The Bullpen is a Symptom, Not the Disease

That the Dodgers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory  is obvious.  However, the implosion of the bullpen (Chaggy in particular) is a symptom, not the disease.  The symptom manifests itself when the disease is active.  The disease is “FailureToScoreRunsItis.”  Last night, Dodger hitters left 12 runners stranded (combined).  At the trade deadline, FAZ acquired two of the biggest bats on the market in Machado and Dozier.  Add in a healthy Justin Turner, a Max Muncy who came out of his slump along with Cody Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig andhow in the hell can they only manage to score 2 runs in Coors?

Dozier and Machado were 1-7 at the top of the Dodgers’ lineup.  JT was 2-4 as was Puig, who hit a two-run homer for the teams only runs, but he did that from the #7 spot,  The heart of the order HAD NO HEART! These guys need to do some soul searching…  I look for Rich Hill to struggle with hanging curve balls today in Coors, so the Dodgers better bring their bats.

Pedro Baez, JT Chagois and Scott Alexander are the same pitcher.  They all throw hard, but have no idea where the ball will go.  That’s why Baez and Chagois are so hittable – they leave them out over the plate for other hitters recreational enjoyment.  That’s also why Alexander is not as hittable.  He may not know where the ball is going because it moves like crazy, but neither does the hitter.  Baez and Chagois should never pitch is a high-leverage situation.  High leverage means: “With a lead less than 5 runs.” Actually, both cannot be on the same team.  FAZ had better get one a ticket to OKC today.

They said they pulled Ferguson after one inning because he had thrown 28 pitches on Thursday.  That’s lame!  10 or 15 more aren’t going to hurt him.  I don’t buy what nonsense they are spewing.  Caleb only threw 15 pitches, 11 of which were strikes. Let him throw a few more. You know I am not into second-guessing, but it was obvious to me at the time.

Of course, I would have loved to see FAZ pick up a bullpen arm… or three at the trade deadline, but at what cost?  I heard from a pretty good source that the Reds asked for Lux and Uceta for Raisel Iglesias.  Not happening.  Let’s look at some of the other arms available or some other relievers:

  • Kelvin Hererra – on the DL.  Had a 4.76 ERA with diminished velocity with  the Nats since the trade.
  • Brandon Morrow – 2nd stint on the DL – Has only pitched 30 innings, but has pitched well.
  • Kyle Bear Claw –  22.24 ERA since the All-Star Game
  • Brad Ziegler – 9.00 ERA since Arizona acquired him
  • Adam Conley – 4.32 ERA since the All-Star Break
  • Jake Diekman – 6.00 ERA since Arizona traded for him
  • Keone Kela  – has pitched 4 innings since the trade with no runs allowed, but the Pirates traded their #9 prospect (LHP Taylor Hearn) for him.
  • Brad Brach – Doing well for Atlanta with no runs in 5 innings. The O’s wanted international slot money for him and I doubt FAZ would do that, but I also don’t think he would fit under the LT.

I can go on and on, but the relief pitcher you trade for may not be the one you get, or you could be like the dumbass Nationals who wanted Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, so they traded Blake Treinen in 2017. One year later, Treinen may be the best closer in the game! He was actually better than the guys he was traded for last year. I wish the Dodgers had better relief pitchers, but I maintain that this team is built for the playoffs (with Ryu and Urias and Cingrani back).  The trick is:  THEY HAVE TO GET THERE!  That’s the hard part.

Good News – Bad News

  • Hyun-Jin Ryu will allegedly re-join the Dodgers rotation THIS week. This will likely move Maeda into the Closers role, if the Dodgers can “sell” Kenta on it – probably with the promise of a contract adjustment next year. If Maeda can wrap his head around the closer’s role and embrace it, then that will be a big help.  When  (IF) Kenley comes back, Kenta can be the 8th innning guy with Alexander.
  • Tony Cingrani receive a cortisone injection in his left shoulder on August 3rd.  The MRI showed no structural damage.  If he’s pain-free, we may see him by the end of the month.
  • Dave Roberts is looking pretty dumb right about now. Maybe Andrew Friedman ends up with Joe Maddon. There are rumblings and grumblings coming out of Chicago that he will be let go and Joe Giardi will come home. Maybe Dodger fans get their wish and Maddon comes back and unites with Andrew Friedman.
  • Austin Barnes can’t jump out of a boat and hit water. Neither can Will Smith in OKC!
  • Striker Buehler is looking Ace-esque!
  • I hear that Honey thinks he can help Axford become great again… Wait… he never was great, was he?

