Adam Kolarek‘s first days with the Dodgers were rough. He made three appearances and faced four batters, allowing two hits and a walk, not exactly making the ideal first impression with his new team.
Fortunately the season didn’t end there, and in his next 36 batters he’s limited them to a .480 OPS against, proving to be a valuable part of the Dodgers pen. If the pen is going to put it together in October, Kolarek now figures to play a pivotal role.
With a quiet deadline this year, Kolarek’s acquisition for prospect Niko Hulsizer proved to be one of the major moves. At the time, the Dodgers had just Julio Urias as a reliable lefty out of the pen, and since then Caleb Ferguson has made a push for the playoff roster. But Kolarek was always planned on being an important LOOGY for a team that lacked anything of the sort, and after his aforementioned shaky start, he seems to be filling in his role nicely.
On the year, he has a relatively unimpressive 3.33 ERA with a 4.32 FIP in 55 innings. However, the Rays for whatever reason let him face a ton of righties, which suppressed his actual skill of attacking lefties. The Dodgers have corrected that and have been rewarded with a 10.2 innings of 0.84 ERA with a 3.49 FIP. That seems to indicate a lot of luck on contact, but his expected wOBA of .287 is actually about right in line with his actual of .285.
He hasn’t been better with the Dodgers because he’s fundamentally changed. He’s essentially doing the same thing he was before, it’s just that the Dodgers are primarily allowing him to face lefties. And given the sample sizes we’re talking about with LOOGYs, it’s a good thing that he hasn’t changed as a pitcher and is simply allowed to do what he does best.
The way he attacks hitters is primarily through his sinker, which he uses over 70% of the time, which both gets swings and misses and ground balls.
But he does mix in a four-seamer, a change, and a slider to keep hitters off balance as well.
He doesn’t need to alter anything, but if the slider can come along against lefties, he could probably even take another step forward.
As the playoff staff is currently in flux due to Rich Hill‘s injury and the pen trying desperately to get right, one of the areas they thankfully don’t have concern for now is lefty specialist, as Kolarek has filled in ideally since coming over. Not only does that impact the lefties he’ll be tasked with, but arguably just as importantly it frees up Urias to get multiple innings and Ferguson to be deployed whenever necessary, knowing Kolarek is available.
Who knows what the future holds for Kolarek, as anything can happen once the calendar rolls around to October, but it’ll definitely be a lot nicer to see him coming in through the bullpen gates than Scott Alexander and Alex Wood.