2013 Phillies Report Card: B.J. Rosenberg
Many years ago, when I first started dating the woman who is now my wife, we were driving on a highway and passed a B.J’s Wholesale Club (pretty much a Costco as I understand it) that was under construction. Her father is apparently fond of shopping there for things, and, accordingly, she exclaimed “Oh! My dad loves BJs!” I laughed, a lot.
Anyway, B.J. Rosenberg. On the outcomes end of things, being a middle reliever is just kind of a crappy gig. You get a very limited number of chances in a given season to prove yourself. Nobody ever quite knows what is up with you. There are no popular metrics that are designed to accurately portray you, and, honestly, none that really could be. A tiny stretch in which you’re just a bit off can make your whole season look bad on paper, and fans will turn on you at the slightest excuse.
Rosenberg was cruising along this season into early September. Following an appearance against the Nationals on September 14th, he had held opposing hitters to a .526 OPS and had only allowed 1 of his 4 inherited runners to score in 14 and two thirds innings. Then, from September 17th to 23rd, Rosenberg faced 20 hitters in 4 appearances, 3 of them against Miami’s worst-ranked offense in the National League, surrendering 6 earned runs over that stretch. It’s not as if Giancarlo Stanton were touching him up, either. The damage came off doubles by the likes of Juan Lagares and Justin Ruggiano, with additional contributions from Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas. Murderer’s Row, that.
That’s baseball, though. The whole affair doubled his ERA, and then some. It highlights how difficult it is to come up with the CliffsNotes for a reliever season. Had he just not gone out to pitch that week, you’d probably see more ‘B’ grades at the bottom, and we’d be talking about what a handy piece he could be in medium leverage for 2014.
Perhaps he will be. The bullpen is not exactly flush with enticing options, and it costs the Phillies nothing but a roster spot to keep Rosenberg around. He struck hitters out at a 22.1% clip this season, and his 10.5% walk rate is workable, if not ideal. He’s an odd sort of reliever in that he uses five pitches to try and get outs. He anchors the whole thing with a decent fastball and slider, which generate most of his whiffs, and in 2013 mixed in a curveball, as well as a splitter that he credits Jonathan Papelbon with helping him to develop. Plus, he clearly has some kind of hypnotic or telepathic power over umpires:
Then again, not a single one of his flyballs — and at 45.6% of balls in play he gave up a lot of them — left the yard in 2013. That’s something unlikely to repeat itself. Usage is important too; it’s possible Rosenberg ends up in the sort of high leverage situations he shouldn’t otherwise see, save for an innings-based bullpen management style of Ryne Sandberg‘s that is probably as rigid as his predecessor. In the ideal case, the 2014 Phillies get 25 or 30 decent innings out of Rosenberg, retaining the ability to keep him close at hand in Lehigh if the active roster requires it. Some stability in the pen to supplement Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo would be nice to hang our hats on.
I gave Rosenberg a C-.