This article has 54 Comments

  1. After last night’s debacle, I was ready to say Over and Out, but reading Mark’s column today took some sting away. Thank you for being (somewhat) the voice of reason amid all this.
    Maddon or Utley would be a great addition as manager.
    It’s sad how far Barnes’ star has fallen.
    2 runs at Coors…let’s get 10 today.

  2. Jansen will be back and sooner than expected. His issues aren’t as bad as they sound. It was the altitude that brought it into focus. And that’s too bad because he’d of been the most effective pitcher in that mess of a ballpark. At least Arizona isn’t stepping ahead! Knock on wood.

  3. From a team perspective, Wood or Maeda need to stand tall and say “put me in the pen”

    We are in the stretch run and it’s winning time. Deals and compensation adjustments for next year could reward team behavior. Maybe the both should youinto the pen and compete to see who’s most effective. The time to win is now.

    I will light a candle in the church that Hill’s curveball will still break in the rarified air of Colorado.

  4. the little batting is a disease without a doubt. But the bullpen is not a slogan but another disease and Roberts is another disease. FAZ has the plan to reinforce el.bullpen with Urias and Maeda I hope it’s on time. I think the FAZ has belittled AZ and COL and believes that it will take advantage of the division, but so be it. athletics got Family and Rodney without any big prospect and they are better than Chaigos and Baez

    1. Not sure about Rodney but the A’s had to take on 3 million owed to Familia. That would put us over the luxury tax threshold. Good pickup for the A’s but it’s something we couldn’t do this year.

      1. Actually the Dodgers could have absorbed $3MM. They are $5MM shy of the threshold and that is with Maeda maxing out his contract with $5MM in bonuses. If he goes to the pen there will be more of a cushion.

  5. The best of baseball is that after a frustrating lose we have the next day game. GO DODGERS. !! Lets go Chaigos, Baez and Roberts!!

  6. Yesterday was a great day. AZ lost. After our crap , we’re still tied for first. I’ll take it. I still think we’re netter than az so as long as we stay tied up or in first , I fee our talent will take over and we get to October again.
    No NL team is great so we have as good a chance as anyone.
    We’ll be fine.
    I also laugh at “I want Utley as manager” comments. How on earth do we know how he manages a bullpen full of Roscups, Chagois, Baez, and the rest. How do we know how he’ll get Manny Machado to play like Manny Machado and not Alex Cora

    1. Utley as manager may make you laugh but Roberts as manager makes me hysterical.
      I’d take Maddon and Utley as manager and bench coach any day of the week.

      1. If that were possible, that would be a good combo. I do not think that Epstein will let Maddon go. I am thinking that it will be more in the line of Tony DeFrancesco, who grew up coaching and managing in the A’s system with Billy Beane, and then with Astros under Jeff Luhnow. He is now the AAA manager of Las Vegas, the Mets AAA affiliate, and doing a decent job with a p*** poor Mets upper farm system. Maybe Bill Hasselman will get the call. I do agree that Roberts not getting an extension is very telling.

  7. You gotta’ love Rich Hill’s honesty. I missed this article in The Athletic earlier this week, s-o I’ll post a little of it:

    On June​ 24, the Dodgers outlasted the Mets over 11 innings,​ 8-7, in​ a game​ started by​ left-hander​​ Rich Hill. They set a Citi Field record with seven home runs. After the game, before the team embarked on a cross-country flight home, Hill chided himself for his five-inning, four-run outing.

    “It was pretty sloppy,” Hill said that afternoon. “Obviously, I’m really disappointed about it. Just the execution of the pitches — that really is gonna bother me for a couple days.”

    For Hill, it was not an unusual comment. This is a man who this year called one of his spring-training starts “complete horseshit.” Those words, and his comments in New York, were honest characterizations of his current feelings. They were also products of Hill’s zealous belief that underperforming athletes should acknowledge their failures to their fanbase. Part of playing for a team is gathering trust from its fans.

