Nearly at the midway point of August and well on their way to a seventh consecutive National League West title, the Los Angeles Dodgers can soon begin shifting their sights to the postseason.
The club boasts the largest lead of any other division leader in baseball and are the betting favorites to return to the World Series for a third consecutive year.
While a playoff berth is merely a formality at this point, it ensures that the remainder of the regular season will be less stressful for the Dodgers this year. In 2018, the club fought through all of September to force a tie-breaking Game 163 against the Colorado Rockies to determine a division winner.
Even without that kind of drama this time around, the stretch run figures to still be vital for the Dodgers and their World Series hopes. Manager Dave Roberts revealed a couple of goals that he has in mind, which include establishing stability in the bullpen and keeping certain players off their feet.
“I think it’s more of kind of identifying the bullpen and figuring out roles, guys transitioning from starting to the ‘pen,” Roberts explained. “Managing workloads for some of the position players. That’s probably the two things we’re most mindful of.”
Boasting one of the deepest rosters in all of baseball, arguably the Dodgers’ lone weakness this season has been their inconsistent bullpen. Even with the group’s noted struggles, there are many reasons for optimism going forward.
Kenley Jansen’s struggles aside, other key contributors in the Dodgers bullpen have come into their own as of late. After a rough first two months to his 2019 campaign, Joe Kelly has pitched to an excellent 1.66 ERA in 23 appearances since the start of June.
Moreover, Pedro Baez continues to be a steady presence in the backend of the bullpen. Other arms have thrived as well, including midseason acquisition Casey Sadler, who has allowed just one run in 12.1 innings since joining the team in July.
And while the Dodgers didn’t acquire an elite left-handed reliever at the trade deadline like many expected them to, the bullpen figures to naturally improve when current starting pitchers begin transitioning to relief roles.
Once healthy again, Ross Stripling figures to occupy one of the Dodgers’ spots in their postseason bullpen. Other candidates that could join him include a combination of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin.