2011 Dodgers Exit Interviews: The Bullpen

Kenley Jansen was the best relief pitcher in baseball after the All-Star break.

The Dodgers bullpen in 2011 had a lot of turnover and numerous injuries, but thanks to an infusion of young talent became a strength by the end of the season. The Dodgers' bullpen ERA of 3.92 ranked 14th in the National League, but it was just 3.50 after the All-Star break. Dodgers relievers struck out 8.6 batters per nine, third in MLB behind the Chicago White Sox (9.8) and Atlanta Braves (9.2). However, after the All-Star break Dodgers bullpeners struck out an MLB-best 10.0 batters per nine innings.

The trio of Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, and Josh Lindblom, all of whom began their seasons in the minor leagues, combined for a 2.46 ERA in the major league bullpen, to go with 100 strikeouts in 110 innings.

Here is a look at the 12 primary members of the Dodgers bullpen in 2011, with the caveat that Rubby De La Rosa, Nathan Eovaldi, and John Ely all pitched in relief at some point in 2011 but their exit interviews were with the starting pitchers.

Kenley Jansen

What went right: Once a light-hitting catcher, and in just his second full year of pitching in 2011, Jansen set the all-time major league single-season record with 16.10 strikeouts per nine innings. Jansen overcame early season struggles to become the best relief pitcher in baseball in the second half. Jansen allowed two runs in his last 31 appearances, and after the All-Star break had six walks and 48 strikeouts in just 23 innings.

Jansen had two or more strikeouts in two-thirds of his appearances in 2011, 34 of 51 games. Carlos Marmol also had 34 such appearances, but he appeared in 75 games this season. Craig Kimbrel was the only relief pitcher in baseball with more games with two or more strikeouts, with 47. Kimbrel appeared in 79 games.

What went wrong: Jansen struggled earlier in the season, really his first setback of any kind on the mound, with games of three, four, and five runs allowed in the first two months of the year. However, that 6.43 ERA when he hit the disabled list on May 28 ended up at 2.85 at season's end. Jansen walked 14 in his first 21 innings of the year, and just 12 more in his final 33 innings of the year.

Jansen did miss nearly a month in July and August with cardiac arrhythmia, a condition which required Jansen to go on blood thinners.

2012 status: Jansen will begin the year either as the closer or the smoke jumper, but either way will be pitching meaningful innings. Jansen has one year, 73 days of service time, and two options remaining.

 

Javy Guerra

Javy-guerra-getty_medium

What went right: The 25-year old Guerra began the year with Double A Chattanooga, but found his way to Los Angeles by the middle of May. By July he was the full-time closer and rattled off 10 saves before blowing his first. Nine of his 21 saves protected a one-run lead, and in two other saves he entered with the tying run either on base or at the plate.

What went wrong: Not much went wrong for Guerra in his rookie season, as he was 21 for 23 in save opportunities. He may have tired a bit late, as he went his first 35 appearances without allowing a home run, then allowed two home runs in September, including a walk-off grand slam on the final pitch of the season for Guerra on September 27. Guerra walked nine batters in his first 34 innings, then walked nine in his final 13 innings of the season.

2012 status: Guerra will likely open spring training as the closer. He has 137 days of service time, and one option remaining.

Matt Guerrier

What went right: Guerrier was durable, and pitched in 70 games in 2011, his fifth year in a row pitching in at least than many contests, the longest such streak in the major leagues. He also posted his highest strikeout rate (6.8 per nine innings) since 2008. Guerrier also became the first major league player ever with exactly one save in six straight seasons.

What went wrong: Guerrier also had his highest walk rate (3.4 per nine innings) since 2008, and among the 15 Dodgers to pitch in relief this season Guerrier ranked eighth in ERA (4.07), eighth in FIP (3.43), and 12th in xFIP (4.30). Guerrier wasn't necessarily bad, just not someone worth paying a lot of money. Which brings us to...

2012 status: Guerrier will make $4.75 million in the second year of a three-year, $12 million contract.

 

Mike MacDougal

Mike-macdougal-getty_medium

What went right: MacDougal struck out 20 and walked just 10 batters in 28 innings at Dodger Stadium. On the season, MacDougal inherited 51 baserunners, sixth most in the National League. He allowed 17 to score, at 33.3% slightly below the NL average of 30.0%, but MacDougal did allow just two of 13 inherited runners to score over the final two months of the season.

What went wrong: MacDougal allowed opposing hitters to post a .352 on-base percentage, thanks in part to his 29 walks in 57 innings. He walked 19 and struck out 21 in 29 innings on the road, but somehow put up a 1.53 ERA.