    “Having played in bigger markets, all any fans ever wanted was your true, genuine opinion of yourself, not sugar-coating it,” Hill said recently. “If you go out there and pitch five or six innings and give up four or five runs, don’t tell everybody that you pitched well. They don’t want to hear that. The results are what fans care about.

    “They’re paying the good money to go out and watch a great performance. In turn, they want the honest opinion of a player, as opposed to beating around the bush.”

    Over two years in Los Angeles, Hill’s honesty has built him the benefit of the doubt. Now, he does not need it, for he is again excelling. After another winning effort in the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory over the Athletics on Tuesday at the Oakland Coliseum, Hill owns a 2.45 ERA over his last 55 innings. That span dates just past that New York start. His overall ERA is down to 3.62; it was 6.20 when he was activated from the disabled list June 19. Increasingly, he appears to be the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter.

    At 38, Hill has had a long, seesawing career. He has played for eight major-league teams, and owns an infinity ERA for one of them. He has been a free agent a dozen times. But two of his first three teams were the Cubs and the Red Sox, perhaps the two clubs with baseball’s most fervent fans. In those towns, he said, he learned the value of being direct.

    “You do well, you do well,” he said. “You stink, you stink. And I think that’s something that people absolutely respect, an honest opinion of yourself. They know you’re doing your best every time you go out there. That’s the benefit-of-the-doubt side of it: When it’s real, people know. When you’re truly saying, ‘Hey, I sucked today,’ that resonates with people. People can understand that they have bad days too.

    “I’m pretty out there and open about sucking.”

    1. Saylor is tremendous with the kids. He will get his chance, but I do not think he is ready for the lights of LA. If Hasselman gets his chance to manage or be a bench coach at the ML level, then Saylor becomes the automatic favorite for OKC.

    2. Hill is absolutely correct. We fans know when a player had a good game or bad game, and appreciate the honesty. I hate the PC garbage that flows after a bad game. I will take the Lasorda tirade over Kingman any day. This reminded me of a game my son played where someone he was very familiar with walked up to him after a loss and patted him on the shoulder and told him good game. You hit the ball well. My son stopped turned around and said…Are you f’ing kidding me? I went 0-4. What was good about that? I do not care how hard I hit the ball, they didn’t score runs and that is what I am supposed to do. There was also a game he started in Boston on a windy rainy night. My son crushed a ball to the deepest part of CF that the CF did not think was catchable but went back on it anyway, A huge gust of wind knocked the ball down allowing the CF to lean into the stands and take away his HR. He was playing 1B and when the CF got on base he told my son, you crushed that ball. That should have been out. My son looked at him and simply said, but it didn’t.
      While it will not make the sting of last night’s game go away, it would have been refreshing to hear Doc say that he screwed up. Or hearing FAZ say that maybe we should have addressed the one true weakness this team has instead of hoping it will get fixed by players coming off arm injuries and starting pitchers going into the pen.
      One other maddening thing I continue to read is when writers are discussing a player, and writes that a 4.00+ ERA is a good ERA, or a .230 hitter is having a decent year. NO THEY ARE NOT.

  8. The Dodgers were not going to get Iglesias. Lux and Uceta are not going anywhere. But they maybe could have had Jared Hughes also from the Reds. They maybe could have had Keone Kela. The Dodgers #9 prospect is Jeren Kendall. I make that trade. Heck I will make the trade of Jeren Kendall for Jose Leclerc. I would have made an Edwin Rios, Jeren Kendall, and Brock Stewart trade for Keone Kela and Jose Leclerc and a lottery pick. But when you do not value relief pitching it is hard to match up. Familia and his $3MM slides in nicely under the luxury tax threshold.
    Last night’s game was not Shaggy’s fault. He is not high leverage reliever and should never have been put in that situation. Baez does not get pulled when he gets in trouble, Jansen does not get pulled when he gets in trouble. So now what does Alexander think the next time he gets in trouble…If I put a runner on base then a waiver wire reliever is going to come in and shut it down??? Doc certainly did not do much for Alexander’s self confidence.
    I said it in the last thread, if you cannot count on Ferguson going 2 innings after throwing 28 pitches two days earlier, then you have not properly staffed the bullpen. In this case, it was totally overthinking/overmanaging. I do not really believe another 15 pitches was going to harm Caleb. That was just an excuse to answer a legit question as to why he was pulled. No, IMO the thinking was that it was time to bring in the closer, who was Alexander, and then he gave up on him as well.

