Los Angeles Dodgers: Rationalizing the Bums' Bullpen for 2013
Sixteen men made appearances for relief for the Dodgers in 2012. Some of whom (Todd Coffey) were injured early and ineffectual when healthy, others (Brandon League, Randy Choate) began the season with other teams and finished in Dodger blue.
The Dodgers will likely have a closer, a long reliever, and five other relievers on their roster at any one time, but with attrition, there will likely be 11 or 12 men who see substantial playing time (In 2012, 11 men pitched 10 or more relief innings for the Bums).
Of those, it's likely one or two of them will be someone from another team signed on as a free agent, leaving ten spots for men who played for the Dodgers in 2012.
Here are the 10 men in the Dodgers organization, eight with existing contracts and two who should be resigned, who should receive the most consideration for relief appearances.
Who I See Walking; Who I See Starting in the Minors
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Of pitchers who ended the season on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, here are three I see as relegated to Albuquerque (who frankly needs all the relief help they can get) and two I see playing in others' uniforms or maybe not at all.
Coffey’s career in Dodger blue was frankly over before it started. After giving up four earned runs in his first three appearances, he missed two weeks due to injury and posted a 4.50 ERA in May.
After a scoreless June, Coffey got hurt again in July and is facing Tommy John surgery that will leave him sidelined for most of the rest of his contract.
I’m not sure where Todd’s next cup of coffee will come, but it won’t be in Los Angeles.
Ely has a 4-13 career record in the bigs, 5.70 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .813 OPS surrendered.
Though he was 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA in Albuquerque, he gave up six earned runs against just eight big-league outs for the Dodgers in 2012.
It’s looking like another long dose of Albuquerque for Ely.
The 21-year-old lefty was quite solid in his September callup, with six strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings, all but one of which were amassed in appearances of facing three batters or less.
However, I’m still not ready to pencil him in as the Dodgers No. 2 lefty option, since he has pitched a grand total of 26 and one-third innings of baseball in the majors and minors combined.
Wall appeared sparingly for the Dodgers in the second half of this season, spending most of the season as Albuquerque’s closer.
Though he recorded 28 saves and two wins in relief, his ERA was 4.53, only slightly better than his 4.76 ERA on the Senior Circuit.
Wall has been in the minors for eight seasons, and has had an ERA north of 4.00 in the last seven of them
Because of the multitude of righty relievers in the Dodgers, Isotopes’ and Lookouts’ arsenals, somebody’s gotta be let go.
And that somebody is probably going to end up being Jamey Wright (pictured), despite his finishing second among Dodger relievers in innings pitched and serving as the Dodgers' primary long reliever.
This boils mostly down to Wright’s age (38 next season), handedness, and ERA (3.72 on an unremarkable 1.51 WHIP).
I would give Wright an outside shot of another year or two if the Dodgers make no other free agent acquisitions, or if Ely or Fife are forced into the rotation and the Dodgers need another long man.
Honorable Mention: Chad Billingsley, RHP/Long Reliever
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Yes, Billingsley. As things stand now, the Dodgers will have six starters under contract going into 2013, assuming they let Joe Blanton walk. And if Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are actually healthy at the same time (and I know that’s a big if), the presence of Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang will force one of them into the ‘pen
And it may as well be the disappointing Billingsley (3.98 ERA career; 3.97 in 2012), who has 29 relief appearances in his career.
10. Steve Ames, RHP
Ames, who will turn 25 during spring training, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2009, and has been playing with the Dodgers Double-A affiliate in Chattanooga for the past year and a half. Ames led the Lookouts in saves and games finished last season, with ERA and WHIP of 1.56 and 1.03, respectively.
He made the Southern League All-Star squad in 2012. In 140 minor league games in his career, Ames has 1.93 ERA and 55 saves.
Look for him to start out in Albuquerque this season, but make the 40-man roster and get a callup before the year is out.
9. Matt Guerrier, RHP/Right-Handed Specialist
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It came down to Matt Guerrir and another pitcher for the final spot in the top seven.
Though Guerrier had a better ERA over the course of the season than his competitors, he was well north of 4.00 in the appearances he made after four months out due to injury.
His post-injury power numbers were gosh-awful (three homers in seven and third innings), and his metrics against lefties (.316 BA, 1.119 OPS) would limit him to being a right-handed specialist (.074, .373 OPS).
As of right now, I don’t put him in the top seven of Dodger relievers.
