Apr 23, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke (21) in the first inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Dodger Starters Are Not Going Deep Into Games, And It's A Problem


It doesn’t matter how well the starting pitchers are performing, if they can’t go deep into games then the bullpen is going to be burned up by May. This is the problem that’s facing the Dodgers now. Dodger starters are not going deep into games, and it’s killing the bullpen.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

You can’t expect the bullpen to pitch four innings or more every night, but that’s what’s going on. And it’s happening every single game. I’m not saying the starters are not doing a good job. Just the opposite, they’ve been awesome. Hyun-jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren have been otherworldly. But they’re not pitching past the sixth innings. It puts a lot of strain on the bullpen.

Dodger starters are averaging barely six innings per start. The starting pitchers rank 15th in MLB in innings pitched with 130.1. Meanwhile as a result, the bullpen is forced to pitch more innings than they normally would. The Dodger’s relievers are second in all of Baseball in innings pitched with 83.2. Only the Dback’s bullpen has thrown more innings.

I don’t know why the starters aren’t able to pitch past the sixth innings. Maybe the shortened spring training has had an effect. Maybe the starters haven’t built up enough arm strength? Or perhaps all of the strikeouts the club is getting from the pitching staff is adding unusually high amounts of pitches.

Pitchers who strikeout a lot of guys tend to make a lot of pitches. Ground ball type pitchers are more efficient. But the Dodgers don’t really have any ground ball type guys. Nearly all of them are power pitchers. They strike out a ton of guys, but they’ll be at 100 pitches by the fifth or sixth inning.

You can’t expect the bullpen to throw four or more innings every night, and not allow runs. You just can’t. The Dodger starters are fifth in MLB in number of pitches thrown (2,209). Dodger relievers have thrown the second most amount of pitches in MLB (1421). Once again only the Dbacks have thrown more pitches.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

This is why the bullpen is blowing games left and right. They’re exhausted. The truth is the Dodger bullpen hasn’t been that bad. Actually if you look at the numbers, they’ve been decent. Not great, but league average at worst.

The Dodger relievers have a 3.56 ERA, ranking them 15th. They rank second in whiffs with 92, and opposing hitters are batting just .235 against them. So it’s not like they’re a bunch of Todd Worrells or something.

What the Dodgers need more than anything is for someone, anyone to go seven or eight innings. Doesn’t matter who it is. All that matters is that the bullpen needs a break. Otherwise they’re not going to last the entire season. We’re already seeing all the signs of exhaustion. Brian Wilson’s elbow is shot, and Kenley Jansen is on pace to pitch in about 130 games. This can’t go on.

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Tags: Dan Haren Hyun-jin Ryu Los Angeles Dodgers Zack Greinke

  • dusto

    I really don’t think the starting pitching is to blame here. 3 of last nights runs came from a lack of defensive awareness, either via error (Adrian) or because Hanley made a(nother) cardinal sin. 23 errors in 23 games is simply unacceptable. And Don Mattingly fails to do anything about it.

    • LasordasLair

      This article isn’t about the lousy defense. You’re misinterpreting this. I didn’t say this was the biggest problem befalling the Dodgers. I said it’s another problem. Not a main problem, but still a problem nonetheless. The bullpen can’t be expected to throw four plus innings every night.

      • dusto

        I pretty certain the starting pitching could go a further in a game if the defense didn’t give away outs at a record pace.

      • dusto

        Also, I think a bigger problem is Don Mattingly. He is usually pretty quick with the pull. I’m sure his thought is, “I can’t get in trouble for pulling a pitcher too early, but I can get in trouble for pulling a pitcher too late.” And he isn’t wrong. BUT, his thought should be, “Is Beckett done? Is he still effective, or is that other team starting to figure him out?” He is covering his ass instead of helping the team.

        • LasordasLair

          I agree with that somewhat, but normally the starters are at 90 pitches by the 4th inning. And it’s not because of the defense, and it’s not really Mattingly. The staffs that strike out a lot of guys generally make a lot of pitches.

          • dusto

            On average the Dodgers starters are going 5 2/3 innings per start. Not great. Admittedly. But, lets not forget that this team has played in a lot of extra innings games. They are averaging 9.24 innings pitched per game. Then, factor in the extra outs not made from errors (23) and the staff is pitching 10.26 innings pitched PER GAME. Lets also not forget that this staff is instantly better when the best pitcher in the game, when Clayton Kershaw comes back. I agree with you that the starters need to go further into the game, but they can’t just throw more pitches. The defense needs to pick them up in a big way. They need to go a week without an error to make a believer out of me that this team doesn’t have a very serious hole.

          • LasordasLair

            5.2 per start is bad Dustin. You can’t win like that. This has nothing to do with the crappy defense. It’s about efficiency. The starters are not being efficient because they’re striking out a lot of guys, There are downsides to everything. Striking out a lot of guys is great, but unfortunately it means they’ve made 95 pitches by the fourth inning. It’s not that they need to throw more pitches, they need to be more efficient, and throw less pitches. You can’t expect the bullpen to pitch 4-5 innings per game. It’s just not feasible.

          • dusto

            I thought it was 90 pitches by the 4th inning? You don’t understand. the penn would pitch a full inning less per game if the offense scored more runs and if the defense played better. The issues with this team isn’t the starting pitching. They are doing an admiral job without Clayton.

          • LasordasLair

            I didn’t say the starting pitching was the issue, I said the starters not going deep into games is an important issue. The offense has nothing to do with this, and the defense doesn’t always make errors in the first five innings of the game. The starters aren’t going deep into games because they’re not being efficient enough. Ground ball pitchers don’t have this issue. It’s not just the defense, Pitch selection is poor too. 90 pitches by the 4th, or 100 pitches by the 5th, whatever, it’s still not enough. The starters are doing a great job. Five shutout innings is fantastic, but it’s burning out the bullpen. Yes it’s good, but not good enough.