Many people blame Andrew Friedman and/or Farhan Zaidi for the demise of the Dodgers bullpen in 2018. They surmise that they failed to adequately equip the pen with the requisite number and quality of arms. Actually, “demise” is a pretty harsh word. The Dodgers and the Red Sox, the two World Series teams, both finished the regular sesaon with identical 3.72 Bullpen ERA’s. The Dodgers did have the better WHIP – 1.21, compared to 1.29 for the Red Sox. In the Post-Season, the Red Sox had a 2.71 ERA compared to the Dodgers 2.78 ERA. Again, the Dodgers had the better WHIP – 1.13 to 1.17.
The World Series was the difference.The Red Sox bullpen was “lights out” with a 1.40 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP, while the Dodgers bullpen was “lit up” with a 1.40 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP… and it’s all Kenley Jansen’s fault! Kenley had a season “for the ages” during the 2017 regular season when he went 5-0 with 41 saves in 42 opportunities and had a 1.32 ERA to go with a “sick” 0.75 WHIP. In 2018 his ERA “balloned” to 3.01, with a 0.99 WHIP and he was 1-5 with 38 saves in 42 opportunities. Where he really failed was in the World Series where he had a 4.50 ERA. Really, his numbers were not “horrifying” but they weren’t up to his standards, and as the “Face of the Bullpen,” the rest of the bullpen is a reflection of it’s leader, or actually, it’s closer!
I was listening to MLB.Radio a few days ago and they were talking about how a bullpen often reflects the attitude and success of it’s closer. Of course, there are exceptions, but former players were saying how the closer sets the tone and that it just elevates the rest of the pitchers in the bullpen. I believe that to be true. I also know that bullpen pitchers are notoriously fickle: Great one year and sucky the next. Kenley didn’t really suck… most of the time. He just wasn’t Kenleyesque most of the year. If a bad season is a 3.01 ERA, then that just tells you how high the bar is for him.
This purpose of this piece today is not to rag on Kenley Janson, but rather, to impart hope for a better 2019. It was a bad season for Kenley as he started out slow in Spring Training, got injured and then struggled in April, he pitched pretty well until August when he had his heart issues but bounced back in September… only to faulter in the World Series. He had heart problems… maybe he felt it coming on during Spring Training and he was dealing with a new baby as well as custody with his older daughter. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that when kids are involved it may be difficult to focus on baseball, but then, factor in his heart issues and, well, it was a “perfect storm.” In case you didn’t know, heart issues are serious and can kill you… dead! That’s a big distraction and that alone explains all his pitching woes.
So, he has already had the surgery and by all accounts, it is a success. He should be good for another 5+ years! Hopefully his child custody issues are behind him and here’s what I think:Kenley Jansen will show up to Spring Training, in the best shape of his life and ready to take out his wrath at losing two World Series back-to-back on NL hitters.
If the closer is better, the rest of the pen will be better, and depending upon who is there, these guys are much better equipped with another year of experinece. Stir in some youngesters like Caleb Ferguson, who really got some critical experience in 2018, Dennis Santana, Marshall Kosowski, Yimi Garcia (if tendered and healthy) and others and the pen could be a real strength. Julio Urias will be back, and maybe he pitches out of the pen for a while to build up arm strength. Wood, Maeda and Chicken Strip are all “swingmen” or trade candidates.
The bullpen may look vastly different in 2019 and it will all start with one Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers can go as far as he can carry them, and I happen to believe he can carry them a long way. He’s done it before. In 2007, Mariano Rivera put up a 3.15 ERA and followed it up the very next season with a 1.40 ERA to go with 39 Saves. Kenley Jansen is of that same ilk… cutter and all. We might blame Kenley for last years’ bullpen demise, but we may have to thank him for a Championship next year. Stay tuned…
- The Dodgers and Indians are still cussing and discussing Yasiel Puig, Corey Kluber and others. Hurry up and make up your minds for us, would you? We are tired of waiting…
- Dodgers eligible for arbitration: Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Corey Seager and Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia. All will not be tendered contracts. Who won’t? Stay tuned