While the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen has battled through multiple bouts of inconsistency this season, the unit largely continues coming into its own at an ideal time.
Since Aug. 1, the group owns a respectable 3.58 ERA in 148.1 innings pitched while ranking 11th with 1.1 FanGraphs’ WAR. Key ingredients to the turnaround include the emergence of Joe Kelly, who took a step forward in June and has continued pitching at an elite level ever since.
Caleb Ferguson is another that has bounced back from a rough start to become an important piece of the Dodgers bullpen. He is holding opposing batters to a meager .169/.306/.305 batting line in 19 second half appearances — a significant improvement when compared to his struggles earlier in the year.
During an interview with David Vassegh of AM 570 L.A. Sports, Ferguson attributed his recent success to Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who helped him change the grip of his revitalized curveball:
“The last month or month and a half, I guess let’s say, has been really good. Just trying to keep things as simple as I can, going out and competing and not try and think so much about deliveries, pitches and shapes and all this other stuff you can think about when you get into pitching. … I just finally said I’m done thinking about all that kind of stuff and I’m just going to go out and pitch because that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve never thought about where my body is at, how my body is moving when I’m going to the plate and all that stuff … I think I finally came back to that and it’s what’s given me the recent success.
Obviously the more and more you throw something, the more confidence you’re going to get. But the biggest change is Honeycutt had me change my grip — obviously for the better. We changed the grip and I have more ball to work with. It just gives me more room for error, I don’t have to be so fine with it.”
Prior to his turnaround, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts anticipated a breakthrough for Ferguson after refining his mechanics with Honeycutt.
The 23-year-old initially struggled to replicate the same results he enjoyed a year ago in what was a solid rookie campaign. Logging 22 appearances in the first half, the left-hander posted a disappointing 5.48 ERA and 1.74 WHIP over 23 innings pitched.
With the exception of a brief stint in Triple-A Oklahoma City, Ferguson has spent the bulk of the second half as a member of the Dodgers bullpen. He owns a much better 4.67 ERA and 1.15 in 17.1 innings since the All-Star break.
Before allowing three runs to the Baltimore Orioles, Ferguson had strung together 5.2 scoreless innings across five appearances.
Assuming he continues to thrive, Ferguson could play a major role out of the Dodgers’ bullpen come postseason time as one of the club’s primary go-to left-handed specialists, joining Adam Kolarek and potentially Julio Urias.