Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers’ bullpen problems go past the obvious

I was walking through downtown San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon, and with the A’s leading the Dodgers 3-2, I thought it might be interesting to check out the Dodgers’ side of things. One can do that with the At-Bat app, so I clicked “audio” and selected the Dodgers radio feed.

(My apologies if you watched me tell this story on SportsTalk Live last night, because I’m totally recycling content here. However, I’ve added a lot more detail to my 15-second anecdote in this story.)

Rick Monday and Kevin Kennedy were calling the action, and it was the eighth inning. Jim Johnson came into the game with a 19.06 ERA in his time with the Dodgers (it was about to jump by almost two runs), and Monday quickly grew annoyed. Eric Sogard led off the inning with a single. Monday wasn’t all that impressed with Johnson’s pursuit of Billy Burns’ bunt, either.

The Dodgers were down by one run. Runners were on first and second against a reliever who recently endured one of the worst appearances in franchise history on national TV.

The bullpen was still.

Johnson started Mark Canha with two strikes before throwing four consecutive balls. Bases loaded, nobody out.

The bullpen was still.

Monday called it “curious,” and Kennedy agreed, noting that the Dodgers needed to stop the bleeding in order for the ninth inning to mean anything. “The phone isn’t even ringing,” said an exasperated Monday. “Oh, it’s finally ringing now.”

To the bullpen mound strode Luis Avilan. However, he wasn’t warming up quickly enough for Monday, who complained when he saw the following:

  • Avilan asked for a new ball to throw. Monday wondered why he was so worried about getting the perfect ball, when getting his arm ready should’ve been the main goal.
  • Avilan threw his next pitch past the bullpen catcher, and no one was in much of a hurry to retrieve the ball or start throwing again.
  • Avilan took his time between throws. Monday described him as “taking a walk in the park” instead of trying to get loose ASAP during yet another deteriorating situation for the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Soon, Avilan was brought into the game by Don Mattingly, ready or not. He gave up a line drive sacrifice fly to Stephen Vogt, which gave the A’s a 4-2 advantage. Despite the extra run, Monday deemed the sac fly a victory in itself — since Avilan’s pitch was so poor and resulting line drive so sharp, the Dodgers were lucky Vogt didn’t homer.

Alex Wood came to L.A. in the same deal as Johnson and Avilan, and he allowed three earned runs and eight baserunners over 5 2/3 innings on Wednesday afternoon while striking out only one. It’s safe to say that Monday isn’t a huge fan of the three-team deal that also brought Mat Latos (who’s having his next start skipped) to the Dodgers’ active roster.

Since joining the Dodgers:

  • Johnson: 21.00 ERA
  • Wood: 5.01 ERA
  • Avilan: 7.20 ERA
  • Latos: 6.75 ERA

The Dodgers made a flashy deal at the end of July, and they made another one on Wednesday with the addition of Chase Utley, who grew up rooting for the Dodgers and clearly wasn’t all that enthralled with the idea of playing for the Giants. Since the Giants reportedly wanted Utley pretty badly, and the Dodgers don’t really need him (Howie Kendrick might be back in a couple of weeks, and Enrique Hernandez is hitting .304/.353/.513), AND Utley lives in Sausalito during the offseason, Giants fans should feel free to boo Utley if they see him on the street. Only fair.

The Dodgers’ bullpen is a mess, and their numbers since the All-Star break are pretty hilarious — 6.22 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 1.8 HR/9. But I, like everyone else, already knew that. We also already knew Mattingly isn’t the most well-respected manager in baseball.

But I had no idea the Dodgers’ dysfunction — mostly centering on stories about Yasiel Puig — is so easy to spot that I could pick it up over the team’s flagship station. Could you imagine Jon Miller and Dave Flemming literally pleading for Bruce Bochy to get the bullpen going with runners on base in a tight game? Or a reliever loafing to such a degree in the bullpen (according to Monday, anyway)? Hell, what about Clayton Kershaw spiking the ball into the Coliseum’s infield grass and hurling it into his own dugout the night before?

Angry Kershaw

On paper, the Dodgers should’ve won at least one game against the A’s, who came into their two-game series after losing seven straight and flying cross country on Monday night. On paper, the Dodgers should win the NL West by eight games. But in reality, the Dodgers are a disjointed bunch of players managed by a guy who often seems more concerned with challenging umpires’ calls than making quick, decisive moves. They’re a weird team, these Dodgers. And the Giants hope they never see their leadership match their talent or payroll.

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