Los Angeles Dodgers 2012 Season Preview: Relief Pitcher

Kenley Jansen

Kenley Jansen is the epitome of an under-appreciated fireman in the pen, putting out any fire, no matter the size, intensity, or probability for continuation.

Pitching full-time for just about three years, the 24-year-old fireballer fanned an out-of-this-world 16.10 batters per nine innings last season. Yes, he walked a few too many (4.36), but he has plenty of time to improve his control, especially since he’s still learning¬† to be a pitcher.

A 1.74 FIP, 2.06 tERA, 1.59 SIERA, and 1.04 WHIP are just nails, and Kenley handled both righties and lefties with ease (.156/.264/.200/.464 and .163/.269/.194/.463, respectively). His year was even more impressive when you consider two things: he had three atrocious outings that skewed already amazing numbers, and he battled injury and a heart murmur (which reoccurred this Spring but doesn’t appear to be serious).

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Kenley should always be used in the most pressing situation, not in your conventional ninth inning, three-run-lead save situation. Bring him in to face the heart of the opponent’s lineup with the game close regardless of whether it’s the seventh or eighth or ninth. That’s what firemen do: they put out the most dangerous fires.

Oh, and just for kicks, let’s quickly look at his July and September from last year:

July – 10 IP, 6 Baserunners, 17 K/4 BB, 0 HR

September – 13.2 IP, 11 Baserunners, 32 K/3 BB, 0 HR

Just sick.

Javy Guerra

Javy Guerra entered 2011 as just another arm in the Dodgers pool of pitchers. He closed out the campaign as the closer, and with many fans perceiving him to be a better pitcher than he actually is. Guerra is good, but not great, and he’s the closer by virtue of everybody else before him in 2011 being hurt and/or terrible.

Guerra’s minor league career was solid, with a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks. He debuted in May, and proceeded to put up a two-month period featuring a shiny ERA and weak peripherals (2.35 in 15.1 innings, with 9 K, 5 BB, and 22 baserunners allowed). Oddly enough, he posted a .327 BABIP against during this time.

The next three months don’t do much to tell us how dominant Guerra could ever be, as he allowed 36 baserunners in 31.1 innings. He walked 13, allowed two homers, and fanned 29 in this time frame. Again, not atrocious numbers, but nothing to get overly excited about, especially considering his BABIP in this period was .232 against.

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Guerra, at just 26 years old, is definitely a guy I’d like to have in the pen. He has upside, is cheap, and has shown the ability in the minors, and for stretches of time in the bigs, to miss bats. In fact, I want a guy like him to be the closer while the better pitcher – Jansen – is placed in higher leverage situations and asked to get the opponent’s better offensive players out

I just don’t want Guerra, based off of the outdated Saves statistic, to get more credit than Kenley. I’m a simple man with simple desires.

Scott Elbert

Heading into 2011 with the reputation as an injury-prone, command lacking, questionable makeup having potential bust, Scott Elbert ended the year by cementing himself as a fixture in the Dodgers remade pen. Taking over the left-handed reliever role from the also injury-riddled Hong Chih Kuo, Elbert fanned 9.18 per nine innings while issuing 3.78 BB/9 IP, an improvement on his small sample size MLB career and lengthier minor league tenure.

Elbert has always had great stuff and posted big strikeout numbers in the minors, but could never get a footing in The Show. He was only given 26.1 innings in his previous three stints with the big league club to impress in, and certainly didn’t, but the potential was always there if he could harness his stuff and stay healthy.

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With that great promise coming to fruition in ’11, and room to still grow and improve, Scott will be expected to shut down lefties, who only hit a putrid .191/.267/.227/.494 against him last year. Elbert can certainly hold his own against righties (.255/.344/.328/.672 in 2011), but like most southpaws, he’s much, much better against his hitting brethren. Elbert will probably be the only lefty in the pen to start 2012, and with upside and talent, his future in Los Angeles is finally clear.

Ned Colletti’s Motley Crew Of Veteran Goodness

Mike MacDougal is back on a guaranteed (!) one-year deal following a shiny ERA, terrible everything else season. In 57 innings that had other teams frothing at the mouth, Mike whiffed just 6.47 per nine while issuing 4.58 free passes each nine he took the mound.

But hey, he had a 2.02 ERA and was an experienced vet. That totally makes up for the 4.33 tERA, inability to miss bats, and the taking up of a roster spot that would be better served on Josh Lindblom.

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Matt Guerrier … exists. 6.78 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 3.43 FIP, and all.

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Todd Coffey received a guaranteed one-year deal, and coming off of a 3.41 FIP season, he could actually be useful if used against righties only. Coffey was death to right-handers in 2011, allowing just a .193/.250/.255/.505 slash line against while whiffing three times as many as he walked. Of course, conversely, lefties murdered him, mashing to the tune of a .338/.404/.416/.820 line, and they drew nine walks while only going down swinging 11 times.

So yeah. Use him against righties, and never let him try to sprint his guts out to face Carlos Gonzalez or Lance Berkman or even Juan Pierre‘s limp bat, for that matter.

All of that said, would I have signed Coffey? No. But I’m not Ned Colletti.

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Ronald Belisario is back! After he serves a suspension for a drug-related incident, that is. He’ll almost never be able to replicate his BABIP-fueled 2009 where he fanned over 8.0/9 IP, but hey, another bullpen arm could never hurt.

Granted, he’s out of options, so when he does return, someone has to go, and anyone not named MacDougal should not be replaced by Belisario. Heck, not even Coffey, who’s been pretty decent against righties for a long time.

But seriously. Get rid of MacDougal.

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Blake Hawksworth, once he returns from injury, must be on the 25-man roster.

Why? Because his sister is Erin Hawksworth.

Enough said.

About Greg Zakwin

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