Phillies Bullpen Report
Brad Lidge: Lidge has been placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 10, per Matt Gelb. He writes, “[Elbow] inflammation had not improved when Lidge played catch before today’s game.” Lidge had decent results in three and one-third innings, striking out three and walking one. For those counting at home, he had two shutdowns and no meltdowns. He has been throwing his slider a lot more instead of his fastball, which may indicate that he is still overcompensating for his ailing elbow.
Jose Contreras: The interim closer in the absence of both Lidge and Ryan Madson. He has been by far the Phillies’ most effective reliever to date. In 13 and two-thirds innings, the Cuban has struck out 18 and walked a mere two batters. Pick your ERA retrodictor; they all love his performance so far. Including today’s game, he has converted five shutdowns and one meltdown (the walk-off home run by Nate McLouth in Atlanta). There shouldn’t be any worries about him closing out games, but the Phillies are in a lot of trouble if he joins the weary and wounded on the disabled list.
Antonio Bastardo: Bastardo has been called up — again — now that Lidge is back on the DL. While he showed decent strikeout stuff in his short stint in the Majors earlier this year, he has struggled with control. He seemed like he was on the right path when his BB/9 was below 4.0 in his stops at AA, AAA, and the Majors last year. However, in five and one-third innings with the Phillies in 2010, he has walked four and struck out five. In his more recent stop at Lehigh Valley, Bastardo struck out eight and walked three in three and two-thirds innings.
Danys Baez: Despite possessing a fastball that reaches the mid-90’s and a curve that is 16 MPH slower on average, Baez has had a lot of trouble striking hitters out. He has issued seven walks and struck seven hitters out in 16 innings of work. His K/9 has been on the decline in every season since 2003. It’s hard to believe that someone still in his early 30’s could be finished, but Baez hasn’t pitched well and there is no indication that this will change going forward. The sooner the Phillies realize this and remove him from high leverage situations, the better.
David Herndon: Call him the Kyle Kendrick of the bullpen if you must, but he has been on the short end of the stick far too often this year. He went into this afternoon’s game against the Brewers with a 4.50 ERA but a .410 BABIP. The trend continued today as he allowed three of the four Brewers he faced to reach base on three hits. He doesn’t strike anyone out, but he rarely issues walks and two out of every three batted balls are on the ground. He has had at least a runner on first base with less than two outs 16 times this season. He has induced the ground ball double play six times.
Chad Durbin: Durbin struggled with control last year, averaging more than six walks every nine innings but he did increase his strikeout rate from 6.5 in 2008 to 8.0. Early in 2010, he has kept that strikeout rate but cut his walk rate nearly in half, down to 3.2 per nine. He has a 2.04 ERA in 17 and two-thirds innings, but he has benefited from a very low .200 BABIP. Some of the fortune is due to a change in his batted ball rates. In ’09, 18.5 percent of batted balls were line drives; only 10 percent this year. 39.5 percent were ground balls last year; 50 percent this year. The line drive rate isn’t sustainable, but if the Pitch F/X data is to be believed — and it has had some classification issues in the past — Durbin has been throwing his two-seam fastball a lot more often, which would explain the spike in ground balls induced. Thus far, he has logged five shutdowns and one meltdown.
J.C. Romero: As expected, Romero has been the least reliable member of the Phillies’ bullpen to date. He has walked four batters in three and one-third innings and, surprisingly, left-handed hitters have done most of the damage against him so far. Right-handers have managed just a .250 OPS in the very small sample while lefties have hit for a 1.250 OPS. Walks and an inability to retire lefties is an unacceptable combination from Romero.
Nelson Figueroa: Figgy hasn’t pitched since May 3 and it’s easy to see why he is likely to be the odd man out once J.A. Happ is taken off of the disabled list. Figueroa’s value comes from his versatility: the Phillies don’t have a lot of pitching depth, so he has the ability to make a spot start in the event of an injury — ski rental related or not — to be an interim starter in the event of poor performance, or to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. Despite my insistence earlier in the season that he was underrated, he has pitched poorly in his 14 and two-thirds innings with the Phillies after being cut by the New York Mets.
Scott Mathieson: Mathieson is my new obsession. In 16 and two-thirds innings with Lehigh Valley this year, he is averaging nearly ten strikeouts and just over two walks per nine innings. He has an ERA under 1 at 0.54 after finishing the 2009 season with similar production after returning from Tommy John surgery in late June. Mathieson is worth giving a shot while the Phillies have two key relievers on the mend in Lidge and Madson. However, as Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, the Phillies may be inclined to keep his salary deflated due to his service time of two years and 71 days because settlement funding is not an option to pay players with. GM Ruben Amaro said last week that he doesn’t think any pitchers in the Phillies’ Minor League system are “ready to be called up.”
As much as I’d like to see Mathieson get his shot, the Phillies’ decision to keep him down to have an extra year of control before free agency is easily justifiable. If the Phillies continue to have health and performance issues, though, Amaro may be forced to turn to Mathieson, who Bill Conlin reports as hitting 98 MPH with his fastball.