Entering the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was expected to be a strong point for the club, but they had a rocky start and became a group that provided little confidence.
In the first half of the season, the bullpen ranked 23rd in MLB with a 4.43 ERA and 3.92 FIP across 345.2 innings.
The struggles were caused by a mix of inconsistent performances, including from Alex Vesia, Yency Almonte and Victor Gonzalez, and injuries that forced the club to rely on relievers who are no longer with the organization, such as Justin Bruihl, Phil Bickford and Andre Jackson.
But since the All-Star break, the Dodgers’ bullpen has pitched like an entirely different unit, leading MLB with a 2.25 ERA.
“They’ve really found themselves and they’re available whenever needed,” manager Dave Roberts said. “They fill up the strike zone, there’s swing and miss when there needs to be, and there’s not a lot of walk in there. The second half, I think we’ve been as good as anybody in baseball.”
Getting healthy has been key for the group, but they have also added Ryan Brasier, Joe Kelly and Ryan Yarbrough to the staff while Vesia has figured out his struggles.
Among their now-healthy pitchers is Shelby Miller, who has thrown nine scoreless innings with one walk since being activated off the 15-day injured list in late August.
“I think we’re just all kind of feeding off of each other,” Miller said. “We’re going out there and putting up zeros and getting ahead of hitters as a group. It starts with the starters going out there and doing what they’re capable of and us down in the ‘pen fully believing in ourselves and what we can do.
“I think it’s just a recipe of feeding off of each other, having fun, and trying to get our job done the best we can.”
Brasier has been the biggest surprise and has helped solidify the bullpen since coming over from the Boston Red Sox. At the time of being designated for assignment, the veteran held a 7.29 ERA in 20 games. With the Dodgers, he’s pitched to a 0.74 ERA in 37 games.
Roberts previously credited Brasier for the impact he has made on the Dodgers bullpen.
As for Vesia turning his season around, he posted a 6.75 ERA in the first half in 26 games, which caused him to be sent to down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. In the second half of 2023, he has returned to form with a 2.73 ERA in 28 games.
The group will be important in the postseason with the Dodgers’ rotation still somewhat of a question mark and the team expected to have at least two piggyback games if they advance to the National League Championship Series.
Brusdar Graterol stepping up for Dodgers bullpen
Brusdar Graterol has also played a key role for the bullpen, posting a 1.24 ERA in 65.1 innings. He is in the midst of 22 consecutive scoreless innings, which is a season-high for any Dodgers pitcher.
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