Relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez #75 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the MLB game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.
In the month of July the Dodgers bullpen has played a pivotal role in the team's success. One of the biggest jokes on the team used to be, "Who will blow the game this time?" but with their recent performance it has become, "Will any of them even give up a run tonight?"
The last few games have come with slim margins of victory, and the Dodgers owe credit to the bullpen for keeping those games close and for covering games where the starting pitcher may get taken out early. In games on Friday and Saturday the Dodgers won the game in the final inning, with the bullpen throwing 6.2 scoreless innings to keep those games winnable.
It has been 13.1 innings since they last allowed a run, and in the last 36.1 innings they have given up just 20 hits with two earned runs. A fantastic stretch that can be credited to a big shake-up of personnel in the bullpen over the last month.
Of the moves that have bolstered the strength of the pen, the biggest came when Kenley Jansen was assigned the closer role over Brandon League. Jansen is consistently dominant and blows batters away with 23 strikeouts in 15.1 innings since earning his promotion.
Jansen has only pitched in 14 games since June 11th though, partially because the Dodgers went on an offensive tear, consistently winning games by four or more runs.
Other important moves have included recalling young arms, Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez in place of Peter Moylan and Matt Guerrier. While Withrow and Dominguez have not made that many appearances, the rookies have been much more effective than the aging Moyland and Guerrier.
Simply taking innings away from Moyaln, Guerrier and League has made the relief core much more reliable.
Other pitchers had a rough start out of the gate, but now appear to be hitting their stride.
Paco Rodriguez has been lights out since June 7th with 14 scoreless innings in his last 18 appearances, allowing just six hits and two walks to 17 strikeouts. In 18 appearances prior to this he threw 13.2 innings and giving up six walks and seven hits for six runs with 16 strikeouts.
J.P. Howell has not given up a run either since June 25th, that is 10 appearances and 7.2 innings pitched with nine strikeouts.
Perhaps the biggest, most important improvement belongs to Ronald Belisario. He has not given up an earned run in 14 appearances with 12 innings pitched. In the 27 appearances before that he had given up 18 runs in 25.1 innings for a whopping 5.68 ERA. Belisario is the most-used relief pitcher on the team and watching him blow leads everyday to start the season was painful to watch.
After their 3-1 victory against Washington Don Mattingly, via Fox Sports Prime Ticket, had some words of praise, "Everybody's been getting there outs…everybody in the 'pen was really good." Mattingly has been playing around with match ups a lot more lately, and it makes his job easier when the pitchers he brings in actually get the outs they are assigned.
As solid as the bullpen has been in the last month, it has been reported that Ned Colletti still sees it as an area that needs improvement with the trade deadline approaching. And that is not to mention Carlos Marmol, who they acquired from the Chicago Cubs and is working out in the minors right now, or what will happen when Ted Lilly and Stephen Fife return from the stints on the Disabled List.