    1. I would have lost this bet but if I were to have made a bet as to whom FAZ would have traded for, it would have been Jose Leclerc.

  9. I like Barnes behind the plate. He is so quiet there and calls a good game. His troubles this year is when he moves from behind the plate to beside the plate.
    I am ready for Puig to hit second and move Machado to #3 and Turner to #4.
    I like Roberts as Manager but if he is replaced eventually, I would like to see AJ Ellis as Manager. Make Ellis a coach next year.

  10. AC has it right – the Braintrust doesn’t value relievers – they are inconsistent from year to year, so the story goes, so why spend $$ when you can always just get another one? As to the waiver wire comment, the Dodgers have gotten mileage out of that sort before (Blanton, Morrow, et al.) so that is the MO. This year they tried Tom (The Faucet) Kohler – but it didn’t work this time. So instead, we have Chargois, Goeddel, The Cup, The Axe, Venditte to go with guys from the system (El Gasolino, Ferguson), hurt guys (Fields, Cingrani, last years reclamation project), one guy they actually traded prospects for (Alexander) and the big man (Jansen).

    If that strikes you as a bad way to put together a bullpen, I agree.

    To me, the ‘Trust’s plan to get to the postseason was obvious from the deadline deals that they made and the ones they didn’t: They got 2 big bangers for the infield (Machado and Dozier) but only got the Axe and the Cup for the ‘pen. The plan is to bludgeon the opponent into submission. Who needs shut down relievers if you have an 8 run lead? But it hasn’t worked because the offense has been awful. Mark is right here – in a sense, you should score more than 2 runs at Coors with the bats the Dodgers have, but they’ve been doing this since the Break. Since the Break the Dodgers are .239/.321/.433/.754. Before the break and getting Machado and Dozier they were .244/.325/.433/.758. The numbers are down a little but similar, but you’d think that after adding Machado and Dozier they would go up and not down.

    There are several reasons for that. One is that Machado is .276/.357/.425/.782 since becoming a Dodgers vs..315/.387/.525/.963 with the O’s. Another is Roberts’ ongoing juggling the lineup and refusal to play the hottest guys. Another is that these are the Dog Days and separate the men from the boys and thus far, the Dodgers’ hitters look like the boys.

    Unless the bats wake up and soon, these Dodgers aren’t going anywhere. The starters have done yeoman’s work but the ‘pen is a frail reed. The bats will make the difference between contenders and pretenders.

    1. advantage of 2 runs is an advantage. Good pitchers can get 3 outs in any park. There is a batting problem but yesterday’s game was lost due to poor pitching., period

  11. First of all, totally agree with Mark on the offense, or lack of. If you can only score two runs at Coors Field, you deserve to lose, especially with that lineup. I would think if the back end of the bullpen starts costing us games, and from what the Times said this morning, Kenley won’t be back until September, we may see a trade from FAZ(One that might sting a bit) to get a legit closer. We will see what happens the next week or so. Uncle Ned said in his book that building a bullpen is the most volatile thing a GM has to do, because they are so unpredictable. FAZ is finding that out right now. Wish they would have rode Caleb for one more inning, he was doing great.

  12. With Alexander and Ferguson the lefty part of the pen is good. Strip and Maeda strengthen the right side.

  13. I made the same observation about the Dodgers offense at the end of the previous thread. Basically they were shutout over the last 7 innings. And no, it wasn’t just poor pitching that was responsible for yesterday’s loss. Anybody who knows anything about baseball, knows that a game can be lost as easily in the first inning as in the 9th inning. The inability to score over the final 7 innings is what laid the groundwork for yesterday’s loss. Yes, the Dodgers should have been able to hold onto a 2 run lead in the 9th. But it’s not a given; which is why closers get a save when they’re able to protect a 3 run lead in the 8th.

    I’m not going to criticize the removal of Ferguson, especially since he was replaced with Alexander. What I could’t understand was replacing Alexander with Chargois.

