Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Editor’s note: This is the Friday, Aug. 14 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter from reporter J.P. Hoornstra. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.The 2020 Dodgers have had their share of ups and downs. The last two days qualify as ups. The lineup has been a mixed bag. The rotation has had its hiccups. The defense hasn’t wavered, and that’s a good topic for another newsletter, but today I want to talk about the bullpen.In Wednesday’s game against the Padres, Dave Roberts did something a little ballsy in the moment but possible to miss in a box score. Here’s the box score. See if you can spot the managing-like-there’s-no-tomorrow move.With two outs in the fifth inning, and runners on first and second, Roberts removed Tony Gonsolin from a three-hit shutout. Gonsolin had thrown 82 pitches, which is a lot, but not enough to prevent him from finishing the inning. He’d thrown 17 pitches in the inning ― also not a tiny number, but he had a few to spare. The potential third out was the Padres’ leadoff hitter, Fernando Tatis Jr. Through the lens of 2020 orthodoxy, Roberts did nothing unusual by removing his starting pitcher. Tatis was batting for the third time in the game. He is the Padres’ best hitter, and one of the best hitters in the National League. Starting pitchers are much less effective when facing a batter for the third time in a game in the aggregate. The so-called “third time through the order” penalty practically explains the existence of “openers” by itself.The Dodgers don’t use openers, so this particular tete-a-tete was perhaps the highest-leverage situation you could conjure in a 0-0 game. Gonsolin has been a very good pitcher in his brief career. He was a decent choice to face Tatis, times-through-the-order penalty be damned. The Dodgers have often lacked a better choice in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen has had the ninth inning in save situations since June 11, 2013, but building the bridge to Jansen has been an annual adventure. Calling to the bullpen, and choosing who to call, were two big choices.Roberts called on Blake Treinen, who’s looked more like the 2018 stud than the 2019 dud with every appearance. (Recall that in 2018, Treinen finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Last year, he did not.) The Dodgers know what they have in Treinen, otherwise he wouldn’t be thrust into that scenario. What made this move remarkable is that, historically, the manager would save that caliber reliever ― call him the 1b to Jansen’s 1a ― for the eighth inning. So why was Treinen closing out the fifth inning of a 0-0 game in August? And why should we care?The last time the Dodgers had such a clear-cut 1b ― maybe the only time since I began covering the team ― was in 2017. Treinen is doing a fantastic Brandon Morrow impression. I’m not the first to raise the comparison, but let’s flesh it out a bit more. Here is Morrow’s 2017 postseason game log. Here is Treinen’s 2020 game log. There are a lot of eighth-inning appearances in there for both pitchers, but also a lot of high-leverage appearances earlier in games.The point here is not merely to draw a straight line from Morrow to Treinen, even though that’s kinda fun. The point is to highlight that Roberts has a really strong bullpen again, and he’s managing it like it’s the playoffs. He can burn Treinen in the fifth inning of a 0-0 game because, should the game still be close by the eighth inning, he’ll have some quality pre-Jansen options left. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a bad option in this group for any late-game situation right now. Poll 30 managers, and I imagine all of them would choose to manage their bullpen the way Roberts did Wednesday. Thirty managers don’t have that luxury, of course. Beyond Roberts, I’m not sure who does. Maybe Mike Shildt.There’s a certain irony to this happening in 2020. Sixty feels like the number of games it takes in an average season for the Dodgers to get a feel for their bullpen ― strengths, weaknesses, ideal matchups, etc. Morrow didn’t join the 2017 club until Game 52, and wasn’t a permanent fixture until Game 73. Here we are one-third of the way through the shortest season in major league history, and the Dodgers’ bullpen looks ready for October.It takes almost no mental energy to chide your bullpen for blowing a lead. Hopefully it only takes one newsletter to appreciate a great thing when you have it.-J.P.Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.More to readRoad to 53-7 ― Mookie Betts hit three home runs from the leadoff sopt in the Dodgers’ win over the Padres.Ripened Wood ― The Dodgers’ rotation is close to regaining an important left-hander.Game of snitches ― Joe Kelly didn’t mince words about the Houston Astros in an interview on Ross Stripling’s podcast.Bigger than baseball ― Dodger Stadium will serve as a general election voting site.
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