Dodgers Dugout: What to do about the bullpen

Yimi Garcia, Corey Seager
Yimi Garcia and Russell Martin
(John Minchillo / AP)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and this team is not helping my anxiety issues.

The bullpen

Last week, I told you I was going to look into each game the Dodgers played this season and see how well the bullpen has done. Then the Dodgers played the games in that week, in which the bullpen pretty much stunk up the joint. Then when doing my research, I started with this:

March 29. Arizona 5, Dodgers 4 (13 innings): Dodgers lead, 3-0 after six innings. Pedro Baez comes in. He gets a strikeout, a groundout and a strikeout. Unfortunately, a passed ball allows the last strikeout victim, Nick Ahmed, to reach first. Baez walks the next batter and is replaced by Joe Kelly, who gives up a three-run homer. Dodgers take a 4-3 lead in the seventh. Kelly gets an out, then a single, double and intentional walk in the eighth. Tying run scores on a groundout. Dodgers lose in 13th when Yimi Garcia allows a run-scoring double.


Main cause of loss: Bullpen, defense.

April 1. San Francisco 4, Dodgers 2: Dodgers lead 2-0 after five innings. Kelly comes in and gives up a solo homer in the sixth and a run in the seventh before being replaced by Scott Alexander with runners on second and third with two out. He gives up a two-run double.

Main cause of loss: Bullpen.

April 8. St. Louis 4, Dodgers 3: Dodgers lead 3-2 after five innings. Hyun-Jin Ryu had to leave after 1 2/3 innings because of an injury. Scott Alexander and Kelly each give up a run in the sixth and the Dodgers lose.


And then I stopped and looked at some other numbers. Let’s see how the Dodgers fare in stats compared to the rest of the NL (through Wednesday’s games):

Runs per game: 5.46 (1st)

Batting average: .264 (1st)

OB%: .50 (1st)

SLG%: .466 (1st)

Average with runners in scoring position: .269 (2nd)

With two out and runners in scoring position: .250 (5th)

So the offense is great.


Fielding %: .986 (5th)

Fielding runs above average: 18 (1st)

Defensive runs saved above average: 45 (1st)

So, the defense is great.

Earned-run average: 3.64 (1st)

Starting pitcher ERA: 3.09 (1st)

Starting pitcher WHIP: 1.058 (1st)

So, the starting pitching is great. What are we forgetting? Oh yeah….


Bullpen ERA: 4.81 (11th)

Bullpen WHIP: 1.276 (6th)

Inherited runners who scored % (IRS%): 39.5% (14th)

Relief losses: 11 (4th most)

I believe we have pinpointed the problem.

Before we continue, let me give you a glimpse into my approach with this newsletter. I try very hard to make it our newsletter, not just my newsletter. With that, I have to service a wide variety of readers, most of whom fall into three categories:

1. Readers who believe I should never be negative and should be a cheerleader.

2. Readers who believe I should be bashing the team and the front office every issue.

3. Readers who see both sides and are fine with whatever as long as I am fair.

I try very hard to fall into the final group the most. I could bash the bullpen every time I write, but that would get old fast. The team is 37-19 and overall is playing well. There is far more positive about this team than negative.

That being said, it is very easy to get frustrated with this team because most Dodger fans, myself included, see this season heading to a familiar conclusion: A World Series loss because of a flaw in the team that the front office gives the appearance of not noticing.

My big problem with the Dodger front office is not that they don’t care. Believe me, Andrew Friedman wants to win the World Series as much as anyone. It’s that they give the appearance of not caring. Their insistence on playing everything close to the vest (which is certainly their prerogative) leaves a void for the fans to fill on their own. And, if someone is not talking about a subject you think is a problem, the easiest conclusion to draw is that they don’t care. Dodgers fans had years and years of management who explained a lot. They told us why a free agent was or wasn’t signed. Why a trade was made, why prices went up, etc. And they probably didn’t tell us the whole story, but they told fans enough of the story to where they felt involved in the process. This front office doesn’t do that, and they don’t seem to understand that fans had come to expect to feel part of the process. They are making it really hard on themselves.

Anyway, sorry to go off on such a long tangent there. Let’s get back to the bullpen.

The bullpen is a problem. But what do you do about it?

There aren’t a lot of options in the organization, other than guys we have seen before such as JT Chargois, Brock Stewart, Tony Cingrani (injured), Caleb Ferguson, etc. They could turn to Dustin May, but May is a starter. Would he be able to pitch out of the bullpen? Probably not for two days in a row, so how much help would he be? Plus, as we saw with Walker Buehler at the end of the 2017 season, being a good starter doesn’t mean you will be a good reliever. Plus, all teams are hesitant to start the major league service time clock running for their top prospects because they want to keep them out of arbitration as long as possible.

What about Craig Kimbrel? Well, he won’t sign with anyone until June 3, when teams will no longer have to give up a draft pick in return. There are apparently some teams willing to give him a nice deal to help their bullpen, and Kimbrel wants to be a closer. Plus, Kimbrel would need a couple of weeks to get into playing shape. I just don’t see it happening. And keep in mind, one reliever won’t be the answer to all that ails the bullpen, unless you want that one pitcher tossing multiple innings every day.

