When the Marlins gave veteran closer Heath Bell a three-year, $27 million free agent contract this winter, most people called it an overpay. Two weeks into the 2012 regular season, it’s looking like an abomination.
Bell surrendered four runs — two earned — in the top of the ninth inning of Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the light-hitting Astros, who were held (quite easily) to one run through the game’s first eight frames.
Last Sunday, Bell yielded four hits and two earned runs in a blown save opportunity against the Reds.
The 34-year-old right-hander is now 0-for-2 in save chances with Miami and is sporting a brutal 12.00 ERA and 3.67 WHIP in three total innings of work (four relief appearances). His fastball is averaging 92.7 mph, down from the 94.0 mph mean that he registered in his final season with the Padres.
“I feel like crap,” Bell told beat writer Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel late Saturday night. “It’s really hard to look at my teammates and them have confidence in me because I haven’t had it. I have confidence in my ability, but I haven’t shown them I can do it.”
It’s probably safe to assume that the Fish are suddenly missing Juan Carlos Oviedo.
For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.
Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).
Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.
In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.
According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.