The Dodger bullpen is seriously going to be the death of me guys. They are a frustratingly interesting, talented, and at times self defeating bunch. In order to keep myself from going insane when watching the ninth innings, I have to have extreme moments of brevity. The Dodger bullpen is ranked near the bottom of the league after the first month of the season, and after another blown tie in the ninth inning in Colorado on Wednesday night, expect moves to strengthen the bullpen in the coming day. The Dodger bullpen needs a reboot, like a faulty laptop that keeps blue screening or kernel panicking (for those that use a MAC). Here is how we could do it.
The Dodgers have a couple of decisions to make about their bullpen, and they are running out of time to do it. First off, Ronald Belisario has served his 25-game drug violation suspension, and he is due to come off the suspended list on Friday. The Dodgers open a three-game series in Chicago at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and must make a decision on him by then. If the Dodgers choose to activate him, they must clear room on the 40-man roster or put him on waivers and risk losing him. If another team claims him, and they more than likely will, the Dodgers could lose the Venezuelan right hander. If they are going to keep Belisario, someone has to be cut from the 40-man roster. Who should the Dodgers cut?
The bullpen has been a mixed bag of results, at times being overpowering and at times being absolutely atrocious. Mixing in Don Mattingly’s puzzling bullpen management, things can get downright frustrating. We don’t mince words over here. When things need improving, we will tell you it does and offer possible solutions. If guys are not performing they are going to be called out.
The bullpen needs help. The weaknesses are a lack of lefties and middle relief. The Dodger bullpen ranks thirteenth in relief ERA at 4.63. The bullpen boys have allowed the fourth highest OBP, and they have given up 38 free passes which ties them for third worst in the National League. That’s not to say they can’t be over powering. They also rank second in whiffs with 77. The walks are what’s killing them.
First let me clarify that there are two men who are not part of the problem. Those two pitchers are Kenley Jansen and Josh Lindblom. Both have been dominating. (Lindblom’s one bad outing in Denver not withstanding.) Javy Guerra has also been very good except for one bad week. Guerra started off red hot, but he has struggled of recently. So what can be done to help? Here are a few things that come to mind.
Josh Lindblom obviously is too good to demote even though he has options. Obviously he must stay, as I have already pleaded with Don Mattingly to do so. Since we are keeping Lindblom, I would suggest putting Dougie on waivers to make room for Belisario. I think the Dodgers should give Belisario a fair shake one more time. After all, why not? Hell, he couldn’t do any worse then Todd Coffey has been, or Dougie, or Matt Guerrier. The Dodgers have nothing to lose by giving Belisario a shot. He was once a very effective late inning ground ball pitcher, and could be again if he is healthy.
The idea is that more than likely, no one is going to claim Dougie off of waivers, so once he does clear waivers they can send him down to Albuquerque where he clearly should be, and afterwards would be them able to option him back and forth between triple-AAA and the big club. Besides even if another team were to claim Dougie, would you care? Come on now be honest, he has been so atrocious this season. I won’t shed a tear if he is claimed. Here is how the bullpen could look by Friday. Remember Guerrier is still hurt, as is Hawskworth, and neither are planning on returning anytime soon.
6. Jamey Wright
Eventually Guerrier will be back, so we will have to make a decision, but we will cross that road once we come to it. At least replacing Dougie with Belisario should slightly improve the bullpen.
As for Don Mattingly, here are some of my ideas as to what he can do to help himself. I hope he reads this…..alright Donnie, listen up,
1. Stop following scripts
It seems to me that Mattingly follows the same script each game and won’t deviate. The Guerra in the ninth, Jansen in the eighth, and Lindblom in the seventh repetitive script. This works when all three are rested, but when they are tired and overworked, then he has been emptying the bullpen in most games, and it is putting a lot of workload on these young pitcher’s arms. You don’t have to lock Jansen in the eighth inning every game. Donnie needs to start thinking outside the box, which leads me too my next tip.
2. Save Jansen for the high leverage innings.
Because Mattingly refuses to use Jansen outside the eighth inning (except for days when Javy is resting) it means during high leverage situations outside of the ninth inning are left to inferior middle relievers. Guys like Dougie, Elbert, and Guerrier have to be used during those situations when the game is really on the line. Lindblom can be used as much as reasonably allowed, but he can’t pitch every game. Jansen’s stuff is too dominating to waste on the eighth innings. Other guys can pitch set-up, so save Jansen for big jams.
3. Stop making pitching changes with the bases loaded.
This is one that bothers me the most. It is becoming a nasty habit for Mattingly. Oh you have seen it before I am sure. Mattingly brings in one of the bullpen boys, and it is clear that he doesn’t have it. He normally will walk two batters, and or a third, or give up a hit. Mattingly for some reason ignores all of the tell-tale signs of a walkapalooza or meltdown. You know, the constant ball throwing. Wild pitches, and or hits allowed are all easy giveaways that the pitcher on the mound doesn’t have it or can’t get guys out. The best thing to do is pull the pitcher BEFORE he loads the bases. Otherwise bringing in someone with the bases loaded and less than two outs is a bad idea unless it is Jansen or Lindblom. Otherwise you are asking for the pitcher to have zero room for error, and have to pitch out of a stretch immediately in a high pressure situation. Now if he insists on doing this, then he should be bringing in Jansen in those scenarios. So knock it off Donnie.
4. Let your starting pitchers go longer in games.
There is no reason to go to the bullpen, unless your starter is tired, in trouble, or there is a save situation. Otherwise let your starters go longer, and you might discover you take a lot of workload off your bullpen. A well rested pen will only help the Dodgers. We have seen Mattingly take out starters after only 75-80 pitches when they were pitching well. The Dodgers starting pitching has been very good, and if there is no reason to go to the bullpen, then there is no need to.
5. We need more than one and doners
Another problem is most of the guys in the pen can only go one inning. We need middle relievers who can go more than one inning. We need a workhorse, someone to give us outs. Oh where oh where art thou Paul Quantrill?
6. We need another lefty.
This is obvious. We need another left hander. The Dodgers shouldn’t have let go of John Grabow, even though I thought he would be a bust. We only have one left hander in the bullpen, and that is Scott Elbert, and he has been ineffective. This is where Magic and the GBM come in as they must acquire the left hander, otherwise we might be getting killed in the late innings. We might have to flip one of our starting pitching prospects for a lefty reliever.
There you have it. Those are my thoughts on how to improve the Dodger bullpen at least marginally. I think what the Dodgers will probably end up doing is putting Belisario on waivers, but doing that wouldn’t be wise. Belisario has a 2.04 ERA in 2009 and an 8.2 whiff per nine rate. Mattingly was talking like they are just sick of Belisario being so unreliable, and I am not sure they are going to want to DFA anyone from the current bullpen crew. Hopefully if Mattingly and the Dodgers follow these simple tips, we can avoid being ranked thirteenth in ninth inning ERA (5.66). Hopefully we can finally put an end to the bullpen meltdowns and bring some kind of order to the late innings.
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