8. Randy Choate, LHP/Left-Handed Specialist
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Because Don Mattingly couldn’t really find a place for Choate, some have said dump him. I say sign him on for another year as the team’s number two lefty, offering him a roster spot now and then when a specialist is needed.
Choate amassed 52 holds in the last three seasons. Although his WHIP leaves a little to be desired, you need to look at the fact the he doesn’t give up extra-base hits: he has given up (on average) 1 homer every 18 innings; he only gave up one in his half-season with the Dodgers and three in his season and a half with the Marlins. He also held opponents under a .600 OPS in three of the last four seasons.
And this flew totally under the radar, but Choate made more relief appearances (80) than any other NL pitcher. Also, the Dodgers need an insurance policy against Paco Rodriguez turning into the relief version of John Ely; and the market for lefty relievers is quite weak this year aside of Darren Oliver and Jeremy Affeldt.
7. Stephen Fife, RHP/Long Reliever
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I’m not particularly keen on Fife, who was 0-2 with 2.70 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in five starts (he did not pitch in relief for the Dodgers in 2012).
Fife’s ERA was actually two runs better on the Senior Circuit than it was with the Isotopes (11-7, 4.66 ERA)
Unfortunately, with Billingsley and/or Lilly likely starting the season injured, Nathan Eovaldi being dealt in the Hanley/Choate deal and Rubby de la Rosa being named in the A-Gon/Beckett Trade, the alternative is John Ely.
So, Fife enters the season as the Dodgers likely candidate for long reliever.
6. Shawn Tolleson, RHP
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The 23-year-old Shawn Tolleson just made it over Matt Guerrier for the final right hand relief slot in the top seven. Tolleson has been stellar in the minors, with a career 8-4 record with a 1.35 ERA and 47 saves (he served, in sucession, as the closer for the Ogden Raptors, Great Lakes Loons, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and Chattanooga Lookouts). He also had a sub-1.00 WHIP and hurled for 13.4 strikeouts per nine.
Tolleson was called up in June, and had a rocky season (4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), but it still seems to me that Tolleson has earned a shot at pitching seventh innings in close games or ninth innings in decided ones.
5. Scott Elbert, LHP
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Elbert was the primary lefty reliever for the Dodgers. He posted a 2.20 ERA; his second straight season with a sub-2.50 ERA, and recorded 9 holds and a 0.9 (ESPN) WAR.
Though Elbert is a lefty and will likely continue to be the Dodgers’ primary lefty reliever again this season, he’s not a specialist: in 2012, he actually did better against righties than lefties.
4. Javy Guerra, RHP
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Javy Guerra started the season as the Dodgers' closer, but by May, he had a 5.84 ERA with three blown saves and three defeats. After being pulled as closer, Guerra posted a quite respectable 1.38 ERA in a middle relief role.
Since the Dodgers are on the hook for Guerra for three more years, we can again expect to see him when he returns this season after missing the final few weeks of 2012 with a strained oblique.
3. Kenley Jansen, RHP
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Kenley Jansen spent the middle of the season as the Dodgers’ closer, recording 25 saves on a 2.35 ERA, but a combination of the Brandon League signing and freak heart problems (culminating in the removal of atrial tissue on October 23) led to his demotion.
I think that a setup man or innings-eater role is the best idea for him, since nowadays people are looking for eighth-inning guys who can get 10, 11, 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Jansen got 13.7, and 28 of his 65 innings went one-two-three. There’s definitely a place for Jansen in the Dodgers’ bullpen if he’s healthy.
Kenley Jansen spent the middle of the season as the Dodgers’ closer, but a combination of the Brandon League signing and freak heart problems (culminating in the removal of atrial tissue on October 24)
2. Ronald Belisario, RHP
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If you had to guess who led the Dodgers in relief innings thrown (71.0), wins in relief (8) or holds (23) I doubt you’d guess Ronald Belisario, who the Bums have on the books for at least four more seasons.
After spending 2011 in Venezuela due to cocaine possession, Belisario posted solid numbers in ERA (2.54) and WHIP (1.07). Look for him to be a seventh or eighth inning option for the Dodgers in 2013.
1. Brandon League, RHP/Closer
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League is one of two players with contracts up (Choate is the other) who the Dodgers need to ink on a new contract for 2013. And, with 52 saves (including six with the Dodgers) and an All-Star appearance in the last two seasons, it will be a fat one. Since the All-Star Break, League posted a 2.88 ERA while holding opponents to just a .200 batting average.
I think that the Dodgers got it right with League being the closer after being set up by Belisario or Jansen, and that the Dodgers should shell out the $4.5 million needed to get him for 2013.