DLD Notes: Three Series In And The Dodgers Bullpen Has Been Stellar

The last time the Dodgers bullpen had more than one win above replacement after ten games, the team made their first World Series trip in 29 years. In the early span of 2017, they posted a 1.34 earned run average and 1.41 in fielding independent pitching. By year’s end, the group would rank fourth in ERA and FIP as well as third in fWAR against the rest of baseball. Josh Fields, Chris Hatcher, Luis Avilan, Sergio Romo, and Grant Dayton were just a handful that helped anchor the bullpen then. Two of those players haven’t pitched in the majors since 2018. The other three have been used sparingly this year in mostly low to some medium leverage situations at best.

What separates the bullpens from then and now is their usage and depth. In 2017, there were two relievers with over six innings pitched in the first ten games with half of the pen, which used eight pitchers, logging at least four innings of work. In only his second year, Ross Stripling carried a heavy load recording 6.1 innings. Hatcher was part of Andrew Friedman’s first significant trade as the Dodgers president of baseball ops. He had only one decent year in L.A. It occurred the very same season he was acquired from Miami but pitched the most innings to start the 2017 campaign. Accurate enough to say, those two weren’t the most ideal for shouldering 40 percent of the innings early on.

This year Dennis Santana and Pedro Baez have logged over five innings of work but still under six while the other ten relievers have thrown in between 1.0 to 4.1 innings. The Dodgers can attribute the luxury of using so many arms to the extended 30 man roster allotted for the two weeks of the season, which the player’s union and MLB have been discussing extending throughout the season.

Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, and Caleb Ferguson have fastballs averaging between 96 to 99 mph as opposed to 2017, where not a single one of the eights relievers to start the season averaged 95. Those four previously mentioned names altogether have struck out 14 batters while allowing eight hits, seven walks, and zero runs in 15 innings pitched. And it’s not to say because they throw bullets that they’re the best options. So far, the top three in fWAR this season have been Ferguson, Santana, and undoubtedly inconceivable to most, Adam Kolarek.

At the end of the season three years ago, Kenley Jansen, Brandon Morrow, Tony Cingrani, Stripling, and Avilan led the Dodgers bullpen in fWAR. Still, mostly Jansen and Morrow were heavily leaned upon in high leverage situations. With the help of expanded rosters and an abbreviated season, the Dodgers will have the luxury of utilizing their depth, avoiding the use of only two relievers when it matters most, and it’s already shown early on.

According to Fangraphs, this year’s bullpen has faced 36 batters in high-leverage situations, third-most in baseball, allowing only two earned runs. Compare that to the nine batters the bullpen faced in the same circumstances in 2017 during the first ten games, albeit allowing only a run, and it’s apparent the 2020 group has shown their reliability early on in the season. An attribute paramount in a season that’s a little over a third of the regular full length 162 games.

Another day, another COVID-19 related update. The most recent team to be a victim of an outbreak is the St. Louis Cardinals. Major League Baseball announced the Cardinals with 13 new positive COVID-19 test results today, with Friday being the earliest they’ll be eligible to play.

The Cardinals are the third organization to suffer multiple infections behind the Marlins and Phillies. A substantial amount of scheduled games have been postponed. It’s led to the league and players union to agree on shortened doubleheaders to help tackle the chaotic scheduling. In this case, games will be decided in seven innings. If games need more innings to determine the outcome, it will be treated as extra-innings with a runner leading off at second base.

Clayton Kershaw‘s 2020 debut came with some eye-opening results. For the last two seasons, there has been a drastic decline in Kershaw’s fastball. This has led him to adjust the usage of his repertoire. Since 2018, his fastball and slider usage has been nearly identical. Yesterday, he did something for the first time since 2017, end a game averaging 92 mph with his fastball. It was also his second scoreless outing in Arizona in his career. The first on July 3rd of 2010. He did accomplish something for the first time yesterday. Kershaw never had a zero walk, three hits or less scoreless outing against the Dbacks away from Dodger Stadium and only the second time doing so against the club.

Quick Hits

  • Mookie Betts made quite the impression this past weekend. He hit the first two homeruns of his Dodger career and earned the MLB Play Of The Week with a 305 foot assist from right field to third base. Yesterday, on the very first pitch of an at-bat he ended up hitting his second home run of the season, Betts injured his middle finger on his left hand. He was subsequently taken out of the game. X-ray results came out negative. He’s out of the lineup tonight and considered day-to-day.
  • Corey Seager has been hitting the cover off of the ball this season. More so than any other player in baseball. He leads the league in hard-hit balls and barrels. He was taken out of Saturday’s game due to his left leg cramping up. He missed Sunday’s game but is in tonight’s lineup against the Padres as the designated hitter.
  • Cody Bellinger was given the day off on Saturday. He has been struggling at the plate for most of the season. For the year, Cody has slashed an abysmal .150/.209/.250. Yesterday, it seemed he might have gotten his groove back, cracking his first home run of the year on a line drive over the right-field fence. After the game, Bellinger said he returned to his old batting stance for some time and that he’s struggled to get in sync with it.
  • There were a few roster moves in the last few days. RHP Josh Sborz was optioned to the alternative training site at USC. RHP Tony Gonsolin added to the active roster was the corresponding move for Sborz. Following his Friday start, Gonsolin was optioned for RHP Mitch White. It was the first time White ever made the active roster. It was short-lived because, on Sunday, the Dodgers activated Clayton Kershaw from the injured list and sent White back to the USC training site.
  • During a Zoom presser, Scott Alexander revealed why he arrived late to Summer Camp. Just before report date, Alexander tested positive for COVID-19. He said the symptoms were mild. Alexander has type-1 diabetes and considered a high-risk individual. If he wanted, he could’ve opted out a received the full prorated pay for 60 games. According to him, he never considered it an option, ultimately deciding to play. He’s faced 13 batters while not allowing a single earned run. He’s let four to reach base non-intentionally this season.

Oskar is a writer for Dodgers-Lowdown. Follow him on Twitter @2Rawsko94. Photo Credit: Pedro Baez (Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today), Caleb Ferguson (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images), Brusdar Graterol (Prospects Live Website), Caleb Ferguson (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images).