As Dodgers' continue their bid for their fourth consecutive NL West title, this past Monday night, Kenley Jansen became the franchise leader in saves when he nailed down a win against the Nationals.
Jansen has been almost perfect as the team's closer this season.
The Dodgers have the second best bullpen in the NL. Although many baseball people worry about how many innings the relievers have pitched, they have appeared in the 10th most in the league. The bullpen deserves more rest than it has received, but with the problems in the starting rotation, manager Dave Roberts has done a good job spreading out the workload among the relievers.
Since the middle of the 2010 season, Jansen has been an integral part of the Dodgers' bullpen. The converted catcher has used his cutter, comparable to Mariano Rivera's, to baffle the opposition. Without much fanfare, Jansen has become one of the elite closers in the game. Soft-spoken and a gentle giant, Jansen has been one of the primary reasons that the Dodgers have been to the playoffs the past three seasons.
Entering his free-agent offseason, Jansen hopes to perform well in the second half of the season. If the Dodgers' starting rotation improves and pitches longer into games, it will lessen the burden on all relievers, including Jansen.
Even before Spring Training began, many baseball-knowledgeable people had concerns about the Dodgers' starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw has performed like Clayton Kershaw, probably enroute to his fourth NL Cy Young Award. However, the rest of the rotation hasn't performed as well as the Dodgers hoped. Losing Brett Anderson to back surgery during Spring Training was a devastating blow. Although the Dodgers expect Anderson to return this season, no one has announced a timetable.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has suffered many setbacks as he recovers from shoulder surgery that made him miss the entire 2015 season. In his rehabilitation starts, Ryu has done well, but his velocity hasn't returned yet.
The Dodgers also expect Brandon McCarthy back at some point this season. He missed almost all of the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery. However, he has also had some setbacks.
Just when Alex Wood began pitching well, he came down with a sore elbow. This has made the Dodgers use 19-year-old Julio Urias more than they wanted as they attempt to protect his valuable left arm. Mike Bolsinger's performance since coming off the disabled list with an oblique strain displeased the Dodgers, so this past Sunday they optioned him to Triple-A. Sometime soon, Carlos Frias will start.
Neither Scott Kazmir nor Kenta Maeda has had enough endurance to go more than five innings consistently. Both usually give the Dodgers quality in their first few innings, and then they tire quickly and become ineffective. Since the Dodgers have the fourth-best pitching in the league, most people won't think the Dodgers have serious pitching problems, but they do. If they didn't have the second-best fielding percentage in the NL, their pitching shortcomings would be more obvious.
As the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, the Dodgers' front office must decide whether they want to prepare for next season by stockpiling young players, especially pitchers, or if they want to acquire quality starters and a hitter to go after another playoff appearance.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.