Clayton Kershaw And Kenley Jansen Are Elite, But Dodgers Will Miss Postseason Without Improved Pitching Staff
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

PAGES: 1 | 2

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the Freeway Series finale was a microcosm of the 2016 season so far. Ross Stripling struggled with a lead in the fifth inning, which prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to call on Chris Hatcher for his 19th appearance.

Joe Blanton is tied with Hatcher for the team lead in games pitched this season. Hatcher inherited a bases-loaded jam, gave up a two-run single and the lead was lost. Hatcher then allowed a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth, and the game was essentially over.

The Dodgers have two outstanding pitchers on their staff, one starter and one backend reliever. Every year the doubters wait for Clayton Kershaw to return to Earth, but he continues to astound. Still only 28 years old, Kershaw is off to another outstanding start this year when the Dodgers have needed him most.

He’s 6-1 with a 1.67 ERA, 1.36 FIP and 0.70 WHIP through nine starts. What’s more, he has 88 strikeouts to just four walks over 70 innings pitched. Although it may not have seemed possible, Kershaw is off to one of the strongest starts in his career.

The Dodgers’ bullpen equivalent of Kershaw is closer Kenley Jansen. He owns a 0.55 ERA and 0.49 WHIP to go with 13 saves. Jansen has more than made a successful transition from catcher to reliever to dominant closer.

The only true concern with Jansen, one that is somewhat out of his control, is he has suffered from an irregular heart beat in recent seasons, which has required medical attention. While the Dodgers boast quite the bookend combination of Kershaw an Jansen, the talent level on the pitching staff falls off a cliff after those two.

If the Dodgers do not make the postseason, it won’t take an analytics expert to figure out why. The front office will have to answer for the shaky pitching staff that was assembled, which even the most casual Dodgers fans knew was a big question mark going into the season.

That was particularly evident in the bullpen. While Hatcher has emerged as the team’s workhorse, his role has changed since the season began, and there isn’t much success to speak of. The right-hander sports a 6.35 ERA and 1.88 WHIP, which is far from acceptable for a team with World Series aspirations.

Hatcher, 31, was originally selected as a catcher by the then-Florida Marlins in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft. He had a short stint in the Majors for the Marlins as a catcher in 2010 before switching to pitcher.

Hatcher began last season as the Dodgers’ de facto closer with Jansen still recovering from foot surgery, but struggled in the role. He managed to rebound in the second half after a lengthy stint on the disabled list, finishing the season with a 3.69 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.23 WHIP and 45 strikeouts to 13 walks in 49 games (39 innings pitched).

CONTINUE READING: Limited options in bullpen, starting rotation far from exempt