Tag Archives: Kenley Jansen

Game for the ages ends in a gut punch for the Dodgers

It was a classic, even though it doesn’t feel that way for Dodger loyalists this morning. In what will go down as one of the great World Series games ever, the Dodgers lost an 11-inning thriller to the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the series and missed a golden chance to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.

The many twists and turns of this 4-hour and 19 minute game is a second guesser’s dream and certainly there are plenty of moves made by Dave Roberts that can be called into question.

Roberts antagonists are out in full force after a bullpen implosion that feels like the outlier and not the norm. After throwing 28 straight scoreless innings during this post-season, the Dodger pen went from other-worldly to pedestrian. From 8th to the 11th innings the Dodger bullpen gave up 9 hits 6 runs and 4 home runs in collapse we haven’t seen around these parts since the 2013-16 post-season

Zing-Pow !

The criticism coming Roberts way is from those that weren’t happy with Doc pulling Rich Hill after 4 innings. The argument is that by pulling your starter so quickly you depleted your bullpen earlier than you should have and ultimately it led to having use Josh Fields and Brandon McCarthy in leveraged situations.

While I agree that I don’t want to see Fields and McCarthy in these spots, I felt Doc was correct in pulling Hill after four innings. While the lefty had struck out seven, his command was not very good. He had walked three (one intentional), had allowed the lead-off man to reach in three of the first four innings. He was missing BADLY with his fastball and his curveball was as inconsistent as we’ve seen all post-season. With a day off in the series, and only trailing Justin Verlander 1-0 in the 5th, I had no problem with going to the pen early.

Roberts got 4 outs from Kenta Maeda who has suddenly turned into money in the pen. Tony Watson induced an inning ending double play in the 6th. The only move I question from Roberts is starting the 7th inning with Ross Stripling. I believe he was caught off guard when Corey Seager hit a 2-run bomb with two outs in the bottom of the 6th giving the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. If the score was tied, he would have gone Stripling, but when the Dodgers took the lead, now its time to go to your big guns for those final nine outs. Brandon Morrow would have been the better choice with a lead to start the inning. The problem was that they grabbed the lead so fast,  Morrow didn’t have time to get loose. Stripling walked the lead-off man and then Morrow came in. If Stripling does his job, the point is moot, but he didn’t.

And, while the Dodgers didn’t cough up any runs in that 7th inning it changed how the rest of the game would have to be managed. Morrow went back out for the 8th, gave up a lead-off double to Alex Bregman, a ball that was just out of the reach of Yasiel Puig, and that necessitated the move to bring in Kenley Jansen for a 6-out save. Again, I don’t have a problem with this move either, and think how the game might be different if Puig makes the incredible diving catch ? Oh, what might have been. Why does Jansen come in then ? Well, at this point you have to bring in Jansen for the final six outs. You don’t want to lose the game with your second best reliever when you have Kenley looming. It just didn’t work out.

As much blame as Roberts is garnering, how about that 0-2 pitch from Jansen to Marwin Gonzalez in the 9th. The cutter didn’t cut, the ball didn’t move and with an 0-2 count it was a HUGE mistake. I know we all love Kenley. There is no one I want out there more than him and I feel supremely confident with him on the bump. But, that 0-2 miss was awful. Bury it in, run it away, bounce it. But, for the love of everything holy don’t miss on a hitter’s plane where it can be barreled.

It’s my contention you don’t change the philosophical way you manage your ball club when you play in October. June and October are different, but the philosophy of using your pen a certain way doesn’t really change and the opponent dictates a lot of the moves you make. This management group, Friedman, Zaidi and Roberts believe in a certain way and they don’t deviate. We may not love it or even like it, but it’s gotten us to this point. And, it’s been highly effective.

You may not like how Roberts used his pitchers, you probably don’t like the result, but it’s how the Dodgers operated all year. They aren’t going to change now. As much as you and Rich Hill think he should have gone longer, he shouldn’t have. He didn’t have it and the Dodgers had a near perfect bullpen waiting in the wings. Quite simply, they just had a rough night against the best offensive team in baseball. You make mistakes and they will eat you alive. The Dodgers pen made mistakes and in some cases didn’t, but the Astros just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.

Two things became crystal clear on Wednesday night. The Dodgers bullpen is not invincible and must locate, locate and locate to be effective. Second, the Astros bullpen is exactly what we thought they were coming into the series. Ken Giles is suspect and the rest of that pen has been beaten and battered to the point where their best reliever is a starter coming out of the pen on short rest. Still advantage Dodgers, despite last night.

The pain of the game will sear into our souls until about 5:08pm on Friday, then it’s time to suck it up buttercup, strap it on and get after the Stros’ at the ole Juice Box Park

Bleeding Dodger Blue Always

The Dodger Bullpen: Renewed Faith

Did my eyes deceive me ? Did I really watch the Dodgers bullpen pitch four innings of scoreless baseball in October ? For the love of humanity, what in the world is going on here ?

