Although the lack of consistency from their bullpen again proved to be the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Achilles heel, the group did provide a few bright moments.
One reliever who largely ended the season on a high note was Chris Hatcher. After converting a save opportunity on Opening Day, duplicating that success was difficult for the 30 year old.
Amid his struggles, Hatcher was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain in June. He returned roughly two months later and was largely a different pitcher.
Hatcher established himself as the hard-throwing setup man the Dodgers expected him to be when they completed a seven-player trade with the Miami Marlins last December.
However, while Hatcher was much better in the second half of the season, he doesn’t view that as reason to celebrate, per Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider:
“I wouldn’t really call it success,” Hatcher said. “I would call it doing my job. Obviously, I didn’t do it several times this year, (though) I did it more so than not. You look at great teams in the big leagues, they have a great closer, they have a great setup guy and they have a great starting pitching. Most of them have pretty darn good middle relief. I look at it as we had elite starters, we had an elite closer, we had a decent middle relief corps but times when we struggled getting the ball to Kenley (Jansen). So, I don’t look at it as successful, because there were a couple of games that I blew, and I cost us games.”
Hatcher attributed his second-half improvement, particularly late in the season, to a change in mindset:
“I think early on in the year, I sat there and overanalyzed what I was doing,” he said. “But at the end of the year, it was more, ‘Give me that ball. I’ll move on. If I give up one, give it to me tomorrow.’”
Over 27 first-half relief appearances, Hatcher posted a 6.38 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and averaged just a 2.71 strikeouts to walk ratio. He improved to the tune of a 1.31 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 4.33 strikeouts per walk.
Hatcher’s success led to former manager Don Mattingly anointing him as one of the club’s late-inning options, along with Luis Avilan.
Hatcher rode that momentum into the postseason where he tossed 3.2 hitless innings over four relief appearances in the National League Division Series against the New York Mets.