A trade for someone? For who? Proven relievers are tough to come by, and teams don’t just trade them for no reason. It would take a package of prospects to pry a proven reliever from another team, especially at this point in the season. When the trade deadline gets nearer, this becomes more of a possibility. But if the Dodgers pick up a reliever now, it would be a guy that doesn’t seem great and you hope turns into the 2016 Joe Blanton or the 2017 Brandon Morrow.

So, I think the Dodgers will continue on the course they are on now, juggling their relievers around and hoping a couple of them get hot. That is what they have done since 2016. It wasn’t as bad those years because the entire bullpen never was bad at the same time like they are now. Last season, if you remember, Pedro Baez got hot in August and settled the bullpen down.

So, it looks like we are just going to have to find a way to meditate when the bullpen comes into games. Do some breathing exercises, count to 10. Remind yourself that there are still more than 100 games left in the season and there’s plenty of time to turn things around.


Comparing the Dodgers through 57 games this season to the same number of games the last two seasons:

2019: 37-19, .264/.350 OB%/.466 SLG%, 5.46 runs per game, 3.64 ERA, 40 IRS%

2018: 27-30, .238/.317/.399, 4.40 runs per game, 3.65 ERA, 33 IRS%

2017: 35-22, .257/.337/.423, 4.96 runs per game, 3.20 ERA, 24 IRS%

Ask Joe Davis

Dodgers TV broadcaster will answer your questions again this season. Just click here to email me with your question for Joe. I will pass selected questions on to him and he will answer in a future newsletter. Thanks. And thanks to Joe for taking part.

Ask Ross Porter

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

Kris Kemp of Covina asks: The Dodgers are on pace to win 108 games. Have any teams won 100 and finished second?

Ross: Yes, 10. The 1909 Cubs (104), 1915 Tigers (100), 1942 Dodgers (104), 1954 Yankees (103), 1961 Tigers (101), 1962 Dodgers (102), 1980 Orioles (100), 1993 Giants (103), 2001 A’s (102), and 2018 Yankees (100).

Mary Wheat of Dallas asks: Ross, my family visited Dodgertown in 1997 and thought it was the best spring training site we ever saw. Has it been closed?

Ross: No. After the Dodgers left for Arizona after the 2008 season, Dodgertown closed, but minor league baseball reopened it. In 2012, when it was set to shut down again, Peter O’Malley made sure it didn’t happen as he, his sister, Terry Seidler, Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo invested into “Historic Dodgertown.” High school and college baseball teams, the Montreal Alouettes, Edmonton Eskimos and the South Korean Baseball Organization all came to Vero Beach to use the facility. Major League Baseball took operating control of the complex in January and intends to build an indoor training complex and have it used for amateur development initiatives. The camp will be renamed the “Jackie Robinson Training Complex.”

Tom Bowman of Greenwood Village, Colo., asks: Who won more games, Hideo Nomo or Chan Ho Park?

Ross: Good question, Tom.

Park: 124 wins in 17 full seasons, 476 games, 1,993 innings, 4.36 ERA

Nomo: 123 wins in 12 full seasons, 323 games, 1,976 innings, 4.24 ERA

Chan Ho won the last game he pitched in 2010 to set the record for most games won by an Asian-born pitcher.

William Suh of Westwood asks: Do you think that there is parity in the major leagues?

Ross: Baseball has had 12 different winners in the last 18 years, and 27 of the 30 teams have made it to the playoffs in the last decade.

You can follow Ross on Twitter: @therossporter

TV schedule

KTLA will televise two more Dodger games during the season. They are:

Saturday vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

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

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: Philadelphia (Jake Arrieta) at Dodgers (TBA), 7 p.m.

Saturday: Philadelphia (Zach Elfin) at Dodgers (TBA), 7 p.m.

Sunday: Philadelphia (Nick Pivetta) at Dodgers (TBA), 1 p.m.


Upcoming event

Authors Jason Turbow and Ron Rapoport will talk about their new books in a discussion moderated by Dodger team historian Mark Langill on Wed., June 6 at 7 p.m. in the South Pasadena Public Library Community Room.

Turbow’s book on the 1981 Dodgers, “They Bled Blue: Fernandomania, Strike-Season Mayhem, and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen” and Rapoport’s book, “Let’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, The Life of Ernie Banks,” will be the main topic.

I have been to more than one of these events in South Pasadena and have even moderated a couple. They are always fun and interesting and well worth your time. Best of all, they are free! Autographed books will be available for purchase.

The Community Room is located at 1115 El Centro Street. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and no tickets or reservations are necessary. Seating is first come, first seated.

In case you missed it

Why food at Dodger Stadium isn’t as good as that at San Diego’s Petco Park

Dodgers’ defensive prowess in the outfield has been a run-stopper

Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly‘s season-long funk finds a new low

And finally

Hideo Nomo throws a no-hitter against the Rockies in Denver. Watch it here.

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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