2013 Phillies Report Card: Jake Diekman

One of the interesting things about the draft is how quickly returns diminish. You hope to get a major league regular in the first round or two, but once you get around to, say, picking guys from Nebraska junior colleges in the 30th round, any positive major league contribution counts as shooting the moon.

Some years ago, I described Chad Durbin as being like a Manhattanite without a car or a bus pass–walks everywhere. As a rookie, Diekman walked 6.6 men per 9 innings. That that’s a terrible walk rate. If, like Diekman, you’re left-handed, tall and throw a mid-to-upper 90s from a low arm slot, you can get away with walking a few guys. J.C. Romero, remember, was pretty darn good for a while, and he couldn’t find the strike zone with a bloodhound and a map.

Anyway, Diekman had the makings of an unhittable lefty specialist last year–the fastball looking like it’s coming from behind the batter, plus a hard slider–and indeed, he post a K/9 of 11.5. But even a LOOGY is less useful if you can’t bring him in for fear of him walking, say, Bryce Harper with the game on the line. The question for Diekman going into 2013 was whether he could keep his walks under control.

And he did. Setting aside the caveat that 38 1/3 major league innings isn’t much better than zero major league innings when drawing significant conclusions about a pitcher, Diekman had as much of a breakout season as a lefty specialist can have, with marginal increases in whiff percentage, strike percentage, swing percentage and fastball velocity turning him into a reliable late-inning option. For comparison: in 2013, Diekman had a K% of 25.0 and a BB% of 9.8. Antonio Bastardo, by comparison: 26.3% and 11.7%. Not too shabby.

What’s more, Diekman did his part against same-handed batters (more on this in a second), but he wasn’t too bad against righties either. In the salad days of J.C. Romero, the three best right-handed hitters in the game were Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and whoever was facing Romero. Not so with Diekman this year. Righties hit .298/.372/.393 against Diekman, which means they hit very well, but didn’t have that much power. That’s not a good line, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not so bad that they couldn’t leave him in to face a Braves 3-4-5 of Heyward, Upton and Freeman.

Now, to answer the immortal question–what’s his ERA against lefties? In 69 PA this year (so caveats, caveats, caveats), left-handed hitters hit .148/.221/.148 against Diekman. That’s right, 69 PA, 54 outs (actually, 56 if you count the two double plays induced), zero extra-base hits. That’s enough to make a good man chuckle maniacally. You have to be pleased with what Diekman’s done, and you have to assume he’ll be in contention for high-leverage bullpen innings next season.

My Grade: A

Bill Paul Eric Ryan
A A- A- B-

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5 comments

  1. nik

    October 29, 2013 12:30 PM

    Not only has Diekman nearly halved his BB rate, his velocity took a major step forward this year. The fastball went up by 1.1 mph and the slider went up by 3.5 mph.

    www.fangraphs.com/pitchfx.aspx?playerid=5003&position=P

    With Diekman and Martin we have a nice young L/R combo for the 7th and 8th innings next year.

  2. bubba0101

    October 29, 2013 02:16 PM

    That’s an interesting thought to have Martin/Diekman contribute to the pen. Provided Mike Adams comes back to life and Bastardo’s good run wasnt entirely aided by the juice, we could have a formidable bullpen next year. Especially if Papelbon is used in higher leverage situations, not just to close out 1,2 or 3 run leads in the ninth inning. Now im interested in the fact that we could actually have a good pen next year.

  3. Pencilfish

    October 30, 2013 11:29 AM

    Not to throw cold water on these dreams, but many people thought Horst and Aumont were going to be BP beasts based on their 2012 numbers, and they failed miserably in 2013. BP arms are volatile and consistency is fleeting. Let’s see if Martin/Diekman can follow their 2013 season with another outstanding (or at least reliably average, late-inning BP pieces) before we celebrate.

  4. hk

    October 30, 2013 02:02 PM

    I’ll bet the number of people who thought the Mike Adams signing would turn out to be a good was significantly greater than the number who thought Horst and Aumont were going to be BP beasts.

  5. Ed

    October 30, 2013 05:43 PM

    It’s nice to hear a little ray of sunshine every once in a while. Given that last year was so dismal.

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