2011 Dodgers Positional Review: Relievers

2011 Dodgers Positional Review: Relievers

While the front office and coaching staff believed in veterans to be the glue that would hold the bullpen together, it was a handful of young homegrown products that solidified the back of the Dodgers' relief corps. Reliable cornerstones failed, leaving the new breed to be the cornerstone of cleanup.

From failed catcher to record-setting reliever, Kenley Jansen has made a transition that is hard to believe. The record set by Jansen was highest strikeout rate by a reliever with at least 40 innings pitched in a season. A little specific, but very impressive. Honing his inner Mariano Rivera, Kenley developed a deadly cutter, throwing it 73% of the time. He limited opposing batters to a ridiculously low .158 batting average, nearly .100 points below league average.

One of the other biggest surprises of 2011 was the emergence of Javy Guerra, 2005 draft pick and converted starter. After posting a 1.08 ERA with Chattanooga, he came up and stepped into the closer role with ease. While his walk and strikeout rates weren't elite, he kept the ball down and in the park. He did benefit from a low BABIP and a high left on base percentage, so luck did play a part in his production.

Another pair of rookies came up and provided quality innings for the club. Righty Josh Lindblom only pitched 29.2 innings but was excellent, striking out nearly a batter an inning while not allowing a home run. Lefty Scott Elbert stepped up when Hong Chih Kuo stepped out, holding lefty batters to a .517 OPS. He wasn't as dominant against righties, but they hit just .254 against him. Nathan Eovaldi and Rubby De La Rosa pitched a little in relief to limit their innings. John Ely posted 7 innings with so-so results.

Veterans Matt Guerrier, Vicente Padilla, Mike MacDougal and Blake Hawksworth pitched with mixed results. Guerrier was 4th on the club in reliever WAR. Hawksworth and MacDougal allowed a third of their inherited runners to score. Padilla pitched only 8.2 innings, striking out and walking a lot.

And then there were the disappointments. Lance Cormier, who made the roster for some reason, pitched just 13.innings before getting the boot. Hong Chih Kuo struggled with injuries and anxiety while channeling his inner Steve Blass, posting his worst walk rate since he broke into the bigs way back in 2005. And Jon Broxton, The Bull, was finally ejected from the closer role on the road to posting an ERA north of 5 and walking nearly as many as he struck out in 12.2 innings.

Overall, the old gave way to the new, saving a bullpen that was dwindling. Youngsters Guerra and Jansen established themselves as cornerstones of the back of the pen, while Lindblom and Elbert provided pivotal roles. Who is the next farmhand to come up and make an impact for the big league bullie?

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