The New and Improved Dodger Bullpen

bullpen_belisario_rodriguezHyun-jin Ryu got hit hard against the Red Sox in the first inning yesterday before settling down, but what’s most interesting is that five relievers combined to throw four scoreless innings after Ryu left. While the offense couldn’t quite take advantage of that to come back, it does continue what’s surprisingly been a huge strength of this team: the bullpen.

Since the All-Star break, no team has a lower relief ERA than the 1.69 that the Dodgers do. They’re second in FIP and xFIP, fourth in K/9, and fifth in K/BB. They’re fifth in left on base percentage, second in groundball percentage, and first in batting average against, which is .182 when no other team is below .200. They are, it should be noted, showing the second-lowest BABIP during that time as well, but still: when you’re missing bats, keeping walks down, and getting a ton of groundballs, you’re going to be successful.

Kenley Jansen gets the bulk of credit, and he should: while he’s striking out slightly fewer than last year, he’s also cut his walk rate in half. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings, exactly two (Edward Mujica & Koji Uehara) have a better K/BB than he does, and there’s a pretty convincing argument to be made that he is the most dominant reliever in the game today, no matter how many times the Dodgers try to replace him as the closer.

But it’s not just Jansen, either. Look at how dominant Paco Rodriguez & Chris Withrow have been since the All-Star break:

Name G IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP WAR
Kenley Jansen 18 18.1 13.25 1.47 0 0.125 0.98 0.58 1
Paco Rodriguez 17 14 10.93 1.29 0.64 0.2 0.64 2.18 0.5
Brandon League 14 13.1 4.73 3.38 1.35 0.205 2.7 5.06 -0.2
Chris Withrow 10 13 11.08 1.38 0.69 0.214 1.38 2.03 0.4
Ronald Belisario 17 12 8.25 3.75 0 0.265 1.5 2.7 0.2
J.P. Howell 14 10.2 7.59 4.22 0 0.267 2.53 2.75 0.1
Carlos Marmol 10 10.2 8.44 5.91 0.84 0.31 3.38 4.35 0
Jose Dominguez 3 2 0 0 0 0.444 0 3.03 0
Brian Wilson 2 2 13.5 4.5 0 0.5 0 1.53 0

While these are of course small sample sizes, that trio has been all but unstoppable, & while Belisario & Howell haven’t quite made it to that level, they’ve both been more than effective. Setting aside the injured Dominguez, that leaves the trio of failed closers in League, Marmol, & Wilson at the back end of the ‘pen, and while we can delve into the good and bad that we’ve seen from all three, that’s the point: they’re the bottom of the barrel here. Whatever you get from them at this point is gravy, but you don’t have to count on them. If even one of the three can become a consistent option, you’re looking at a bullpen that goes six deep.

Now as much as I love Jansen, I don’t think anyone should expect a .125 BABIP to last that long, and again, these are small sample sizes. Still, that BABIP could double and still be better than average, and he’s been excellent since the day he arrived in the bigs, so I don’t have a whole lot of worry about regression there.

It’s really Rodriguez who has been the breakout star, as Buster Olney notes today:

There is nobody else in baseball with a delivery like his, because when he draws his arm back, there is a slightly hesitation, with the ball behind his head, which seems to throw off the timing of hitters. And, as teammate A.J. Ellis says, Rodriguez’s slider is like Sergio Romo‘s slider in that it just keeps sliding. It just keeps breaking.

It’s truly amazing to see how different things are from early in the season when the bullpen was a huge black hole, and while that’s partially because guys like Javy Guerra, Matt Guerrier, Peter Moylan, & Josh Wall were down there at various times contributing little, it’s mostly because Belisario worked out his issues, Jansen continued to ascend, and Rodriguez developed into an under-appreciated star. While the attention for the team’s magical run rightfully goes to Hanley Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, and others, the fact is that the bullpen has turned into an extremely solid crew that deserves more notice than it gets. As this team heads into October and you see guys like Rodriguez getting outs on national television with the game on the line, I’m guessing that situation will change.

348 comments
Duh Blue Crue
Duh Blue Crue

WTF! I can't watch the game tonight its only on ESPN AND NOT ON PT? I pay good money for this shit!

KMT59
KMT59

Ok Now Midnight Hour

KMT59
KMT59

Just hear my 3 yr old say Pueeeeg when they showed his picture on the TV...Didn't even realize he knew what he looked like

Noel D
Noel D

I see Ortiz is avoiding Capuano...

KMT59
KMT59

Midnight Hour

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Two grocery stores in the same chain, but entirely different layouts and products.

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

And the Cubs put the leadoff man on!  Nice job, Carlos Marmol!  Oh wait...

KMT59
KMT59

EGGPLANT THREAT LEVEL!!

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

So all three NL Central teams lost today.

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

Ryu is a strange pitcher, it seems like his success for the most part is dependent on how hard he throws

slamjoe
slamjoe

This offensive display in the Cubs-Padres game is astounding...

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

I'm so glad that Sunday Night Baseball no longer means Joe Morgan.

The Monocle
The Monocle

Getting ready to head out to the game soon . Hope AJ can keep Capuano from turning into a turd today.

Noel D
Noel D

@KMT59 curious... like with Ichiro's 1,200 hits in Japan, will stats vs NL West not count toward MLB ?

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

I mean, all three contenders, not the two minor league teams in that division.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

But no Jon Miller :(

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

@The Monocle Enjoy. I feel strongly that Dodger Stadium is at it's most beautiful for a 5:00 start.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@The Monocle I think Capuano has a lot more control over this than AJ.

slamjoe
slamjoe

I love how he calls them "field glasses" and not binoculars. Henceforth, "binocular" is permanently expunged from my vernacular. I, too, shall call them field glasses.

#FieldGlasses

slamjoe
slamjoe

4pm start times are up there also.

slamjoe
slamjoe

Hopefully Kershaw is pitching... no chance.

ThtsaPaddlin
ThtsaPaddlin

@slamjoe Yeah, and I think there are 6:10 starts too on occasion. I'll just say that 4-6 PM start times are the most beautiful.