The Dodgers bullpen continued to get a workout in Friday’s series opener against the Marlins, and is approaching franchise records for usage while still managing to maintain effectiveness and for the most part spreading the workload around.
Seven relief pitchers were used by the Dodgers on Friday, just as seven were used on Wednesday in the homestand finale against the Diamondbacks. On the season, Dodgers pitchers have 515 appearances in relief, the most in baseball.
Those 515 appearances match the team’s total in 2015, which is the second-most in franchise history, behind only the 526 relief appearances used in 2009. There are still 22 games remaining, but this is a franchise mark that should fall at some point in New York, if not sooner.
Those other two Dodgers teams, coincidentally, won the division.
With five relief innings on Friday, the Dodgers bullpen has thrown 501 innings this season, one more than the Cincinnati Reds for most in baseball. This is the sixth Dodgers team to pitch 500 innings in relief, all coming this century. The most bullpen innings came again from the 2009 club, with 553.
This year’s club is on pace for roughly 580 innings, which would shatter the record. That 2009 bullpen also saw its innings totals inflated by 45⅓ innings in extra innings, compared to just 28⅓ so far this year.
Any way you slice it, this bullpen will be the most used in Dodgers history.
And for the most part, the relief core has done quite well. They are third in the majors in ERA (3.34), third in FIP (3.58), tied for first in strikeouts (520), and are fifth in strikeout rate (25.3%).
Those 520 strikeouts are the most by any Dodgers bullpen in history, three more than last year’s team. Again, there are 22 games left in the regular season.
Joe Blanton has worked the most among Dodgers relievers, with 67 appearances and 72⅔ innings to date, third in the majors in relief innings in 2016.
The last Dodger with 80 innings in relief was Ramon Troncoso in 2009. Blanton, the longtime starter in his second year in relief, is on pace for 84 innings this season, which would be the most by a Dodger since Guillermo Mota tossed 105 innings in 2003.
Blanton, Pedro Baez (64 games), and Jansen (63) are all on pace for 70+ games, something not done by any single Dodgers reliever since the trio of Ronald Belisario (77), Paco Rodriguez (76) and Jansen (75) in 2013.
But the Dodgers have still been judicious with their bullpen usage. Jansen, for instance, has pitched three straight days only three times this season.
Part of the heavy bullpen usage has been by design, with the club carrying eight relievers for roughly three quarters of the season, and sometimes nine in between roster moves.
Dodgers starters have the fewest batters faced the third time through the order in baseball, a split that sees major league batters hit .271/.334/.459, compared to .257/.319/.421 the first two times through.
Subsequently, Dodgers starters despite their relative struggles missing Clayton Kershaw for 62 games still rank third in baseball in OPS allowed, with opposing batters hitting .242/.304/.388 against.
With the extra arms in the bullpen the Dodgers have been able to spread out the work. The Dodgers have had six different pitchers appear in 50 games this season, with J.P. Howell, Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore joining the aforementioned trio. That is the most such pitchers on one team in franchise history.
Now, with rosters expanded in September, the club has 19 pitchers on the active roster, with room to spread the workload a little more if needed, which could give the workhorses in the back end a little extra rest down the stretch.
Dodgers (79-61) at Marlins (70-71)
Time: 4:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA