The Dodger Bullpen Analysis

Saturday, July 16, 2022
Copyrighted by Sarah Morris, 2022

No other area of the Dodger team has suffered more injuries than the bullpen, but the Dodger bullpen has the second lowest ERA in the National League.

Before spring training, every baseball-knowledgeable person thought the Dodger bullpen would be great even though the Dodgers probably would lose their longtime Hall of Fame-caliber Kenley Jansen. Soon after spring training began, Jansen signed with the Atlanta Braves. Midway through spring training, President Andrew Friedman and general manager Brandon Gomes traded the popular right-handed power-hitting A.J. Pollock to the Chicago White Sox for the active saves leader Craig Kimbrel. Many Dodger fans disapproved of the trade since they thought Blake Treinen could close games, and their favorite team would miss Pollock’s offensive production.

So far, Pollock has had a .231 batting average with 4 home runs and 26 RBI this season.

When the 2022 season began, Treinen did not look like himself that Dodger fans had grown accustomed to during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Shortly, the Dodgers placed Treinen on the IL. He has not pitched again, and the Dodgers hope Treinen will pitch for the Dodgers sometime after the All-Star break. If Treinen can return, the Dodger bullpen should get a boost.

Just after the magical Dodger 2020 season, Friedman signed Tommy Kahnle who had Tommy John surgery in August. Kahnle has had many setbacks during his recovery. When Kahnle is healthy, he is nasty to face. He began the season late since he was still doing rehab after Tommy John surgery. In 2022, Kahnle appeared in four games and has a 6.75 ERA. Since early June, he has been on the IL with a bone bruise in his elbow. Saturday, manager Dave Roberts confirmed that Kahnle has begun throwing, and the Dodgers hope Kahnle can help them in both August and September.

This past offseason before the lockout happened, the Dodgers signed right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson. Without Treinen, Hudson became the Dodger primary setup man and succeeded in that role at 35 years old. He had 5 saves and a 2.22 ERA. On Friday, June 24th, while facing the Atlanta Braves, Hudson, who endured two Tommy John surgeries, tore his ACL and finished his season, but he has vowed he wants to pitch in the Major Leagues again.

With the absences of Treinen, Kahnle, and Hudson, many Dodger relievers have adapted to new roles. Now, although Brusdar Graterol with shoulder inflammation is on the IL, he has been tremendous. He has learned both a cutter and slider. While Graterol has had some difficult outings, mostly he has been fantastic. He has three saves and seems unfazed by the high-pressure atmosphere of the ninth. If Kimbrel continues to struggle as the team’s closer, the Dodgers probably will turn to Graterol as a closer.

With all the injuries in the bullpen, the Dodgers needed many unknown relief pitchers to set up, and mostly they have. Evan Phillips, coming from the Tampa Bay Rays last July, has pitched wonderfully after discovering the slider. This season in 36 appearances, Phillips has a 1.50 ERA and 41 strikeouts. In the second half, Phillips will have a more important role in the Dodger bullpen than in the first half.

As most pitchers do, Yency Almonte struggled in Colorado, so he was thrilled to sign a Minor-League contract with the Dodgers this spring. Almonte’s pitches have tremendous movement; therefore, the Dodgers have told both Will Smith and Austin Barnes to set up in the middle of the plate and let Almonte’s pitches do the rest. In 23 games, Almonte has a 1.40 ERA, 25 strikeouts, and a save.

After a breakout 2021 season, Phil Bickford has been inconsistent, but lately, he has performed better. In his 30.1 innings, he has 28 strikeouts and a 5.04 ERA. Bickford should have a better second half.

Coming off his second Tommy John surgery occurring in September 2020, Caleb Ferguson has been perfect in limited use. He started the 2022 season late while finishing his extensive rehabilitation process. Ferguson missed the month of June with forearm tendonitis. In nine innings, Ferguson has allowed no runs and has 6 strikeouts.

Alex Vesia continues to give the Dodgers emotional outings but has been inconsistent. In his 28.2 innings, he has 37 strikeouts and a 3.14 ERA. When Vesia earned his second Major-League save, he brought much-needed enthusiasm to the Dodgers. If Kimbrel falters, Vesia has the required personality to be an effective closer.

Kimbrel has been satisfactory as the Dodger closer but rarely has had a clean inning. His ineffectiveness partly is caused by the lack of use since the Dodgers win the majority of their games by more than 3 runs. Now, Roberts has an agreement to use Kimbrel every three games. Kimbrel’s control has not been good. If he does not improve, the Dodgers will need to find a new closer before the playoffs begin.

At the trading deadline, Friedman probably will not acquire a high-profile reliever since he does not believe to give away prized prospects. However, Friedman typically gets an under-the-radar reliever.

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