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Dodgers

Dodgers Dugout: Is it fair to blame the bullpen for everything?

Los Angeles Dodgers v Tampa Bay Rays
Dylan Floro walks off the mound after a rough outing Wednesday.
(Mike Carlson / Getty Images)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to it.

The bullpen

The emails poured in after Wednesday’s 8-1 loss to Tampa Bay. “This team will never win with this bullpen.” “How many games will management let the bullpen lose before they do something?”

Rather than attack the bullpen (which I have done in the past), let’s take a different approach. Let’s consider some things.

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1. There are occasional outliers, but generally, every team is going to lose at least 60 games a year, and every team is going to win at least 60.

2. Some of those 60 losses will be because of the bullpen. That is true for every team. Some losses will be because of poor starting pitching. Some losses will be because of poor hitting (or, to put it another way, sometimes the other team wins because of their good pitching or better offense that day).

3. Sometimes we all forget to give credit to the other team. Tampa Bay hasn’t led the AL East most of the season for no reason, they led it because they are a good team. Sometimes good teams will beat you no matter who you throw out there. Sometimes the other team’s pitcher will be on his game and will shut you down, no matter what. So, sometimes, instead of attacking the Dodgers for their failure to win a particular game, you have to tip your hat to the other team and realize they were better that day.

4. If you want to blame the bullpen for their failures, you also have to praise them for their successes. When they pitch three scoreless innings to preserve a win, you have to credit them with that just as much as you blame them for a loss.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suddenly trumpeting the continued brilliance of the Dodger bullpen. I get frustrated too. It’s just I want to do what I always recommend we do when emotions take over our fandom, take a step back and look at the big picture. So, with all that being said, next Friday we will break down all of the Dodgers’ games this season. How many losses were because of the bullpen? Because of starting pitching? Because of no offense? Because of bad defense? How many wins did the bullpen preserve with good pitching? And let’s also be honest, there’s usually not one reason a team wins or loses. If a team loses 4-3, we can easily blame it on the bullpen, but could we also blame it on leaving the bases loaded with no one out earlier in the game? Or going one for nine with runners in scoring position? But we will narrow it down as best we can.

You may be wondering why I’m not doing that today. A couple of reasons: I want to take my time and give an honest appraisal of each game. But more importantly, and I ask you for your forgiveness for the brevity of today’s newsletter, my youngest daughter is graduating high school tomorrow and I have been sidetracked with preparations for that.

Speaking of the bullpen

Pedro Baez, once the bane of Dodger fans everywhere, has been a much, much better reliever since about August of last season. Since Aug. 13, Baez has posted a 1.99 earned-run average in 40⅔ innings. His .148 batting average against is tied for seventh among relievers with at least 30 innings during the span. His .209 on-base percentage against ranks fifth and his .211 slugging against ranks fourth.

Jorge Castillo talked to the Baez, who rarely talks much to anyone, so here’s a good chance for you to hear from the man himself. Click here to read.

The key quote, to me, is: “In spite of the bad moments that have happened, us, as athletes, we always have those moments,” Baez, 31, said in Spanish. “But, thank God, sometimes those moments help us come out better and more focused on finding success and focusing more on going out there and doing things right.”

You have to give Baez a lot of credit for not reacting to the boos or to the sniping of know-it-alls like me. He didn’t whine or complain, he just put his head down and worked to get better.

Comparison

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Comparing the Dodgers through 50 games this season to the same number of games the last two seasons:

2019: 32-18, .252/.341 OB%/.456 SLG%, 5.14 runs per game, 3.47 ERA

2018: 23-27, .235/.316/.394, 4.28 runs per game, 3.58 ERA

2017: 30-20, .257/.339/.424, 4.94 runs per game, 3.23 ERA

Ask Ross Porter

Ross Porter will once again answer reader questions this season. All you have to do is email me your question at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. I will forward the email to Ross, and he will answer some each week. Take it away, Ross.

Marc Contreras asks: Why was Cody Bellinger only given a one-year contract this season?

Ross: He is not eligible for arbitration yet so there was little incentive to upgrade his status and he did not improve his numbers last season.

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2017: .267, 39 HRs, 97 RBIs, 146 K’s (missed 30 games)

2018: .260, 25 HRs, 76 RBIs, 151 K’s

Bellinger earned $585,000 in 2018 and $605,000 this season. I would say Cody is one of the best bargains in baseball.

Bill Connell of Park City, Utah asks: Ross, you mentioned a few weeks ago that a study of umpires had been made public, but you didn’t give many details. Can you disclose more?

Ross: A Boston University master lecturer, Mark Williams, and a team of graduate students experienced in analytics and statistics has studied 11 seasons of Major League Baseball (2008-2018). They reviewed almost four million pitches and analyzed the data for over two months. They concluded that last season there were over 34,000 incorrect ball and strike calls. Almost one third of batters called out looking at third strikes had good reason to be angry. The report found younger umpires routinely were better behind the plate than veterans. Also, in the last World Series between the Dodgers and Red Sox, five of the seven umpires exhibited a higher “bad call” ratio than the overall MLB umpire average. The seven were an average of 53-years-old.

Steve Fountain asks: What players recorded the most games with at least one hit during a season?

Ross: Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein, Wade Boggs, Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki all had 135 games with a hit, according to baseball-reference.com.

Shawn Carpenter of Phoenix asks: When was the last time a player was intentionally walked with the bases loaded?

Ross: It has happened only twice in the last 75 years. Barry Bonds in 1998 and Josh Hamilton in 2008. Bonds holds the major-league record for intentional walks in a career with 645. George Brett‘s 229 is the AL high. In 2004, Bonds set the mark for one season with 120 and led the NL in intentional passes a record 12 years.

You can follow Ross on Twitter: @therossporter

TV schedule

KTLA will televise four more Dodgers games during the season. They are:

Monday vs. New York Mets, 5 p.m.

Thursday vs. New York Mets, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 1, vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 15, vs. Chicago Cubs, 6 p.m.

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: Dodgers (Walker Buehler) at Pittsburgh (TBA), 4 p.m.

Saturday: Dodgers (*Hyun-Jin Ryu) at Pittsburgh (Joe Musgrove), 4:15 p.m.

Sunday: Dodgers (Kenta Maeda) at Pittsburgh (Chris Archer), 10:30 a.m.

*left-handed

And finally

Don Drysdale delivers his Hall of Fame induction speech. Watch it here. (Due to a technical glitch, some were unable to access this video last week, so we are running it again.)

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.


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