Phillies Bullpen Is Back to Normal

With the return of Brett Myers and Tom Gordon from the disabled list, the Phillies’ bullpen was finally able to stabilize and return to its status quo of forking over leads late in the game. The two combined in an impressive effort on August 25 against the San Diego Padres, allowing three solo homeruns in two innings of work.

Kyle Lohse pitched six and two-thirds of excellent baseball, and J.C. Romero met the bullpen quota of a scoreless one-third of an inning to retire the Padres in the seventh inning.

In comes Gordon with his arsenal of belt-high fastballs. As if on cue, he served one on a platter to the show-boating Milton Bradley to tie the game at two-all.

Many disagreed with Charlie Manuel’s decision to use Brett Myers in the ninth inning of a tie game, but Myers has really been the only reliable arm in the bullpen. It seems Manuel is not a fan of statistics, because the following should indicate that Myers is never to be used in relief of a tie game:

Tie Game: 1.016 OPS

Within 1 run: .912 OPS

Within 2 runs: .785 OPS

Within 3 runs: .762 OPS

Cue solo homeruns to Kevin Kouzmanoff and Terrmel Sledge to make it a 4-2 game — out of reach, even for the comeback-prone Phillies, who did score one run in the bottom of the ninth, but Aaron Rowand whiffed with Ryan Howard standing on first base to end the game.

After the game, Brett Myers gave many an open door to make references to his domestic abuse issue last summer by physically threatening a reporter who was needling him about the homeruns he gave up, and blamed on the size of Citizens Bank Park. Myers is still unapologetic to the reporter he berated and threatened, but did apologize to the other members of the media.

Three things I want to address:

1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen?

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?

1. Just how bad is the Phillies’ bullpen? I’ve scoured the FanGraphs and I’ve come up with quite a few games that the Phillies’ bullpen has blown.
Bullpen blew a lead or tie, Phillies lost
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (1 run), Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-3
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Tom Gordon (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs), Yoel Hernandez (1 run); Phillies lose, 8-4.
    • Culprit(s): Jose Mesa (3 runs), Mike Zagurski (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run); Phillies lose, 11-6.
    • Culprit(s): Brett Myers (2 runs); Phillies lose, 4-2.
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 6-5.
    • Culprit(s): J.C. Romero (2 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs); Phillies lose, 7-6.
    • Culprit(s): Mike Zagurski (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run), Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), J.D. Durbin (1 run); Phillies lose, 7-6.
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Jose Mesa (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (4 runs), Mike Zagurski (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run), Jose Mesa (2 runs); Phillies lose, 9-6.
    • Culprit(s): Geoff Geary (1 run), Yoel Hernandez (5 runs); Phillies lose, 7-4.
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (1 run), Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 4-3.
    • Culprit(s): Antonio Alfonseca (3 runs); Phillies lose, 5-2.
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs); Phillies lose, 2-1.
    • Culprit(s): Francisco Rosario (1 run); Phillies lose, 5-4.
    • Culprit(s): Matt Smith (1 run), Geoff Geary (2 runs), Jon Lieber (5 runs); Phillies lose, 11-5.
    • Culprit(s): Tom Gordon (2 runs), Ryan Madson (1 run); Phillies lose, 3-2.
    • Culprit(s): Ryan Madson (2 runs); Phillies lose, 5-3.

Even if the bullpen is just moderately bad — let’s say they only blow 10 leads — the Phillies would be 76-53, good for the second-best record in baseball behind the Boston Red Sox, and they would be three games in front of the New York Mets instead of six games back.

2. What is in Brett Myers’ future?

Myers will continue to be the Phillies’ closer, as he has done a great job when he is trying to nail down a lead — 12-for-13 in save opportunities. After 2007, however, is a question.

Citing Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, and Jason Michaels just from recent memory, the Phillies’ upper management has been quick to ship out players that aren’t displaying good behavior. Schilling and Rolen had openly criticized the Phillies’ organization, and Michaels punched a police officer.

