The Dodgers’ bullpen was dealt a massive blow Friday, as setup man Daniel Hudson was diagnosed with what is very likely a season-ending injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, manager Dave Roberts announced to reporters after tonight’s game (Twitter link via Juan Toribio of MLB.com). Hudson will undergo an additional wave of testing to confirm the diagnosis, but the team believes he’s suffered a tear of the ligament. Hudson sustained the injury when he attempted to field a grounder but instead collapsed at the front of the mound.
Hudson’s loss is a gut-punch for a Dodgers club that will already be without right-hander Blake Treinen until after the All-Star break due to shoulder troubles. Hudson has stepped up and filled Treinen’s role as the team’s top setup option, pitching to a brilliant 2.22 ERA with a 30.9% strikeout rate against a 5.1% walk rate. He’s turned in a career-high 53.2% ground-ball rate as well, due in no small part to throwing his slider at a career-high 42.3% clip. A massive 80 percent of the sliders put into play against Hudson have been grounders so far this year.
The injury is extra difficult for Hudson due to the nature of his contract. The 35-year-old righty inked a one-year, $7MM contract with Los Angeles that contains a $6.5MM club option for the 2023 campaign. Based on how Hudson had pitched in the season’s first few months, that option looked like a lock to be picked up. Now, coming off a major knee injury, that seems considerably less likely. The contract also allowed Hudson to boost the value of that option based on his number of games finished, and with eight already under his belt, he had a decent chance of pumping up that option value a bit.
Even with Treinen out for much of the season, Dodgers relievers have still combined for a 3.40 ERA that ranks ninth in the Majors. They’ve been even better by measure of FIP, ranking third in the game at 3.25 entering play Friday. Nevertheless, with Hudson out of the picture, the Los Angeles bullpen is now primarily composed of inexperienced arms with minimal big league track records.
Righty Evan Phillips has been brilliant in 2022 (1.95 ERA in 27 2/3 innings) but entered the season with a 6.68 ERA in 67 career frames. It’s a similar story with right-hander Yency Almonte. The Dodgers have again received strong results from righty Phil Bickford and lefty Alex Vesia, but each is only his second full big league season. Brusdar Graterol is having a fine season but doesn’t miss bats at the level one might expect for someone with his velocity. Former Cy Young winner David Price has been solid in a relief role this year, and former division rival Reyes Moronta has shown promise as he looks to reestablish himself after a pair of injury-ruined seasons.
That group all leads to multi-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel, who hasn’t gotten the results he or the Dodgers hoped for at the time of the trade that saw the Dodgers and White Sox swap AJ Pollock for Kimbrel. The 34-year-old Kimbrel fired a scoreless inning tonight and boasts a 33.3% strikeout rate against a 10.4% walk rate in 23innings. However, after a strong start to the season, Kimbrel has given up runs in eight of his past 15 appearances. Tonight’s outing dropped his ERA to 4.30, and it should be pointed out that he’s currently plagued by a sky-high .404 average on balls in play (despite a very low 30.9% hard-hit rate). Kimbrel is probably due for some positive regression, but with him in something of a slump and the team’s top two setup options derailed by injury, the bullpen appears more questionable than expected.
Of course, this year’s Aug. 2 trade deadline is still more than five weeks away, so the Dodgers will have no shortage of time to address the issue, should they see fit. And with Walker Buehler, Andrew Heaney and Dustin May all currently on the injured list, the Dodgers could also be on the lookout for rotation reinforcements once the trade market heats up, too.
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