During Ned Colletti’s tenure as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a hallmark of the franchise was lavish spending on relief pitchers. A year ago, their Opening Day bullpen combined to make $33 million, by far the most of any team in baseball. To pitch in front of All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, Colletti shelled out big money to sign former All-Star closers Brian Wilson and Brandon League; even his idea of a bargain signing was signing injured former All-Star closer Chris Perez and hoping he returned to his prior form.
Colletti valued experience and track record, going after guys who were on the downsides of their careers, but had been effective ninth inning guys in the past. Unfortunately for him and the Dodgers, he routinely overestimated the shelf life of a relief pitcher, and ended up with expensive, ineffective setup guys incapable of getting the ball to Kenley Jansen with a lead. Last year, those three combined to give the Dodgers 158 mediocre innings, posting a 3.71 ERA and a miserable 4.17 FIP; they also combined to make $20 million between them, a total higher than 25 other MLB teams spent on their relief corps.
Last winter, the Dodgers replaced Colletti with Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, poaching two analytically-inclined executives from the Rays and A’s respectively. Those two franchises have spent years building bullpens on the cheap, and not surprisingly, the Dodgers 2015 bullpen looks a lot different than their 2014 bullpen.
Gone is Brian Wilson, released despite the fact that he exercised his $9 million player option for the 2015 season; the new-look Dodgers decided they’d rather pay him that money to sit at home rather than let him take the mound. League is on the disabled list with a shoulder problem and won’t be joining the team any time soon. Perez signed a minor league deal with the Brewers this winter, and currently has a 9.00 ERA in Triple-A. Even Kenley Jansen, the team’s one actual good reliever from a year ago, has yet to throw an inning for the team in the regular season, as he had surgery to remove a growth from his foot during spring training.
From four closers to no closers in a year’s time, the Dodgers bullpen couldn’t possibly be any different than it was a year ago. And despite their lack of anything resembling a proven ninth-inning workhorse, LA’s bullpen has been nothing short of amazing so far.
The current group, listed with their 2015 walk, strikeout, and groundball rates, are included in the table below.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.