelmsen and Jorge De La Rosa to last season’s crew, but that’s just more to yawn about. And when Fernando Rodney inevitably fails, there is no one to turn to.
If you assign points based on where a player ranks at each position, giving seven points for first place, five for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth, then the NL West stacks up like this as far as the bullpen goes:
Dodgers, 14 points
San Francisco, 10 points
Colorado, 5 points
San Diego, 5 points
Arizona, 2 points
That brings the grand total so far to:
Dodgers, 76 points
San Francisco, 57 points
Colorado, 53 points
Arizona, 41 points
San Diego, 25 points
We still have bench/manager (Sunday) to look at. On Monday, we’ll look at the opening-day roster and preview the season.
Ask Ross Porter
Once again, former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be answering select reader questions. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on. The answers will begin once the season starts, but send the questions in now!
The Dodgers aim for versatility on their opening day roster.