Dodgers Could Do Without a Thirteen Man Pitching Staff

Photo via Jon SooHoo at http://dodgersphotog.mlblogs.com/

Yesterday, ESPN’s Buster Olney dropped this seemingly out-of-nowhere tidbit:

The Dodgers have quietly put together what could be a pretty good bullpen, with Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Todd Coffey and others. It’s possible they will open the season with 13 pitchers on their roster — and it’s the flexibility of Jerry Hairston, who can play infield and outfield, that makes this a possibility.

I’m assuming that is just Olney speculation, since we haven’t seen any indications or reports from the team that they’re really considering such a thing. Even so, that didn’t stop ESPN’s David Schoenfeld from beating me to the punch by pointing out how carrying that many pitchers is not only inadvisable for most teams, it’s especially so for a club built like this one:

But the bigger problem is it limits your flexibility in managing your bench. If you carry 13 pitchers, that means four bench players — two hitters you need to keep handy to pinch-hit for pitchers, your backup catcher, and a utility guy like Jerry Hairston who can double-switch into just about any position. It leaves manager Don Mattingly with essentially no ability to hit for a player in the starting lineup. That means no pinch-hitting for James Loney, who hit .213/.254/.307 against left-handers in 2011. It means no hitting for Andre Ethier, who hit .220/.258/.305 against lefties (and is just .242 with little power in his career). It means you can’t really hit for Tony Gwynn Jr., Juan Rivera or Adam Kennedy with an opposite-side hitter except in maybe the eighth or ninth innings, and even then only if you haven’t already hit for the pitcher.

It basically means opposing managers will always get the matchup they want against the Dodgers. The tactical advantage for carrying 13 pitchers is so small it actually becomes a tactical disadvantage, especially for a team like the Dodgers that should be hitting regularly for its starting eight.

As a long-time proponent of the eleven-man staff who has reluctantly accepted the world of twelve-man staffs, I think Schoenfield is completely on-target there -  though I suppose you could make the point that if your team is already carrying Treanor, Kennedy, and Gwynn on the bench, then you’ve acknowledged that your inability to obtain quality backups means that keeping an additional bat around isn’t all that likely to add much more value.

Diving deeper, it makes even less sense for the Dodgers to start the season with thirteen pitchers because it’s not going to be Opening Day where they’re hit with a roster crunch, but more like May 1. The Dodgers have, barring injury, six stone-cold locks for the pen right now: Guerra, Jansen, Guerrier, MacDougal, Coffey, & Scott Elbert. Most of us want Josh Lindblom to be the 7th man, but are expecting a non-roster guy like Jamey Wright or John Grabow to claim the final spot, and that makes for a relatively low-key battle for that last job, since Lindblom has options remaining. However, Blake Hawksworth & Ronald Belisario do not, and after they return from injury & suspension, respectively, near the end of April, the Dodgers are going to have some tough roster decisions to make in the bullpen. (Assuming no one else has been injured or that Belisario hasn’t started a cock-fighting ring or something, which is probably an iffy proposition.)

Still, this is taking on more relevance with the increasing talk of Loney & Ethier being allowed to play against lefties, potentially pushing Jerry Sands off the bench and back to the minors. That might open up a spot for a surprise entry like Josh Fields, or it might allow that additional pitcher Olney is talking about to sneak onto the club. Though it’s rare, the Dodgers have had thirteen active pitchers on the roster for at least a few days in recent years. Let’s hope that the flawed idea of giving more high-pressure at-bats to Kennedy or Gwynn, or not having a righty to spot for Ethier or Loney in the late innings, doesn’t get pushed through in the name of letting Wright, Grabow, or someone like them stick around.

******

Speaking of Ethier, well, this was a fun quote from Bill Shaikin’s story this morning:

“I think we’ve definitely got players as good as we’ve ever had here in the seven years I’ve been with the Dodgers,” Ethier said Sunday.

Granted, you never expect or want a player to come out in camp and complain about how unimposing his club seems, so keep that in mind. But I like to think he was really saying, “I think we’ve definitely got players.” Or perhaps it was, “I think we’ve definitely got players who were as good as ever when I came to the Dodgers seven years ago.” I’m sure it was one of those.

36 comments
PF Flyers
PF Flyers

See I also noted that the Dodgers have an above average, under the radar, bullpen and drew the exact opposite conclusion. "Maybe Lindbloom stays down and no NRI pitches make the club so some one like Corey Sullivan or Josh Fields, (or better yet, Jerry Sands!!!!)can be an extra bat off the bench and actually produce some offense given that 7 starters on the team are not named Matt Kemp" ---- me thinking about this sevral days ago. Besides, the Dodgers could absorb puting Ramon Troncoso on the waiver wire. We do, afterall, have a plethora of good arms and (to the blog-o-sphere fan's dismay) many of our top prospects are releif pitchers too. Those prospects are starting to demand MLB Playing Time.

Jon#7#22
Jon#7#22

Obviously this is another pointless conjecture by Buster Olney. Not gonna happen and not sure why he brought it up??

a
a

Mattingly talked about the fifth starter, at present Capuano, not starting until the 9th game of the season on april 14. Why should the team have more than 11 pitchers until that day?

Ned Colletti
Ned Colletti

If you follow the Dodgers you know I have always built the team around pitching. I also think 13 pitches is the wave of the future, it's thinking outside the box so to speak.

