We talk about reliever volatility on this site quite a bit and there has been no more painful microcosm of that proverb than Phillippe Aumont. Last year at this time Aumont had just finished an intriguing September in which he showed stuff we haven’t seen in Philly since Billy Wagner graced the organization with his presence. Emanating from Aumont’s fingertips were two 70-grade pitches; a mid-90s fastball that would touch 97mph with heavy sink and a ferocious two-plane curveball in the low 80s that flat out embarrassed several Major League hitters late last season. Remember this?
This year, everything went to hell.
Always a maddeningly poor strike-thrower, the stiff and un-athletic, 6’7” behemoth struggled even more with control/command in 2013, walking 51 hitters is 55 innings of work between Triple-A and the Majors. He threw just 53% of his pitches for strikes. That’s not far off from the 56% of 2012, but too many of the strikes Aumont threw this year were hittable ones. Despite his habitual issues with control, Aumont’s stuff has always been so good that he’s had a chance to pitch in the back end of a big league bullpen and maybe, just maybe, have a shot to close one day. Why has Aumont’s control always been so bad? Well, mechanical variations in taller pitchers lead to more pronounced lapses in command. One degree of angle variation in a 5’11” man’s arm is much less impactful than one degree of angle variation in a 6’7″ man’s arms, just as the ever present yet faint trembles in your hands are much more noticeable if you’re looking through a pair of binoculars. Hulking, small-forward-sized pitchers like Aumont have very little margin for error when it comes to repeating their delivery. Aumont is quite stiff, has anything but a clean and aesthetically pleasing, simple delivery and noticeably struggles to repeat his mechanics. That’s where his control issues stem from.
At times in 2013, Aumont also didn’t have the stuff he’s usually shown throughout his career. The fastball was down in the 91-93mph range late in the year (though it was back up in his last appearance, he touched 97mph) and the curveball lacked the hellacious vertical bite Dan Uggla is all too familiar with. Some of the stuff now gone, the control issues remained. The results were predictably bad during this time and August was sour for the Canadian righty. His season was bad enough that he didn’t received a call-up in September and Assistant GM Benny Looper went out of his way to tell Jeff Schuler at the Morning Call here in Allentown that Aumont, “didn’t deserve” one. He was right.
So where do the Phillies go from here? It seems that trading Aumont, who has been an outspoken malcontent in the past and outwardly showed frustration with himself and his situation on the field and audibly in the dugout in August, would be a criminally low sell. This is a young man who was once the #2 prospect in the Mariners system. There’s a heap of talent here. More than likely the Phillies will hope that whoever they hire to be their next pitching coach can work just enough magic with Aumont that he can be made into a viable big league bullpen contributor, if not an actual weapon has the howitzer on his right shoulder implies he should be. He wasn’t even close to either of those things in 2013.
My Grade: F