Chris Hatcher was one of the key pieces in return from Miami for Dee Gordon in December 2014, and while the right-hander had an up-and-down first season in Los Angeles he proved to be the effective setup man the Dodgers needed down the stretch.
What went right
Hatcher began his Dodgers career with a save on opening day, pitching a perfect inning against the Padres with one strikeout, looking every bit like someone who would fill in nicely for the first six weeks or so while closer Kenley Jansen recovered from foot surgery.
The right-hander struck out 15 of 38 batters faced in April (39.5 percent), while walking only three.
After returning from the disabled list in August, Hatcher was lights out down the stretch, helping to stabilize the bullpen and fortify the bridge to Jansen in the back end. Hatcher appeared in 22 of the final 46 games of the season and put up a 1.31 ERA with 26 strikeouts and six walks in 20⅔ innings
Part of his late success had to do with a better mix of pitches, further utilizing his splitter, slider, sinker and cutter. Hatcher through the end of June threw his four-seam fastball 62.9 percent of the time, but after he came back from the DL that fastball usage went down to 50.35 percent, per Brooks Baseball.
Hatcher also pitched 3⅔ scoreless, hitless innings in the National League Division Series against the Mets, retiring 11 of his 12 batters faced, including five strikeouts.
What went wrong
After that opening day save, Hatcher allowed four runs (two earned) in his second appearance and three runs in his third appearance. Given the small sample size of reliever innings in a given season, that basically ensured every time he entered a game going forward his ERA on the scoreboard was not going to be pretty.
Despite those strong peripheral numbers mentioned above in April, he still put up a 7.56 ERA in the season's first month. In May he wasn't much better with a 6.14 ERA, but more worrisome was striking out only two of his 37 batters faced for the month.
"I feel like every ball put in play is a hit off me, recently," Hatcher said at the end of May. "A couple of those were poor pitches. But what's frustrating is when you execute your pitch and somehow the ball still finds the ground or the guy ends up on first.
"When you're going out there and letting the team down every time, it's a big knock to your own confidence. You have 24 other guys depending on you."
A few weeks into June, Hatcher was placed on the disabled list with a left oblique strain, an injury that would sideline him for 52 games.
Stats: 3.69 ERA, 3.39 FIP in 49 games; 4 saves, 45 K, 13 BB in 39 IP, 0.0 rWAR, 0.4 fWAR
Game of the year
The symbolic game of Hatcher's turnaround, especially in terms of fan support, was Aug. 31 against the Giants, the first game of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium against the Giants, who entered the series 3½ games back of Los Angeles.
Hatcher pitched three scoreless frames, keeping the game tied from the 12th through the 14th inning, and even got to bat (Hatcher fouled out). The Dodgers rallied for a run in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving Hatcher the win in a series Los Angeles would sweep, putting the division to bed.
With two years, 146 days of service time, Hatcher is eligible for salary arbitration as a Super Two player, among the top 22 percent in service time among those with at least two years but not yet three years. Hatcher is out of options, having used them in 2011, 2012 and 2013.