Quite Possibly the Best Bullpen in Baseball History

As we’ve mentioned several times, the Dodger bullpen has the best ERA in baseball, with a hefty lead (3.13 to 3.54) over second-place San Francisco. Jonathan Broxton is by one measure the second most valuable reliever in baseball (and 1st in the NL), ranking behind only Jonathan Papelbon in WXRL (reliever’s expected wins added) with 5.392. George Sherrill has been nearly unhittable, allowing just one run in 21.1 innings since coming to LA – and allowing that one run on a homer to ultra-talented Justin Upton, who’s got a .927 OPS at age 21, is hardly an embarrassment.

sherrilldodgers.jpgBut the talent hardly stops at those two; granted, ERA isn’t a perfect metric of pitching performance, but it’s worth noting that the Dodgers have six other relievers besides Broxton and Sherrill with ERA+ scores over 100 (meaning, better than league-average): Ramon Troncoso, Ronald Belisario, Guillermo Mota, Hong-Chih Kuo, James McDonald, and Jeff Weaver. (Sherrill’s 0.42 ERA, by the way, gives him a completely ludicrious ERA+ of 988).

Pick a stat, any stat: the Dodger bullpen is #1 in batting average against. #1 in on-base percentage against. #1 in slugging percentage against, which of course leads to a very healthy 22 point lead in OPS against. They’re #1 in WHIP, and top 10 in both K/BB rate and K/9.

The point is, this bullpen OWNS and they don’t need the slightest bit of help. Hell, you’ve got Korean import Hyang-Nam Choi putting up video game numbers in Albuquerque and even he can’t get a sniff (seriously, though: 9-2, 2.34 ERA, 77 K in 57 IP – what more does this guy need to do?) What could you possibly add to a bullpen like that?

Oh, I don’t know. How about the guys who were your top two starters entering the year – one an All-Star and both two of the top young pitchers in the game? Chad Billingsley was added to the bullpen this weekend before his upcoming start against the Nationals, and now we’ve got Clayton Kershaw as well:

Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to take a detour to the bullpen before returning to his starting role again.

The left-hander, who separated his right shoulder in a collision with the outfield wall during batting practice Sept. 6, threw a simulated game Friday and reported no issues.

If he feels fine today, he would be on track to pitch in a big-league game next week during the Tuesday-Thursday series at Washington. But he would come out of the bullpen.

Manager Joe Torre said Kershaw would get only an inning out of the bullpen to get his feet wet. The logical next step would be for Kershaw to start a game in the four-game series Sept. 25-28 at Pittsburgh, but Torre didn’t want to get ahead of himself.

Granted, there are extenuating circumstances here. Billingsley’s in the bullpen because he sucks (and didn’t do himself any favors in allowing 2 runs in 1.2 innings last night), and Kershaw’s there because he got hurt. So I get it; you might not see Billingsley out of the pen again, and you might only get Kershaw for an inning or two.

Still, just think about being Joe Torre looking into his bullpen and seeing Billingsley and Kershaw sitting next to Broxton, Sherrill, Kuo, Troncoso, Belisario and the rest. Remember, the bullpen is the best in baseball on its own, and now you’ve added a guy in Kershaw who I called “the best pitcher in baseball over the last two months” earlier this season, and another in Billingsley who - and yes, he’s sucked lately, I know – was at one point 9-3 with a 3.10 ERA.

Best bullpen in baseball history, if only for the next two days? Best bullpen in baseball history. 

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