WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Mike Bolsinger is both the beneficiary and a victim of baseball’s takeover by advanced analytics.
Bolsinger wouldn’t be wearing a Dodgers uniform -- or perhaps any other major-league uniform -- if the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new front office hadn’t ferretted out an intriguing aspect to his game last winter. They noticed his curveball had one of the best spin rates in the Pacific Coast League. They figured the high altitude and dry conditions at many of those stadiums were costing Bolsinger effectiveness.
The Dodgers acquired Bolsinger from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash over the winter and it has looked like a sound move. He has a 3.16 ERA and has given the Dodgers 77 generally strong innings to help prop up an injury-ravaged back of the rotation. Statcast pegs the spin rate on Bolsinger’s curveball this season at nearly 2,400 revolutions per minute, fourth in baseball behind Jake Arrieta, Wandy Rodriguez and Collin McHugh -- pitchers with some of the best curveballs in the game.
But here’s where the minute attention to numbers has hurt Bolsinger this season. The Dodgers, mindful of his diminishing effectiveness in the middle innings, rarely let him pitch beyond -- or even into -- the fifth inning. From the fourth to the fifth inning, Bolsinger’s effectiveness falls off a cliff. Opponents are batting .191 against him in the fourth and .326 against him in the fifth. The second time through the lineup, they’re hitting .208. The third time, they’re hitting .293.
Bolsinger has pitched into the sixth inning just once since June 8. During the Dodgers’ suspended game Friday, manager Don Mattingly let him return after an 82-minute interruption caused when a bank of lights went out. He quickly retired the final two batters in the fourth, then Mattingly pinch hit for him in the fifth, a half-inning too early for Bolsinger to get a decision. The reliever, Chin-Hui Tsao, allowed a two-run home run to Yunel Escobar.
During the delay, Bolsinger signed autographs near the Dodgers dugout.
“I thought it was a good way to keep my arm loose,” he said. “They’re little kids, they were cool and that’s just me. I like to interact with the fans and meet people. It’s fun to talk to random people.”
Bolsinger, who is not exactly on firm footing in the major leagues, was careful not to let on to any disappointment at how quick Mattingly’s hook is when he’s pitching.
“I begged them to go out there and finish that inning, but an hour and 20 minutes, that’s a long time to be sitting around doing nothing,” he said. “You start stiffening up. Me getting a little older nowadays, not being 21 years old, I can start to feel things.”