Dodgers’ bullpen is going to be fine, probably

On a team as deep as the Dodgers are, it’s hard to find areas of concern. Sure, there’s no legit No. 2 starter (and the “No. X starter” thing doesn’t really matter that much) and there are question marks about guys bouncing back on offense (Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, etc.), but the bullpen always seems to be the thing people want to look at.

The failed move for Arolids Chapman notwithstanding, the Dodgers didn’t really change a lot about the ‘pen. Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman are the only bullpen additions to the 25-man roster who weren’t with the organization last year. Overall, the bullpen looks solid. Look at the names:

That’s just six guys. Odds are the Dodgers are going to cycle through a lot of bullpen arms. And if it’s anything like last season, there isn’t a lot to worry about.

The Dodgers’ bullpen ranked second in strikeout percentage — 26.1 — second to only the Yankees at 26.3 percent. The bullpen also had the seventh-best walk rate at 7.6 percent, because there’s nothing more infuriating when relievers come into games (especially high-leverage situations) and walk hitters. But there are two key stats in which the bullpen topped all of baseball:

  • 12.3% swinging strike rate
  • 81.5% zone contact rate

The bullpen misses bats and limits the amount of contact in the strike zone. This is likely because of the plus to plus-plus velocity possessed by Jansen, Hatcher, Garcia and Baez, and some quality off-speed pitches from Howell and Avilan.

For reference, Blanton had a 25.6 K% and 13.0 SwStr% in 2015. I’m not expecting him to replicate those numbers, but the ability is present. He also had an 85.1 Z-Contact%, the best of his career. Coleman’s sample size for 2015 is all of four innings, so let’s look at his career numbers: 25.3 K%, 13.0 SwStr% and an 80.6 Z-Contact%.

The Dodgers added a couple guys who fall right in line with what the 2015 bullpen did. It shouldn’t be any surprise. And this isn’t even taking into account some of the potential swing relievers (Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Alex Wood) or prospects (Jharel Cotton, Jose De Leon, Julio Urias) who could conceivably pitch in the majors this season.

The bullpen isn’t perfect (13th-worst HR/FB rate, fourth-worst ground ball rate), but it’s looking like it could be at least as good as it was in 2015, if not better.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.