2012 status: MacDougal, who turns 35 in March, is a free agent.

 

Blake Hawksworth

What went right: In his third big league season, Hawksworth set career bests in strikeout rate (7.3 per nine frames) and walk rate (2.9), and pitched in a career-high 49 games.

What went wrong: Hawksworth allowed runs in five consecutive appearances from August 20 to September 4.

2012 status: Hawksworth has one year of team control left before arbitration eligibility, and is out of options. Expect him to have a seat in the bullpen to start the year, at the very least.

 

Scott Elbert

Scott-elbert-getty_medium

What went right: Elbert took advantage of his opportunities in 2011, grabbing hold of a bullpen spot in early May and never letting go. Elbert struck out 34 batters in 33 innings, and allowed left-handed batters to hit just .191/.267/.250. Despite his reputation and history of wildness, Elbert issued just 10 unintentional walks in 33 innings.

What went wrong: Elbert walked five batters in his final four innings of the season, including each of his last two batters faced.

2012 status: Elbert has one year, 69 days of service time. He is out of options, and figures to have a spot in the bullpen with his name on it. 

 

Josh Lindblom

What went right: After a failed conversion to starter in the minor leagues, Lindblom was back in the bullpen full-time in 2011, starting the year in Double A. Lindblom struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings with Chattanooga, and struck out 8.5 batters per nine in nearly 30 innings in Los Angeles, in three separate stints with the Dodgers. He finished his season with 22 strikeouts against just five walks in 17 innings over the final two months.

What went wrong: Lindblom struck out in his only major league plate appearance, on September 8 in Washington D.C. against the strikeout-averse Chien-Ming Wang.

2012 status: Lindblom figures to be a part of the bullpen in 2012, aiming for a bigger role than in 2011. He has 76 days of service time and two options remaining.

 

Hong-Chih Kuo

Hong-chih-kuo-don-mattingly-getty_medium

What went right: Kuo set a career high (ignoring the 16 outs he recorded in 2005) with a rate of 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

What went wrong: Unfortunately for Kuo, just about everything else was bad news in 2011. He missed a month and a half with the yips, technically termed an anxiety disorder. One year after setting a Dodgers franchise record with a 1.20 ERA, Kuo's ERA was an even 9.00 in 2011.

Kuo walked 18 batters in 60 innings in 2010, but walked 23 in just 27 innings in 2011.

2012 status: Kuo is arbitration-eligible this offseason. He is an obvious non-tender candidate, as the Dodgers won't want to pay anywhere close to the $2.725 million he made in 2011, if not more.

 

Jonathan Broxton

What went right: He retired the side in order on both April 1 against the San Francisco Giants and May 2 against the Chicago Cubs, his two clean outings this season.

What went wrong: Broxton allowed 10 runs and 24 baserunners in just under 13 innings, including two home runs. He didn't throw a pitch for the Dodgers after May 3, sidelined with a bone bruise in his right elbow that eventually required surgery in September.

2012 status: Broxton is a free agent after making $7 million in 2011. He has expressed interest in returning to the Dodgers, though it doesn't make much sense unless it's a low-salary one-year deal with plenty of incentives.

 

Vicente Padilla

What went right: Padilla took over for Broxton as closer and converted all three of his save opportunities.

What went wrong: Padilla signed a one-year, $2 million deal in 2011 with up to $9 million in incentives based on whether he started or pitched in relief. Unfortunately, Padilla didn't have any bonuses built in for number of surgeries. Padilla underwent forearm surgery in late February and missed the first 20 games of the season. Then, after just nine innings, Padilla was sidelined again with nerve irritation in that same forearm. Before he was going to be activated, Padilla experienced neck problems similar to the bulging disc he experienced in 2010. Padilla ultimately had neck surgery in mid June, ending his season.

2012 status: Padilla is a free agent.

 

Ramon Troncoso

Ramon-troncoso-getty_medium

What went right: At least Troncoso didn't pitch 14 games in a 20-day stretch like he did in April 2010. Troncoso had only three unintentional walks in just under 23 innings.

What went wrong: Twelve of the first 17 batters Troncoso faced in 2011 reached base via hit. Troncoso allowed 38 hits in just under 23 innings, including six doubles and five home runs.

2012 status: Troncoso is out of options, but you have to wonder if anybody really cares.

 

Lance Cormier

What went right: When Cormier was cut, on May 24, the corresponding roster move was purchasing the contract of Rubby De La Rosa from Double A Chattanooga.

What went wrong: Cormier pitched in nine games, and gave up four home runs, 17 runs, and 27 baserunners in just under 14 innings.

2011 departure: Cormier was designated for assignment on May 24.

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