Propelled by one of the sport’s most talented starting rotations and a lineup that features plenty of star power and depth, the Los Angeles Dodgers have cruised to a Major League-best 55-26 record with just 11 games remaining in the first half.
The club’s fast start has given them plenty of breathing room in the National League West standings, where they currently hold a commanding 13-game lead over the second-place Colorado Rockies — the largest of many division leader in MLB.
While the Dodgers have thrived in many areas this season, one glaring weakness that continues to plague the club has been their inconsistent bullpen. For perspective, 15 of their 26 losses to this point have been charged to a relief pitcher.
Kenley Jansen, who has had his share of struggles this season, believes the criticism directed towards the Dodgers bullpen has been warranted. However, he is taking it as a positive and is using it as further motivation to improve from a personal standpoint, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“Trust me, I’ve been hearing when people are criticizing. To me, it’s just motivation. I hope all my guys feel the same way I feel. When people say you don’t have it anymore, that’s motivation to push me and keep getting better. We’ve just got to continue to keep battling. … I don’t say (criticism) is overreacting, but it’s fair. When every part of the team is going great and one part is not clicking yet, it’s fair to kind of criticize it. But I take it as a positive. It’s going to keep me pushing to get better.”
The Dodgers’ relief corps is currently tied for 13th in FanGraphs’ WAR (1.5), but the unit has noticeably struggled in other areas. Los Angeles’ bullpen has compiled a 4.23 ERA (T-19th) while posting the third-worst left-on-base percentage (67.5%), besting only the Baltimore Orioles (66.8%) and Washington Nationals (63.8%).
Moreover, the Dodgers have blown a whopping 13 saves this season — the ninth-most in all of baseball.
To little surprise, the Dodgers’ bullpen has garnered plenty of criticism for their performance thus far. Manager Dave Roberts recently acknowledged that it is fair to question whether the group as currently constructed could find success in the postseason.
As for Jansen himself, he is currently sporting a career-high 3.21 ERA in 33 appearances thus far. He is 3-2 with a 3.24 FIP, 0.92 WHIP and 23 saves over 33.2 innings pitched.
With the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, it would be a surprise if the Dodgers don’t address their struggling bullpen one way or another. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman recently indicated he would be aggressive, but not reckless, when pursuing upgrades.