Bullpen games became a major storyline during the 2021 season, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and several other teams using them at least a handful of times as they continued to emerge as a growing trend in the sport.
What was unique for the Dodgers and some others that used bullpen games throughout the year was their stature as being postseason teams.
The use of bullpen games has created a debate about how effective they are, and even if it is ruining baseball. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts himself has admitted to coming around to the strategy over the past couple years.
For Clayton Kershaw, he isn’t against bullpen games, but does want to see more of an emphasis placed on the starting pitchers matchup when two elite arms face each other, per Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times:
“There’s a definite — I don’t want to say ‘disconnect,’ ” Kershaw said, between “fans and the entertainment side of it, and then based on what is actually working.” … I’m not one of these old-school tradition guys where ‘Oh, the game was so much better.’ No, the game is great right now. But I do agree that, if you have the Max Scherzer vs. somebody or the Walker Buehler vs. somebody, the Max Fried, the Charlie Morton, I get excited about that, as a guy watching the game. If we could figure out a way to put more emphasis on that, I think it would be great.”
One way MLB could help put a focus on starting pitchers is by tying the designated hitter to the starter, which is something that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is in favor of.
The rule would give teams in both leagues the DH as long as the team’s starting pitcher remains in the game. Once the starter comes out, the team no longer has the DH.
Any new rule involving the DH could be added as part of the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as negotiations for a new deal aren’t yet finalized and the MLB lockout continues.
Another way to increase the focus on stating pitchers would be to limit their use out of the bullpen.
The Dodgers used Max Scherzer and Julio Urias as relief pitchers during their playoff run, and ended up limiting both starters down the line.
However, it would be hard for MLB to put restrictions on that, so it would have to come from an organizational philosophy to avoid doing it.
Will Dodgers re-sign Kershaw?
Prior to the MLB lockout beginning in December, the Dodgers signed Andrew Heaney and Daniel Hudson, and retained Chris Taylor. Kershaw remained among the team’s notable free agents.
In addition to L.A., the Texas Rangers are believed to have interest in signing the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Kershaw is widely expected to decide between remaining with the Dodgers or joining the Rangers once free agency resumes.
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