My eyes didn’t play tricks. In fact the Dodger bullpen did on Friday what they have been doing all year…….getting outs.

I personally don’t know anyone who has been more critical of the Dodgers bullpen over the last few years than yours truly. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Go out, watch your starter bust his tail for 6 or 7 innings only to see some slinger out of pen cough it up. The losses over the years, especially in big post-season games have been crippling.

During the 2014 and 2015 winter meetings I watched from afar as the Dodger front office didn’t appear to make the adequate moves to strengthen what I perceived as a significant weakness. I gotta give it to Friedman and company, their gambles on the Joe Blanton”s and Grant Dayton’s of the world have paid off.

Those critical of my evaluation can rightly point out that the Dodgers have made attempts at strengthening the pen over the years only be continually re-buffed. In 2014 it was the winter meetings of Andrew Miller. The Dodgers never made a serious offer ( still a mistake in my opinion) But, Friedman had just taken over and was evaluating the farm and roster and may have not been as prepared to jump into the deep end of the pool. The Dodgers also apparently made the largest offer to Luke Gregerson who turned them down to go to the Astros.

During the 2015 winter meetings they made overtures toward Baltimore’s Darren O’Day. Reports indicate they offered him more money than the Orioles, yet O’Day stayed with the Birds. Then the Dodgers had a deal in place for Aroldis Chapman before his domestic violence charge hit the streets, and rightfully so the Dodgers backed out.

In Game 1 on Friday the Dodgers got two-thirds of an inning scoreless from the re-born Joe Blanton. They got two-thirds scoreless from Grant Dayton. They got one full inning of scoreless baseball from Pedro Baez. This might be the most surprising of them all after Baez had given up back-breaking game-winning hits to the Cardinals and the Mets in Game 1 of both the 2014 and 2015 National League Divisional Series. I literally couldn’t watch when Baez came into the game yesterday….

14516498_10157594513445707_3293109060407513380_n

My television set turned off during Game 1 of the National League Division Series when the Dodgers brought in Pedro Baez

The Dodgers then got an inning and two-thirds from closer extraordinaire Kenley Jansen. That is four innings of shut-out baseball.

This is a strength now that was a complete and total weakness in year’s past. One of the primary reasons the Dodgers are in this position today is because of the productivity of that bullpen. Dodger faithful will tell you without this bullpen eating up innings as starter-after-starter went down with injury, then the Boys in Blue are not in this position. During the Giants second-half meltdown as their pen was coughing up 8th and 9th inning leads, the Dodgers were taking games over in the 5th and 6th innings and pitching the club to victory. So many arms and so much production. The Dodger pen has been the back-bone of this team. Give the Giants the Dodgers bullpen, they don’t cough up an 8.5 game lead……#Truth

They could struggle from this point forward, that is entirely possible, but based on what they have done this year, I can’t blame them as I have in the past for not getting the job done. The Dodgers bullpen has been a pleasant surprise. It’s a surprise that Dodger fans are more than willing to embrace.

As Always Bleeding Dodger Blue

Dodgers have me in a quandry

 

On one hand this organization is making all the right moves in player development. Then they fail to adequately address their bullpen.

On one hand this team is hitting home runs at a record pace for a Chavez Ravine squad, and then they show they can’t generate a run to save their lives.

On one hand (we have numerous hands; stay with me here) the Dodgers are trouncing terrible baseball teams and playing at a near .750 clip against bad teams, and then they go 8-20 against teams over .500 including 3-9 against the rival Giants.

I just don’t get this club.

With today’s San Francisco Giants loss and sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins the Dodgers have a three game lead in the National League West. It feels incomprehensible that the Dodgers could have a division lead while getting waxed by the Giants this year, but that is par for the course with this odd version of the Dodgers this year.

The loyalists amongst us continue to view Dodgers baseball as the glass that is half full. They argue, the team is in first place, the Dodgers are playing great at home, they are winning the games they are supposed to win. While this line of thinking is nice and dandy it tells an incomplete story. It tells a story with a familiar refrain and I know it ends ugly.

The things that championship teams MUST DO the Dodgers do not do well. First, they do not generate runs using small ball. This is not conjecture this is a real number. The Dodgers produce the highest percentage of their runs via the home run. They produce fewest amount of runs with the base hit, the walk, the sacrifice fly, the situational ground out etc……This is a precursor of post-season doom. Teams that can’t generate runs with small-ball do not win in October. I have grown tired arguing this fact with certifiable novices on social media. They don’t get it, and all the haranguing in the world will never convince these people that they are out of their scope. In the post-season when you are facing teams ABOVE .500 you can not rely on the long-ball to win games. The pitching is better, the mistakes on the mound are less frequent and as a hitter you must be able to generate runs by working counts and having productive at-bats.

