When the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Joe Kelly before the 2019 season, they knew they were getting a relief pitcher with great stuff at the cost of a lot of walks.
Kelly has walked 3.7 batters per nine innings in his career. Last season, he walked seven hitters in his 10 innings pitched, which gave him a career-worst 6.3 walks per nine.
This season, Kelly is using his strike-throwing, mustache-growing alter ego known as “Joseph.” So far, the result is “Joseph” has cut his walks per nine to 2.2 in 16.2 innings and has turned into an elite reliever.
“Joe came up with it himself,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s his alter ego and a strike-throwing person. I joke with him all the time about it. I like Joseph.”
Roberts first noticed that Kelly could be more effective this season against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 20 when he was credited with a blown save after allowing two runs.
“Ironically enough, I think it was the outing he came in and gave up a homer on the breaking ball to right-center field,” Roberts said.
“He was still throwing strikes, and I think his next one he gave up another homer on a breaking ball. From that point on, the strike-throwing, the command of all three pitches has been really good.”
Since that game, Kelly has thrown 12.1 innings with a 1.46 ERA and 15 strikeouts while only allowing two runs and four walks. In June alone, Kelly holds a 0.93 ERA in 9.2 innings and is becoming more creative as he feels “frisky.”
His ERA still sits at 4.32 this season, mostly because of some early-season struggles. In his first appearance on May 7, he allowed four runs against the Angels.
Kelly effectively wild
Joe Kelly has made of a career out of being effectively wild because of his great stuff.
“There’s certainly something to that,” Roberts said. “I think when you’re a right-handed hitter in the box and he can throw a ball to the backstop and locate a fastball down and away, being uncomfortable isn’t good when a guy is throwing 99 mph. Certainly advantage pitcher.”
However, that has made him inconsistent. Sometimes, he looks unhittable, like seen during the 2018 postseason. Other times, when hitters don’t chase and Kelly can’t find the zone, he goes on some tough stretches.
If “Joseph” continues throwing strikes consistently, the Dodgers will see more of the unhittable version of Joe Kelly.
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