Sunday, May 6, 2012

Elbert, Guerra among Dodgers' bullpen worries

Coming into the season, I thought the Dodgers' bullpen was going to be a strength for the team. I even made fun of the Cleveland Indian broadcast team during Spring Training when it said the bullpen would be a "huge question mark."
"Indian broadcasters said Dodger bullpen will be "a huge question mark." It's one of the strongest parts of the team, if not the strongest."

Boy, was I wrong.

There have been some strong parts of the bullpen (Josh Lindblom and Kenley Jansen), but the rest of it has been, what the broadcasters said, a huge question mark.

The bullpen blew another game today when it lost to the Cubs 4-3 in 11 innings. The Dodgers had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but for the third time this season, Javy Guerra blew a save. Jamey Wright went on to get the "L" in extra innings.

The Dodgers actually made a somewhat positive move this week, designating Mike MacDougal for assignment (replacing him with Ronald Belisario), but that can't fix all the problems.

While Guerra is the easiest target because he's the closer, I've been even more disappointed in Scott Elbert.

Elbert really came into his own last season, posting a 2.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 9.2 K/9. He was a guy Don Mattingly could rely on out of the bullpen. This season, however, Elbert's been flat-out bad: 6.75 ERA, 2.25 WHIP, 16.2 H/9 and has given up two home runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Elbert was supposed to be one of the young guns out of the 'pen, but instead, he's been a liability. This is concerning because Elbert has thrown in mostly low-leverage situations, meaning he's been unsuccessful when the pressure hasn't been that great.

And being the only lefty out of the 'pen, Elbert needs to find his mojo quickly, as he's far too talented to be pitching as poorly as he has this season.

Matt Guerrier
Guerra is not without fault. Basically everyone was worried about regression with Guerra, but he came out and was damn good in his first six appearances: 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, .125 BAA and 5-for-5 in save opportunities. Since that time, he's been awful (there's no other way to put it).

It's not known if he's dealing with an injury, but his velocity would suggest he isn't. Guerra is averaging 93.4 MPH on his fastball, compared to 94 MPH last year. His slider is being thrown at the same velocity as 2011 (88.7 MPH). But he is throwing his fastball nearly 11 percent more than last season (61.5 percent to 72.1 percent). Chad Moriyama thinks that might be a problem.

No matter what the issue is, Guerra just hasn't been getting the job done. While he pitches mostly in high-leverage situations, he's been just fine when he's in low-leverage situations. Hence, a move to middle relief with Jansen and Lindblom taking over the eighth- and ninth innings might be in order.

This doesn't mean Todd Coffey and Jamey Wright are immune to the criticism -- they've been equally bad in their own right. Matt Guerrier, despite being on the disabled list, hasn't been that bad (despite a 0.8 K/BB ratio). Would Ned Colletti venture into the trade market to "fix" the bullpen?

Joel Hanrahan
We know Colletti has gotten himself in trouble trading for relievers before (Danys Baez, George Sherrill and Octavio Dotel come to mind). But if the Dodgers do explore the trade route, Joel Hanrahan might be a guy to go after.

Hanrahan, a former Dodger top prospect, has been great with Pittsburgh the last two seasons. He's a free agent after the 2013 season, so the Dodgers would have to give up something of value for him. Plus, despite the bullpen struggles, the Dodgers would still need to acquire a bat before July 31 if they're still in contention. The Dodgers might want to hold onto prospects to land a bat. That's where Shawn Tolleson comes into play.

Tolleson is dominating minor-league hitting and has been since becoming a professional. It's about time for the Dodgers to give him a chance. The bullpen is jammed up, but losing Belisario, Wright or Coffey wouldn't exactly be big losses.

In an ideal world, Jansen, who's pitched almost exclusively in the eighth inning, would be available to throw when the Dodgers need their best reliever in the game (not necessarily in the ninth inning). But relegating him to closer duties would eliminate using him in the seventh- or eighth inning when a tying run might be on the third base with less than two outs.

It's a double-edged sword. One thing's for sure -- Guerra needs to stop getting the ball in high-leverage situations. He needs to get his mechanics figured out or whatever it is that's preventing him from being successful. He's a major cog in the Dodgers' bullpen and needs to start pitching as such.

Photo credits
Guerrier: Cbl62 (Wikimedia Commons)
Hanrahan: Picasa Web Albums, UC International (Wikimedia Commons)


  1. Kenley Jansen seems to be the best reliever the Dodgers have, and to my mind the best reliever should be the closer. One other thing, though: I'm thinking that Don Mattingly may not be a very good manager. For example, in a recent game the score was tied 5-5 in the bottom of the ninth, and the Rockies had men on 2nd and 3rd with one out. I don't care who is coming up, in that situation you need a double play, and the only way to set one up is to walk the hitter and load the bases. They didn't, and pitched to Jason Giambi -- who promptly hit it out of the park. They were trying, apparently, to avoid Carlos Gonzales, who had already homered twice in the game. But even if they had gotten Giambi out without the runner on third scoring, they would have had to pitch to Gonzales anyway. So what was Mattingly thinking?

  2. When Javy Guerra comes into the game thats when I turn the TV off. The Dodgers have many problems besides their so called closer. When Kemp and Ethier don't hit the're in trouble scoring runs, Loney can't hit his weight right now. Gordon is at best a .225 hitter. 3rd base, Uriebe, Kennedy or Harriston are not going to scare any pitching staffs. The Dodgers may have started out good but when they face better teams they are just average. I don't think Kemp and Ethier can carry the team all year.

  3. Dustin..........I think JWall who is doing well in AAA and can hit 100mph..(no one else can in bully...and Tolleson both should be up with club..
    Colletti will eventually decide he needs them...maybe after we lose a few more games..certainly by June.
    Guerra is not a flame thrower like he used to be...but a good pitcher vs thrower (Brox). He will ups and downs but a solid SU and occasional some ways he is like HBell who BTW is not doing well.