Phil Spector, the infamous music producer turned convicted murder, penned the classic and often-quoted, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” in 1958.

Though the hit song – made famous by artists like The Teddy Bears and Nancy Sinatra – was intended for a pop audience, few believe the “him” could apply to the Dodgers’ bullpen.

If Phil Spector re-wrote the song from his prison cell today, he might say that to know the Dodgers’ bullpen is to love, dread and fear them.

He might be right. Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Jim Johnson, Joel Peralta. Need I say more?

Don Mattingly, J.P. Howell and Justin Turner - Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire
Don Mattingly, J.P. Howell and Justin Turner – Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

It’s no surprise the Dodgers’ bullpen has struggled since the All-Star Break. Through Aug. 27, according to MLB.com, the pen ranks 23rd in the league with a 4.16 ERA. The same pen is 20th in the league with a WHIP of 1.31. And, just to pile it on, opposing hitters are batting an incredibly high .249 against the bullpen.

 

Put simply, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been horrible of late. It’s impossible to not yell at Manager Don Mattingly when he brings in the wrong reliever at the wrong time. It’s even more difficult to imagine a 2015 postseason without Dodger relievers blowing games night after night, a recurring nightmare of last year’s postseason series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Something has to change.

After this week’s sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, there is hope that the pitching staff can turn it around before the team embarks on its projected postseason run.

Clayton Kershaw - Warren Wimmer/Icon Sportswire
Clayton Kershaw – Warren Wimmer/Icon Sportswire

This week has seen the bullpen improve. In the past three games, the pen has pitched 7 2/3 innings and only given up one run, leaving them with an estimated ERA of 1.17 – nearly three runs lower than their season average.

Mattingly wisely chose to use 3-4 relievers per inning when necessary against the Reds.

Was it efficient? No. Averaging one reliever per out could be catastrophic.

Did it work? You bet. Luis Avilan made Jay Bruce look foolish.

As the Dodgers enter the September playoff push and fend off increased pressure from the pesky San Francisco Giants, the bullpen needs to regain its confidence. Here are three things that need to happen for the Dodgers to cement their place as a legitimate contender in the playoffs:

  1. Shake it up.

Only one job in the bullpen is solidified, and that’s Kenley Jansen as closer. Everything else is up for grabs. Mattingly should use September as means of shaking up the bullpen. Try using Johnson as a setup man. If it doesn’t work, try Baez, Howell, or Nicasio. Try anyone – the point is that all bullpen roles need to be filled come October.

Kenley Jansen - Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire
Kenley Jansen – Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire

2. Use the four-out save.

During tough series against Giants, Pirates and other rivalries, the Dodgers will undoubtedly need an arm that can get outs. When it’s right, Mattingly should bring in Jansen for four-out saves. Using a trusted arm to get crucial outs is what the Dodgers need.

3. Ride the hot hand.

Tuesday marks the expansion of MLB rosters. Let’s hope the Dodgers try out some fresh faces out of the pen in September. If a young reliever gets hot, select him for the playoff roster. Relying on a sagging veteran won’t help out the team when it’s vulnerable. It might be necessary to leave out names like Howell and Hatcher if the need arises.
The Dodgers, bursting at the seams with a $300-million payroll, have the tools necessary to bring L.A. its first championship since 1988. One hopes the pen will live up to its name as a group of raging bulls, anxiously waiting to dominate their opponents in front of a packed stadium of bloodthirsty spectators.

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Shane Newell
Shane Newell is pursuing his M.A. degree in data journalism at Stanford University. A lifelong Dodgers fan, Shane grew up in Southern California and graduated from Long Beach State with a B.A. in journalism in 2015. As an undergraduate, Shane worked at The Daily 49er and interned for two summers at the Orange County Register, where he specialized in local news and features. He wants to be a data journalist who tell stories through numbers and graphics. He hopes to use his data and multimedia skills to work on investigative projects across the world.

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