Dodgers bullpen has been good, and it could get even better very soon

The Dodgers bullpen is among the best in the game. It doesn’t feel like that should be the case with the number of injuries they’ve sustained and with the human roller coaster that is Craig Kimbrel pitching the ninth inning.

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To the surprise of some, the Dodgers didn’t do much to address the bullpen at the trade deadline. Scott Barlow was there, as were guys like Dylan Floro, Alex Lange, Joe Jimenez and so on, but the Dodgers largely passed. While Andrew Friedman hates trading for relievers (especially at the deadline), he did pretty well to get a solid arm in Chris Martin for Zach McKinstry, who didn’t have much of a role on this version of the Dodgers. Also, it seems the Dodgers are trying to turn Martin into another version of Blake Treinen — hopefully minus the QAnon bullshit.

It’s an extremely small sample size, but Martin has taken to throwing cutters to lefties at a much higher rate than he did to righties since the July 30 trade that brought him to LA.

Cutter UsageWith CubsWith Dodgers
vs. LHH24 (45.2%)16 (76.2%)
vs. RHH29 (54.7%)5 (23.8%)

It may not be as extreme a split as Treinen’s usage (16 to 1 this season, 83.5% cutters to lefties last year), but that seems to be the route the Dodgers are taking with Martin. Traditionally, Treinen uses his slider more against righties than lefties, and Martin has thrown five sliders as a Dodger — all to righties — after throwing just 22 while with the Cubs (16 to lefties, six to righties). Martin does have the luxury of having a splitter to use against lefties and a curveball to use against righties — if needed. My guess is, he wont be throwing a ton of those with the Dodgers. In his five innings as a Dodger, Martin has thrown just three splitters and one curveball.

An even more extreme example — even more than Trienen — Brusdar Graterol. Before he got hurt, he was going to the cutter a lot against lefties (136 to 8) and using the slider at a 3:1 ratio against righties. The sinker was almost exclusively used against righties (222 to 10), while he went to the 4-seam fastball more to lefties (58 to 5). It’s still amazing he doesn’t miss more bats than he does, considering his stuff.

And with Treinen coming back soon, it should give the bullpen some much-needed depth. Phil Bickford has regressed in his second season with the Dodgers, and it can be mostly blamed on his slider.

Because he lacks the top-end velocity a lot of relievers have these days, he has to be better with his slider, which was pretty good last year. The biggest difference in results has been in the power department. He has a .526 slugging allowed against the slider this year after limiting opposing hitters to a .304 mark last year. The exit velo against is basically the same (86.3 MPH vs. 86.4 MPH), but the launch angle has increased by 7 (!) degrees, and that may be a result of what Josh pointed out in that tweet.

Danny Duffy, Victor Gonzalez and Jimmy Nelson are also still vertical, though it remains to be seen if actually make it all the way back and crack the bullpen this season. Pedro Baez would be a neat story, but I’m not sure he’s going to be good enough to make his way back to the Dodgers’ bullpen. And while it’d be a fun story, Dellin Betances probably won’t be making it to LA (11.08 ERA, 12:14 K:BB ratio with Oklahoma City).

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So, this is just a long-winded way to state that there are bullpen reinforcements coming in the form of Graterol and Treinen, with Martin (hopefully) taking a step forward … not to mention Yency Almonte, who’s elbow injury, hopefully, isn’t serious. And this doesn’t even include guys coming back to the rotation — Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May — eventually. That could push guys like Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin — 2022 National League All-Stars — to the ‘pen.

This pitching staff is so incredibly deep, if not a little volatile due to injury. Come October, it’ll be interesting to see what Dave Roberts does with the arms. Outside of 2020, this might be the best collective group of hurlers he has had as Dodgers’ manager — both in the rotation and bullpen. And like 2020, the Dodgers’ success (and the success of most teams) will be determined by health.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.