Dodgers Dugout: Did you hear the one about the Dodgers bullpen?
Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m wondering if Eric Gagne, Takashi Saito, Jay Howell and Ron Perranoski can come out of retirement.
I promised myself, and all of you, that I wouldn’t write about the bullpen until after the trade deadline. I don’t want to be the guy who only writes negative things about a team that is 64-35, and it would be wrong to turn this newsletter into a place where only complaints are made. The offense is great. The starting pitching is solid. But the bullpen, well, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
Let’s face it, for most fans, the regular season has turned into “waiting for the playoffs to begin to see if we can win the World Series this year.” That leads to one thing: Worrying about what could go wrong in the playoffs. And with the rest of the team doing so well, it leaves just one thing to worry about: The bullpen.
Those worries were exacerbated in the series against the Phillies, where Kenley Jansen blew one game and Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro and Joe Kelly combined to blow another.
Let’s start with Tuesday’s game. Jansen was hit in the ankle by a comebacker, and when Dave Roberts and the trainer came out to check on him, he assured them he was fine. Four batters later, the Phillies win. Afterward, Jansen said, “I’m not an excuses guy, but I shouldn’t have kept pitching. That’s the one thing I learned. I should’ve come out of the game. I’m not a quitter, man. Even if it hurts, I’m still going to go out there and compete. But I should be a little more smart out there myself and be honest with myself and come out of the game. So, I just put the blame on myself.”
The next day, Roberts said, “When you give certainty that you’re not compromising yourself or the team, then I’m going to trust it. And so, to then go back and say, ‘I should’ve come out of the game,’ then it’s a little bit tough to swallow.”
Which is about as close as Roberts has ever come to publicly ripping one of his players.
But even if we fault the hurt ankle for Jansen’s poor performance on Tuesday, the fact remains that he is not the pitcher he once was. He rarely comes in and dominates hitters like he used to. He has lost velocity. His cutter doesn’t cut as much. There is no longer that “Game Over” feeling when he comes in. He’s not a horrible pitcher.
And no, the Dodgers should not release him as some of you tell me. But he’s no longer great.
And the rest of the bullpen, other than Pedro Baez, has been a mess all season. Dylan Floro has an ERA of 5.54 and has allowed 21 baserunners in 13 innings since June 1. Caleb Ferguson has an ERA of 9.72 since May 22. Joe Kelly was pitching a lot better but regressed a bit on Thursday.
Right now, this is not a World Series winning bullpen. So, all eyes turn to Andrew Friedman to see who he can acquire at the trade deadline. Perhaps a fresh face will shake things up. A Will Smith or Felipe Vazquez would add some stability. Julio Urias should be given a more prominent role (realizing he can’t pitch in consecutive games because of his shoulder surgery). I’m fine going into October with Smith, Baez, Urias and Jansen in the prime bullpen spots. But acquiring a guy like Tony Watson won’t excite most Dodgers fans. He has a “been there, done that” feel to him.
The Dodgers have raised expectations so high now that a World Series victory seems like the only way to make everyone happy. So, no pressure guys. A World Series victory won’t be guaranteed no matter who the Dodgers get, but failing to get anyone will just make the rest of the season a place of high anxiety.
Ask Ross Porter
Ross Porter will once again answer reader questions this season. All you have to do is email me your question at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward the email to Ross, and he will answer some each week. Take it away, Ross.
Keith Lobert of Northridge asks: The Dodgers have more wins than anyone in the majors. How many times has the team with the best record gone on to win the World Series?
Ross: In the last 50 years, only 13 teams have accomplished that feat. But, in the last 12 seasons, five clubs have done it—the 2007 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees, 2013 Red Sox, 2016 Cubs, and 2018 Red Sox.
David Keller of Calabasas asks: I agree with you, Ross, that the Dodgers need a dependable relief pitcher. Who do you think they might acquire before the July 31 deadline?
Ross: Edwin Diaz of the Mets, Felipe Vazquez of the Pirates, Brad Hand of the Indians and Shane Greene of the Tigers are possibilities. The Giants’ Will Smith and the Padres’ Kirby Yates would be steals, but don’t expect teams in the Dodgers’ division to deal with them.
Whitley Collins of Sherman Oaks asks: Do you believe Hyun-Jin Ryu will win the Cy Young Award?
Ross: if the vote were today, Whitley, I think he would finish second to Max Scherzer of the nationals. The Dodgers left-hander leads MLB with a 9 1/2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and also with 0.85 walks per nine innings. Ryu is 7-0 at Dodger Stadium with a 0.85 ERA.
Tom Falls of Pomona asks: I do not understand what “designated for assignment” means. Can you clarify?
Ross: A player is immediately removed from the team’s 40-man roster. He can be traded, released, returned to the 40-man roster within 10 days, outrighted to the minor leagues if no other organization claims him on waivers, thereby keeping him. Tom, a team can pull a player back only once.
Jeff Bodwell and Luceli Ceja both ask: Why do baseball players spit so much?
Ross: Choose the theory you like. It’s tradition, a holdover from the days when players chewed tobacco. They couldn’t swallow the tobacco juice so they spit it out. Spitting has passed down from one generation of players to the next. Maybe it calms their nerves. Or because they are outdoors.
You can follow Ross on Twitter: @therossporter
All times Pacific
Tonight: Miami (Zac Gallen) at Dodgers (*Hyun-Jin Ryu), 7 p.m.
Saturday: Miami (Sandy Alcantara) at Dodgers (*Clayton Kershaw), 6 p.m.
Sunday: Miami (Jordan Yamamoto) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler), 1 p.m.
Mike Piazza hits a home run out of Dodger Stadium. 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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