    Dozier just got a clutch 2-out hit to drive in a couple of runs. And Manny strikes out again. No doubt in my mind that he’s pressing. Yet I still have confidence in him, and hope that he ultimately justifies that confidence.

  14. While dozier has come in and contributed manny has been a little more than reddick 2.0. Roberts needs to move him in the lineup try something different go with a hot hand. Anything but status quo. He batted 3rd for Baltimore put him there. Ask carpenter if where you bat makes a difference. Maybe not to all but to some.

  15. Axford was horrible his first game.

    He was good his second game.

    Today, he looked like the Closer! 98-99 with movement. Maybe the Dodgers are onto something?

  16. Well – for all who think that Floro is another closer in waiting, 4 straight ball to Chris Ianetta with the bases loaded? What a painful way to lose? And only 3 runs in Coors again? Another 0 for for Machado?

    Bullpen stinks. It’s been bad all year. I have looked at a lot of numbers – Dodgers’ ‘pen toward the bottom in WAR, blown saves, etc. all season. But some here have said that there’s nothing to see here – all is wonderful. 3 straight bullpen losses in very painful ways. When does everyone admit that the emperor has no clothes?

  17. Could have used an electronic strike zone on Floro’s 2-1 pitch. And prior to that the Dodgers could have used a clutch hit in the top of the 9th.

  18. Well, Arizona didn’t cooperate and lose today. Thus we visit one game back. Without Jansen we can expect more like this as like this was pre-Jansen. Can’t little how valuable he’s been manning the closer role. or holding the tie.

  19. The hardest thing Machado has hit has been his leg when he breaks his bat. Anemic Dodger offense not the BP lost this game. I’m officially off the Machado, CT3 qnd Kemp bandwagon. WTF with CT3, guy looks freaking horrible with his swing and misses

  20. My gut really tells me that if FAZ is all in this year,and by getting Machado and Dozier it sure seems like it, they are going to have to swallow hard, adjust their jock strap, and trade some of our guys to get a REAL closer. If not, the season may start to slip away. We can expect more tight games as the schedule progresses. We still have alot of games left against The D-Bags, Rockshow, and our pain in the ass Giants, who always play us tough. Yes, they made the wrong call by not juicing the bullpen up at the deadline, but it is not too late to fix it. No guarantees that either Strip or Maeda can close well. We all know we have plenty of guys for trading chips. This year the NL is there for the taking. Probably won”t be the case next year. Too many teams are getting good. Pull the trigger FAZ, pull the trigger.

    1. I agree with you. The problem is that now there are no relievers available. wivers is a very complicated form of exchanges. The style of FaZ is this invest in little investment great rewards, only this time it is falland. We have to win with what we have. I hope Robers and company can fix the team

  21. Is it just this board or are other sources criticizing Roberts as well? I don’t have access to the LA media so I haven’t seen any other critical comments.

    1. He is being criticized. Same reasons. Questionable lineups (hot hitters sitting like JT today, and Kike’ batting 4th) and poor management of the bullpen. FAZ is also getting criticized for not addressing the one real problem they had. Regardless as to how Machado hits, FAZ did what they were supposed to do to get a bat. It just has not worked out…yet. Dozier was a nice addition (and so far better). But the bullpen is still poor. A lot of criticism to go around. Dodger fans are getting fed up.

      1. I almost posted last night that JT will surely get benched today since he was getting hot. This lineup shuffling is getting plain stupid. All so we can keep playing guys who should be benched.

        1. And we face Bumgarner tomorrow, and that is not going to be easy either, as well, as the Giants, in general.

  22. Dang, the Giants for 3, then the Mariners and Cardinals. FAZ better figure it out quick. This could get ugly.

  23. The Dodgers lost the past three games with three pitchers (Rosscup, Chargois, and Flora) who pitched a total of 17 innings in MLB in 2017. All were inserted in high stress late and close situations. If this doesn’t tell you about the makeup of our bullpen, nothing will.

    1. It also speaks volumes about the work of the FO at the deadline. I read Ziegler, Diekman, Gausman, O’Day, Britton, Kintzler, Kela, Lynn, Warren, Osuna (domestic violence abuser wouldn’t want him), Duke, Brach, Hand, Pressly, Hamels, Venters, Happ, Soria, Oh, Andriese, Eovaldi, Familia, and others were traded and we got Axford.

