Swinging on the bullpendulum

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Juan Ocampo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

Sometimes on Twitter, I will post complimentary information about the Dodger bullpen, like this …

Or maybe it will be about an individual reliever, such as this tidbit about Chris Hatcher  …

This is not me saying that the Dodger bullpen is perfect, that it will never allow another run for the rest of our lives and that we should look for a picture of a smiling Hatcher on a box of Bullpen O’s in the cereal section of our local supermarket.

It’s simply that during the period shown, the bullpen is doing a great job, and that’s worth pointing out — given the feeding frenzy that takes place when one or more relievers doesn’t succeed.

San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles DodgersThere is little in baseball more painful than losing a lead in the late innings, so it’s no mystery why fans get so upset. At the same time, there should be an appreciation for the level of difficulty in place. Counting the playoffs, the Dodgers went to the bullpen last year in 161 out of 167 games. We can debate what an acceptable percentage of failure is, but what we can’t debate is that failure should never happen.

The Kansas City Royals bullpen, considered by some the best in baseball in 2015, had a 2.72 ERA and allowed 27 percent of inherited runners to score. The top relief staff in the big leagues let a run score nearly every three innings, and stranded only three of every four baserunners.

For its part, the Dodger bullpen has work to do to reach that level. The collective unease over whether the relievers will get there is understandable, in the baseball world of “guilty until proven innocent.” The current 14-inning scoreless streak is a blip, in that it includes no more than two outings for any Dodger reliever except closer Kenley Jansen, who pitched thrice.

On the other hand, the next time any one of the eight Dodger relievers allows a run — and of course, it will happen — doesn’t by itself negate all the progress. You can’t focus only on the negative, any more than you would only on the positive.

3 Comments

Of course, Jon is, as usual, the voice of reason. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is managers–and I’m not knocking anyone in particular–who think, “I have named him my set-up man. He will stay my set-up man.” If you have a closer like Kenley, fine, but if the set-up man wasn’t or isn’t doing well, mix it up. And by the way, while I’m not with Bill James on a lot of things (how dare he question Big D’s HoF credentials?), he’s right: we should use the closer when we need him to close something out. If it’s in the 7th inning, so be it. And we need a stat for that.

My issue with the pen is its just too inconsistent. I understand they won’t also be successful and I know it’s better than 50%, but when they are bad it “seems” they are worse than that. So how about 75% success is s good barometer? Even that sounds too low.

The “seems” part is where the unfair evaluations can come in to play.

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