Omer
Omer

when the hell did these guys start hitting? i thought over half of them had all the energy of a potted plant? i realize it's spring training, but this is crazy.

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy

Making room for mediocre players to make the team makes about as much sense as making room for mediocre teams to make the playoffs........oh oh

dodgerccp
dodgerccp

Rivera should be on the Dodgers bench, with Sands playing LF. The Dodgers bench needs at least one power bat, be it a regular like Ethier or Loney or Sands if not Rivera. The others on the LA bench are Treanor, Hairston, Kennedy and Gwynn, and are a group with very little power. The Dodgers should go with 12 Ps. Go Blue!

Bip
Bip

I am pulling my hair out listening to these Angels radio guys praise Adam Kennedy's "baseball fundamentals" and "clubhouse leadership."

Ken
Ken

Nice LA Angel tv feed today! If the Dodger 2 - 5 starters do not average at least 6 innings per start then the Dodgers will have to carry 12 pitchers.

jWerthfan
jWerthfan

I like the idea of adding a lot of extra pitchers. Most of them can likely hit better than the bench, and many of the starters.

SamAdams
SamAdams

The only problem with Cory Sullivan is that he bats left, and we need righty bats to spell Loney and Ethier against lefties. Ned never seems to acquire any power bats for the bench. Andre must have forgotten having teammates like Jeff Kent, Nomar, Bradley, Drew, and the shadows of Gonzo and Andruw. Hmmm, maybe NOT having those last two is what made him draw that conclusion.

Stacie Wheeler
Stacie Wheeler

There's no need for 13 pitchers. I'd rather add Sands or perhaps someone like Cory Sullivan-what do you think about him? I know the OF is pretty full, but like you said a bench with Treanor, Gwynn, Kennedy & Hairston is awfully weak. We don't want any game-on-the-line Treanor pinch hitting moments like those involving Navarro last season.

NJ-Dodger-fan
NJ-Dodger-fan

I've been thinking of a saying for this years team. "The 2012 dodgers, At least we're not the Astros!"

Dave Pomerantz
Dave Pomerantz

I got a chance to watch Castellanos work with Trey Hillman and Jody Reed at second base for a while on Saturday morning. He doesn't look too bad, but still has a long way to go. He really was having a tough time going up the middle and backhanding hard hit grounders, as he has a tendency to stab at them. Afterwards, I had a chance to very briefly chat with Hillman about him, and he told me that Alex has all the athleticism for the position, but there's a rhythm to the position that he doesn't quite have yet. In the Mariners game that afternoon, he made a really bad error on one of those backhand grounders. In Sunday's Cubs game, he made an outstanding sliding stop on a hard hit grounder to his left that looked like a sure single.

Evan Olson
Evan Olson

"All the bids included the lease to the parking lots for Dodger Stadium, which would still be owned by McCourt." Crap.

Dave Pomerantz
Dave Pomerantz

This, this, and more this. Capuano or Harang should be the long man in the bullpen for the first week of the season. Or maybe have them pitch a split start, 4-5 innings each, and save the entire bullpen for a day.

Mike
Mike

We really ought to start making baseball cards that have sections for stats like "short" and "white" on the back.

Bip
Bip

You need mlb.tv for that right? Or do you have another way to watch it?

Stephen Lane
Stephen Lane

Yeah, Jansen probably hits better than most of our bench anyway...

Stephen Lane
Stephen Lane

awww but I was really looking forward to seeing Treanor hit a bunch of walk off dingers!!!

Solis
Solis

I was thinking the same thing. I can hear Charlie Steiner say: 'Hey everyone.... Come on out to the stadium tonight and watch Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw take on the Mets, along with a bunch of other players from local JC squads.'

a
a

I can't tell if you are agreeing or disagreeing with the 11 man until 4/11 staff.

Bip
Bip

Ha! The funniest irony to me is that of the first six dodger batters to come up, Kennedy was the only one to make an out, and he grounded out to second which advanced Gordon to third. If that was a good at bat, what do you call back to back doubles by Ethier and Rivera?

Mike
Mike

It's on MLB.TV but I think the Angels feed is also on Fox Sports West. It'll be shown on a delay on MLB Network later, too.

NickM
NickM

Clayton Kershaw probably does too.

Paul
Paul

I keep waiting for the day when Ellis has already been hit for and Teanor experiences a freak injury, forcing Kenley to put on the mask, maybe with a base stealer on first. I've heard Jansen used to throw runners out on his knees.

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides

He's every bit as good as our 2008 MVP, Mark Sweeney!

Ned Colletti
Ned Colletti

That's called a professional at bat by a veteran player doing his job. Kennedy is a hard nosed, gritty player we need on this team.

Justin Drummond
Justin Drummond

I hope Ryan knows that all three of his aliases aren't get admin privileges. Only "PartyShorty2k".

Darth Small
Darth Small

oh lol. oops. ALso apparently i am no longer Crushinator.

Dave Pomerantz
Dave Pomerantz

Dammit! How are we gonna start our own blog if you give away all of our big scoops?

Darth Small
Darth Small

He then followed that up with "I don't know, maybe Jerry Hairston." Which I called.

Dave Pomerantz
Dave Pomerantz

Yesterday, I asked Mattingly who the emergency catcher would be and he said "Emergency catcher? No. 2 catcher. I should think about that."

Mike
Mike

That's my main memory of the 2009 (?) World Baseball Classic - Jansen in those black/orange Netherlands unis, just destroying baserunners from behind the plate.

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