Despite an inconsistent bullpen that plagued them at times during the first half of the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers still cruised to a Major League-best 60-32 record via contributions from other areas of their talented roster.
Particularly the starting rotation, which is flush with both star power and depth. The Dodgers saw nine pitchers log at least one start for them over the first three-plus months of play — three of which represented the organization in the 2019 MLB All-Star Game (Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu).
While the aforementioned trio stood out most, the backend of the Los Angeles rotation has been further aided by the likes of Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias over various points thus far in 2019.
Rick Honeycutt, in the midst of his 14th season as Dodgers pitching coach, offered high praise for the unit and believes the bullpen is slowly improving with time, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“I think this is probably the deepest staff we’ve ever had. I mean, even with the injuries at the start of the season, we were able to get through it. We started getting Kersh back, had Ryu at the start of the season, then Rich Hill came back, Buehler needed a few starts (to find his rhythm). But when those five got in the regular rotation, Stripling has been a key swingman for us, and Kenta, you look at numbers since [April] 25, it’s really amazing. Starters have done their job.
“Everybody can talk about the ‘pen, but slowly we’ll get better. You get Joe Kelly throwing like he’s been throwing, it’s a huge piece for us. Petey’s been doing his job. Kenley, I think any closer is going to have a (difficult) time or two, but Kenley is still working hard. Got Julio out there. I think we’re seeing signs all the pieces are coming together.”
As Honeycutt points out, the Dodgers were able to overcome a multitude of injuries to their starting rotation at the start of the season by tapping into their depth. Stripling and Urias more than held their own before eventually returning to the bullpen, where they continue thriving in swingman roles.
And while the Dodgers bullpen jumped out to a poor start, the group has slowly progressed with each passing day. Joe Kelly, in particular, looks more like the 2018 postseason version of himself after allowing just one run in all of June.
Pedro Baez has also been a consistent force in the backend of the Dodgers bullpen, while Kenley Jansen, despite sporting the worst ERA of his career, logged 23 saves during the first half.