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Perspective with the Bullpen

With the Phillies 9.5 games behind the first place Washington Nationals, there has been plenty of blame to go around. Whether it’s been injuries, the recent incompetence of the starting rotation, or the historically-bad situational hitting, the Phillies have found a way to fail in new and interesting situations. The most consistently-bad aspect of the team, though, has been the bullpen. After Jonathan Papelbon and recently Antonio Bastardo, there simply hasn’t been a reliable arm that Charlie Manuel can call on in important situations. The bullpen’s collective 4.44 ERA is the third-worst in the National League, thanks to the repeated failures of Chad Qualls, Jose Contreras, Joe Savery, and Michael Schwimer, among others who have had a smaller share of innings.

As a fun game, I compiled four stats for each Phillies reliever (min. 10 innings) this season and compared them to the relievers (min. 20 innings) of another very successful MLB team. The stats chosen are K%, BB%, K/BB, and xFIP because they are the quickest to stabilize and the most elucidating.

Go through the stats and make a selection. At the end, you will learn the identity of the mystery team if you don’t put the pieces together before then. Click on only one link for each set.


K% 30% 32%
BB% 4% 12%
K/BB 7.25 2.63
xFIP 2.78 3.01

Select: Player A | Player B


K% 35% 20%
BB% 11% 7%
K/BB 3.10 3.55
xFIP 3.18 3.55

Select: Player A | Player B


K% 29% 20%
BB% 2% 15%
K/BB 13.00 1.37
xFIP 2.94 4.34

Select: Player A | Player B

Four Relievers (ordered by IP)

K% 16% 17%
BB% 6% 10%
K/BB 2.57 1.80
xFIP 3.65 4.31

Select: Player A | Player B


K% 15% 11%
BB% 5% 6%
K/BB 3.00 1.79
xFIP 4.21 4.32

Select: Player A | Player B


  A B
K% 27% 16%
BB% 4% 13%
K/BB 5.00 1.20
xFIP 2.79 4.70

Select: Player A | Player B


K% 14% 19%
BB% 14% 12%
K/BB 1.00 1.53
xFIP 5.58 4.92

Select: Player A | Player B


If you haven’t figured it out yet, all of the B players come from the World Series champion 2008 Phillies. The ’08 bullpen led the league in ERA at 3.22. If you chose correctly according to the stats, you should have picked mostly 2012 Phillies relievers above, and that should surprise you. If the ’12 relievers are better, then why are they near the bottom in ERA and the ’08 bullpen at the top?

Based on the things a pitcher has the most control over, the bullpen has actually done a decent job. Their collective 2.89 K/BB is second-best in the league behind the Cincinnati Reds (2.93) and fourth among all 30 teams. Their 3.75 xFIP places them in the top-ten in the Majors as well. Using SIERA, which better accounts for batted ball profile, the Phillies move into the top-five at 3.16. The bullpen isn’t nearly as bad as they have looked through 64 games, and that is an important realization because if the Phillies are able to make up some ground in the next month and go into the deadline looking to add players, they should abstain from paying for relievers based on two months of volatile bullpen data.