As we edge closer to major league players donning major league uniforms, much of the focus on the Dodgers will be the various roster changes from 2014 to 2015. While the thrust of the changes revolve around the transition from Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and friends to Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal, et al, the Dodgers have also upgraded their bullpen as well.
There appears to be a method to the madness.
The three main additions to the 2015 bullpen came in three different trades. Joel Peralta came from the Rays, Chris Hatcher from the Marlins, and Juan Nicasio from the Rockies. All three pitchers tentatively have a spot in the major league bullpen in 2015, especially since the latter two are out of options.
The Dodgers also in the Peralta trade picked up Adam Liberatore, another potential southpaw out of the bullpen on the 40-man roster.
In 2014, Dodgers relief pitchers walked 206 batters, third-most in baseball, with a 9.9-percent walk rate that ranked fourth highest among 30 MLB teams. That contributed to the Dodgers bullpen ranking 22nd in ERA (3.80), 20th in FIP (3.64), 20th in xFIP (3.68) and 21st in SIERA (3.41).
The major league walk rate for relievers in 2014 was 8.64 percent. Peralta (5.7 percent), Hatcher (5.2 percent) and Nicasio (6.3 percent in relief) were all better than average last year in walk rate.
There were 17 different pitchers to throw a pitch in relief for the Dodgers in 2014, including Drew Butera. a Eight are gone — Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright, Chris Perez, Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Jose Dominguez, Scott Elbert and Butera.
Those eight pitchers accounted for four of the top six walk rates in the bullpen, and six of the top 10. They combined in relief in 2014 for a 10.47-percent walk rate and an 18.92-percent strikeout rate.
Using 2014 relief numbers only, the remaining nine pitchers plus Hatcher, Peralta and Nicasio combined for an 8.11-percent walk rate and a 25.44-percent strikeout rate. It seems unlikely now, but if the club ends up trading Brandon League (9.9% BB, 13.9% K) as rumored earlier in the winter, the numbers improve to 7.77 percent and 27.62 percent, respectively.
The moves themselves might not be done, with the club also linked to late-inning relief options in late January.
"It's against my nature to ever feel comfortable with the bullpen in the offseason," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in December. "It's so difficult to predict year to year."
But even with no more additions, look for fewer free passes, and more success, from the Dodgers bullpen in 2015.