Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Can The Dodgers Win Without A Bullpen? (No.)

I'm obviously not optimistic about the Dodgers' bullpen these days, and in Jonah Keri's second-to-last recap of the major leagues on Grantland's "The 30", he doesn't leave much room for hope:

So, the underlying numbers do provide some reason to hope, but given last year’s playoff meltdown, the awful season-to-date run-prevention numbers, and the disaster over the past month, you can’t fault Dodgers fans for not feeling too hot about the current relief situation. [...]

However, the biggest complaint from many fans isn’t necessarily directed at Mattingly, or even at the team’s relievers themselves; it has to do with the front office. After contending teams like the Cardinals, Blue Jays, Pirates, and others made aggressive trades for bullpen help at the deadline, why didn’t the Dodgers, eager to build and spend on depth everywhere else on the roster, follow suit?

It’s because Andrew Friedman & Co. have recognized the volatility of bullpens and decided not to invest big money in their own. After all, many of baseball’s best relief arms are young, homegrown, inexpensive pitchers once ticketed for the rotation who instead ended up dominating in relief (Dellin Betances, Trevor Rosenthal, Zach Britton), while many pricey free-agent bullpen acquisitions fail spectacularly.

That doesn’t mean it’s the right decision, though. Friedman isn’t running a shoestring budget like he was in Tampa, and smartly allocated money can still fortify your bullpen. Just look at the Astros: They spent actual money to address a troubling relief corps, and they’re reaping the benefits of having veterans Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to stabilize what’s now one of the league’s best pens. When the Dodgers outspend Houston and everyone else by tens and/or hundreds of millions, it’s odd to see them try to play Moneyball with a bullpen that caused so many problems in the playoffs.

Now, it’s possible that Baez, Garcia, & Co. form an effective bridge from the starters to Jansen, and Los Angeles finally breaks through and rolls to the World Series. But that’s not the point: By heading into the postseason with a teetering pen, the resource-rich Dodgers are opting for a chance they really don’t have to take.

This cannot end well (literally, given the bullpen can't close out our games).


Fred's Brim said...

Looks like David Aardsma is available again