      I hope Axford can be “lights out” but the work of the FO to not acquire additional talent when we all knew that was the apparent weakness is baffling. The Rockies did on back-to-back games in one weekend what the Dodgers have only done once this year and that is a walk-off win!

      I’m not thinking we will et to the Fall Classic this year and it’s way too premature to talk next year, but I’m going to do it anyway and here are some players who might be moved in the offseason.

      1. Kemp finally gets DFA’d (eat one year of that contract)
      2. CT3 strikes out way too much and if Machado comes back he won’t have a position..need to find room for Toles and Verdugo.
      3. Barnes- If Grandal signs the Dodgers have to go veteran back-up catcher. Barnes is a good defensive catcher, good pitch framer but his offensive game is UTL.
      4. Puig- might be time to off load the $7 million and go with Verdugo and Toles.
      5. I think Kershaw opts out and we don’t sign him. I want him to be a Dodger for life but $35 million per year is way too much for a declining pitcher. The Dodgers have to move away from the albatross bad contracts (read- Gonzales, Crawford, Kemp, Eithier) and they did so with Grienke. Just don’t see this FO going $35-38 million per year for Clayton.
      6. Ryu- too costly for a pitcher that has spent too much time on the DL.

  24. I quit watching after the sixth inning. They are boring. Toles and Verdugo need to come up. Taylor and Kemp need to sit for now. It is so hard to see what Doc does to the starting line up. If you get hot, you will sit. You could have a robot do as good a job as Doc. How Kike is a number 4 batter I would never know. I see the starting line up and I shake my head. Play Turner until he needs a rest. This could get away in a hurry. Clearly the bull pen was a problem and FAZ never addressed it. Enough blame to go around for everyone.

  25. It’s a game of inches! Last night, 9th inning 2-0, 2 outs, 2 on, 2 strikes. Where was that last strike? If not , couldn’t the pitch have been a little lower and have been hit to an infielder? Or maybe the FC on the previous play could have A DP. A matter of inches and we lose 3-2!

  26. Now that it is a three team race things got a lot tougher. I believe one of Arizona and Colorado will get hot and we are going to need to follow suit. Whether we can is questionable, I fear Roberts right now, he has to finally manage a pen and he has shown no ability to do that. Hopefully the immense talent we have will overcome Roberts ineptitude.

    Why Kemp is not on the dL and Verdugo up is beyond me. The rest may do Kemp some good, Verdugo is a better bat and glove right now. Every game counts and FAZ needs to get this one right. Kemp comes back in 10 days and maybe gets back to hitting a little, if not give him minimal bats in September and then DFA him in the fall. His BaBIP was bound to come back to earth, his abysmal walk rate was also going to catch up with him, and finally his inability to hit a slider was the final stake in his bat.

    The organizational philosophy or maybe just Robert’s having absolutely no flexibility is becoming trying. The fact that Ferguson could not go an extra inning for his own protection was a joke, the fact hot bats sit due to matchups gets old, and is not working, strikeouts are up and home runs way down this month. Eye test means something. Rhythm means something, and right now with the offense struggling it is time for Roberts to get more consistent with our lineup and use some intuition and gut feeling. Who am I kidding, nothing is changing, hopefully talent can prevail over the last 43. Either way please call Dave an Uber, life coach needed at the local community college. Is Ladorda looking to get back into coaching, at 90 he could do better then Robot Roberts at this point.

  27. When the whole team was doing bad against lefties it took the offseason for them to improve and then they did better than against righties. Perhaps it should be taken as these match ups do more harm to all batters by being shuffled and sitting because it don’t seem to do them any good. When they’ve got to get away to do self repairs could say that they don’t have enough data to play it correctly. It’s be a shame if playing for the Dodgers would be harmful to a players stats. But there are signs of that as well as -signs that the players aren’t buying into it. I do believe the F/O is more hands on than the average franchise, which isn’t wrong unless they’re insisting on doing things the wrong way even though it doesn’t compute to do it differently. Players don’t always compute. Sometimes ya gotta dance with the ones who brung ya though.

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