The misnomer here is that the Dodgers have the best on-base percentage of any team in the National League. That statistic would tell you the Dodgers are good at producing runs with productive outs. That is not the case. They don’t score bushels of runs with stolen bases, hit-and-runs, stolen bases or productive outs. They don’t need to lead the league in small ball, but they at least need to be proficient at it. So far, it’s a gaping hole in their game. They need to change that for October success.

Second, the Dodgers bullpen is a sieve. They aren’t the worst in the league but they are closer to the #BoxOfPain instead of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys.” General Manager Andrew Friedman believed three washed up infielders could be anchors to the bullpen. Chris Hatcher throws 96 mph but his ball is straight and he gets lit up. Pedro Baez throws 98 but has yet to develop a serviceable breaking ball. Joel Peralta has been on the shelf for much of the year but his latest returns have not been encouraging. JP Howell has been effective but you better not push him past three or four batters because hitters will get a read. Yimi Garcia burst upon the scene like gang-busters but then lost his release point and started serving up gopher balls. You can’t really rely on him at this point. Surprisingly Juan Nicasio has been consistently good this year and Adam Liberatore gives the Dodgers a reliable left-handed reliever with a WHIP below 1.00.

I am not convinced the Dodgers pen has the depth to venture deep into the post-season. It was the primary reason why I was huge proponent of the Dodgers signing Andrew Miller in the off-season, but I digress.

Picture this, Game 5 of the NLCS, series is tied at 2-2. Dodger starter has a high pitch count and is in trouble in the 6th inning in a tie game with runners on base. What pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen, other than the closer Kenley Jansen, would you trust to save the day ? I don’t trust anyone in that bullpen.

As hard as this is to state, the San Francisco Giants and Bruce Bochy has had three or four arms that he had total and complete belief in to get out of that type of jam. The Dodgers just don’t have that. It is another intangible the Dodgers need, yet don’t have if they are to win their first pennant in 27 years.

Dodger fans are not thrilled with me. They say I am too negative, not enough rah-rah and am not focusing on the good things they are doing. Sorry but not sorry for my negativity. Winning the National League West is not my goal. I am trying to project a team that can A) beat the Cardinals. B) Win a pennant. C) Win a World Series.

This club is good, but I fear good won’t cut it.

Dodgers attacked need in off-season

 

When the Dodgers flew home from St. Louis after getting trounced in Game 6 of last year’s NLCS one thing was crystal clear. As good as the Dodger bullpen was, the Cardinals bullpen was a lights-out beast that was as impenetrable by the Boys in Blue.

This off-season the Dodgers have bolstered their bullpen by bringing in three former All-Star closers who will probably serve as set-up men to Kenley Jansen.

Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Brandon League were all closers that pitched in the mid-season classic. When you throw in relievers JP Howell, Jamey Wright there isn’t a lot of room in a pen with all of those big names and power arms. It’s tough to see where this leaves Paco Rodriguez after his stellar 2013 campaign that seemed to fizzle down the stretch.

Bweezy
Courtesy dodgersnation.com

The Dodgers brass knows they don’t have the power arms that the Cardinals do, so they did the next best thing, bring in experience. In Wilson they know exactly what they have, an uber-competive workout machine who seems bound and determined to become a dominant closer at some point down the line. He is your best possible option as a set-up, with full faith he can take over as closer if Jansen falters.

The Chris Perez signing raised eyebrows considering his history. The former closer saw his velocity drop a bit and then the injury bug struck. As Perez battled through injuries he tweaked his delivery, which led to poor mechanics, which then led to giving up 11 home runs in 54 innings of work. He eventually lost his closer’s role and was released by the Cleveland Indians in November.

No one really knows what to make of Brandon League. I watch the guy pitch and I see the movement, the power sinker, the velocity and I just don’t understand how he gets hit so hard. But, last year he got whacked around The Ravine like a pinata. League has something GM’s love in the bullpen. It’s that 95 mile-per-hour power sinker that is heavy and dives out of the zone. For League, that sinker needs to start mid-thigh and needs to dive to the shoe-tops. Instead that sinker was starting out belt-high and ended up at the thighs and was getting raked. He drew the ire of Dodger fans, but could come back into the good graces of the fan base with a resurgent 2014.  Even though the faithful are calling for League’s head and for the Kasten and Coletti to release him, I just don’t see it. League is still owed 14 million dollars and throws 95 miles-per-hour. The guy gets an Uribe-like mulligan and has a ton to prove in the spring.

In closing, I would still take the Cardinals youth and power arms over the Dodgers bullpen, but I do believe the Dodgers have closed the gap. This Dodger pen is deeper and better for the 2014 season.