However, the Phillies’ starting rotation is in shambles and will continue to be in the off-season. Jamie Moyer could retire. Freddy Garcia will most likely not be resigned. Jon Lieber is a free agent. So, that leaves the Phillies rotation with Cole Hamels, Adam Eaton, and Kyle Kendrick as certainties, and one or two spots to fill depending on which direction the Phillies go in. If Moyer comes back for another year, and the Phillies decide to use a prospect in the rotation (J.A. Happ would be the most likely candidate), Myers will once again be the Phillies’ closer.

If the Phillies’ front office decides to stock up on relievers, Myers will probably be pushed back to the starting rotation, no matter how much he enjoys closing. Scott Mathieson, who has missed most of this season following “Tommy John” surgery, could be a dark horse candidate for the closing role.

Adding to the uncertainty is the rumor that Pat Gillick will not be returning as the Phillies’ GM. Granted, the source of this rumor is one Howard Eskin (the “journalist” who famously brought manager Charlie Manuel to a rolling boil following an 8-1 loss to the New York Mets). Assistant GM Ruben Amaro is likely to take the reins should Gillick leave.

3. Is Citizens Bank Park really a “joke” as Milton Bradley insists?

The ballpark has been criticized by many in Major League Baseball. Milton Bradley said of his fifth-inning three-run homerun against the Phillies on Saturday, “I thought I flied out. This park is a joke.”

Recently, I wrote about the Atlanta Braves whining about the ballpark when they lost to the Phillies 5-3 due to Ryan Howard’s lead-changing three-run homerun off of Buddy Carlyle

Well, is there something fishy about the ballpark? And if so, does it provide a distinct advantage to the Phillies?

According to’s park factors, Citizens Bank Park ranks eleventh in runs, and first in homeruns. A look back since the park’s inception:

2007: Runs, 11th; HR, 1st.

2006: Runs, 8th; HR, 6th.

2005: Runs, 2nd; HR, 2nd.

2004: Runs, 12th; HR, 5th.

So, the ballpark has always been homer-friendly, and home of above-average run scoring. Now, let’s find out how much the Phillies have benefited from this (keep in mind that, before the 2006 season, they moved the fences in left field back five feet and raised 2.5 feet):

From the above chart, we can glean that the Phillies get a slight bump in OPS from playing at home. The .019 average difference between their OPS and the OPS allowed at home is essentially the difference in slugging between Chipper Jones and Magglio Ordonez, to put it in perspective (in other words, not that much).

This season, the Phillies’ 103 HR allowed at home ranks first among all thirty Major League teams, while their 61 HR allowed away from home ranks twenty-third among all thirty Major League teams. So, the Phillies’ opponents seem to get a huge advantage in homeruns when they play in Philadelphia.

It’s not the dimensions of the field that make it so homer-friendly — it’s the wind. As Anthony Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes,

In contrast to hulking Veterans Stadium, winds pour through Citizens Bank Park like water through a flow-through tea bag. Balls that get airborne are lifted up, up and away.

The most obvious suspects are the prevailing southwest and south winds of summer, which blow straight out to center and right-center fields. Those winds increase with height. Other factors might also be at work.

[…] [Phillies president Dave] Montgomery believes that the structural mass of Veterans Stadium – totally enclosed save for the exit-ramp openings – had a blocking effect on the movement of air. Jim Eberwine, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, says Montgomery is on sound scientific footing. A massive building would affect air currents the way an island distorts approaching waves. […]

In the new park, a wind blowing toward center outside the park blows toward center inside, too.

An important difference between the two stadiums is how Citizens Bank Park uses prevailing winds to benefit hitters.

Well after the park was designed, the Phillies retained a Canadian engineering firm to study air-flow patterns at the site. Using Weather Service data, RWDI Inc. determined that the prevailing winds on summer nights were from the south, averaging about 12 m.p.h.

So, if the Phillies want to cut down on homeruns at Citizens Bank Park, they can do one of two things:

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