When the Los Angeles Dodgers were shockingly defeated by the Washington Nationals in five games in the National League Division Series, fans were left with a number of questions.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman answered some of those on Monday afternoon as he held his annual end of theyear press conference at Dodger Stadium. One of the main topics of discussion was, of course, the Dodgers’ bullpen.
It was considered the team’s biggest weakness all season long, and while the Dodgers were linked to several marquee relievers, Friedman addressed it at the trade deadline by acquiring Adam Kolarek from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Then through some Minor League additions, the Dodgers created a formidable bullpen by October. One which Friedman believes was good enough to win the World Series.
“Yeah, I do. I actually felt like it was the deepest bullpen we’ve had in terms of the number of options, the different looks,” Friedman said.
“I think as is the nature for us, you always want to be better. There’s always areas we want to be better and improve. But I feel like one through eight, the different looks, the length, the way different guys could match up against different types of hitters, I do feel like it was bullpen that was capable of winning the World Series.”
The Dodgers held a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning of the decisive Game 5 but were unable to hang onto it, eventually losing, 7-3, in 10 innings.
While Friedman expressed confidence in his bullpen, the Dodgers actually went to a starter to protect the lead in that game as Clayton Kershaw was the first pitcher to follow starter Walker Buehler.
Kershaw was able to escape a jam in the seventh inning, but manager Dave Roberts sent him back out for the eighth and he allowed back-to-back home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to blow the lead.
When asked why Kershaw was an option there instead of the relievers he championed as good enough to win a World Series, Friedman argued the strategies are not “mutually exclusive” and pointed to Kershaw’s successful season as reason to trust him out of the bullpen.
“Kersh had a really good year as a starting pitcher in 2019. That’s objectively true. He was really good as a starting pitcher,” Friedman said.
“A starting pitcher who is really comfortable coming out of the bullpen can be a really attractive option, depending on how you want to look at it. My point is a lot of decisions are gray. I think the black and white ones are way easier.
“I think the ones that are gray, I could argue either side over a number of things that could come up. Any time you can do that, speaks to how gray it is.”