The Phillies Bullpen Had A Great Week

…sort of

There’s no getting around the fact that it was a terrible week for Phillies baseball. Bill Baer recapped all the gory, depressing details of the Toronto series for you. The positives to take away from this series were few and far between. Marlon Byrd is on an exceptional tear, Carlos Ruiz continues to look like the 2012 version of Carlos Ruiz, and Cody Asche had a spectacular 4-for-4 game with a grand slam on Tuesday. Aside from that, it’s been rather bleak, with one more notable exception: the bullpen.

The bullpen (and, curiously, Ben Revere) is the preferred whipping boy of the Phillies fan base and with good reason. Since 2012, their 4.17 ERA is only surpassed by the hapless Astros and Cubs relievers, the Coors Field plagued Rockies relief corps, and, my personal favorite, the always entertaining Mets bullpen. It’s been an ugly stretch of the Phillies relievers and it’s continued into 2014.

This week though, was a different story… kind of. Overall it appeared to be the same old bad Phillies bullpen. As a unit they posted a 5.65 ERA in the six game stretch from 5/3-5/8 which is decidedly un-good

Parse the numbers further, though, and they get really interesting. For better or worse, four bullpen arms have emerged as Ryne Sandberg’s trusted high-leverage relievers this season: Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Mike Adams, and Jonathan Papelbon. This week those four not only lived up to expectations, but they performed like the elitest of the elite.

Pitcher(s) IP WHIP ERA K% BB% K/BB
5/3-5/8 Sandberg’s Trusted Four 8.2 0.46 1.04 41.9 3.2 13.00
2012 Craig Kimbrel 62.2 0.65 1.01 50.2 6.1 8.29

The problem in Toronto was that the starting pitching failed, the defense failed, the offense failed, our tear ducts failed. It was ugly. As a result, the “go to” guys in the bullpen weren’t called on at all in the Canadian portion of the home and home series.

So, how have the second tier bullpen arms (Mario Hollands, Jeff Manship, Shawn Camp, and Luis Garcia) fared over the past 6 games? Uh, not great.

Pitcher(s) IP WHIP ERA K% BB% K/BB
5/3-5/8 Other Phillies Relievers 5.2 2.29 12.71 16.7 13.3 1.25

Is the success from the frontline relievers this week sustainable? Short answer: no. It’s safe to say that collectively they aren’t Craig Kimbrel. There was at least one significantly positive development, though. Diekman was only called on to face lefties and non-elite righties and he excelled by throwing three perfect innings with four strikeouts. The only National League relievers with a higher strikeout-rate than Diekman (39.7%) are Craig Kimbel (50.0%) and Francisco Rodriguez (40.0%). When he commands the strike zone and is utilized appropriately, Diek is a legitimate bullpen weapon.

Still, one good week, does not a good season make. When all is said and done, it’s more likely than not that this past week was nothing more than a small sample size blip on the radar of a predictably pedestrian performance by the Phillies bullpen. Diekman may be a force, but Papelbon, Adams, and Bastardo remain significant question marks going forward (although it’s worth noting that Pap has remained phenomenal outside of his one Texas implosion), and the other bullpen arms have been complete disasters.

It’s said anything’s possible in baseball, though, so maybe it’ll get better. Maybe Adams, Bastardo and Papelbon rebound. Maybe Justin De Fratus returns and finds success. Maybe the Prodigal Rule 5 pick, Seth Rosin, comes up and dominates. Maybe Kenny Giles comes up later this season and lives up to the hype.

But for now, as currently constructed, the Phillies bullpen remains an obvious weakness and we might as well acknowledge the good when it happens.

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  1. TomG

    May 09, 2014 02:20 PM

    That was a really interesting post, Corrine, and so in keeping with long-standing Crashburn Alley tradition, I want to congratulate Bill on having written it.

    No, seriously, good job. I’ll take my “on the bright side”s wherever they can be found.

  2. TimB

    May 09, 2014 03:53 PM

    I’m not sure why its curious that Ben Revere is the whipping boy, considering he currently has a .617 OPS, a -0.4 WAR, and has cost them at least several runs with his poor arm in center.

    • Bob

      May 09, 2014 04:21 PM

      It’s curious because Ben Revere is pretty much doing what he was projected to do. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that he isn’t good at defense because he never really has been anything more than average. And he’s always been a pure single-hitter with a low walk rate; albeit not this low. Why people are criticizing Revere for doing exactly what he has always done is curious.

      The problem is Jimmy is playing hurt and our LH hitters, other than Cody’s breakout game, have played dreadfully in the Toronto series. Howard was 2/14 (.143-0 walks), Utley was 3/16 (.187-0 walks), and Brown was 1/13 (.077-1 walk). If you’re looking for a position player to blame, Revere falls behind these guys who are paid big bucks to get on base and drive in runs.

  3. mark66

    May 09, 2014 03:58 PM

    You might as well just say “someday the Phils will be better” But don’t hold your breathe or bet the farm quite yet. The reality is that it is a LONG way off. The GM and front office have made so many mistakes that this team fails in just about every category most of the time. They look and find ways to loose. That is the stone cold truth.

  4. George Callanan

    May 09, 2014 06:32 PM

    Dismal four games with Blue Jays, 31-11 in runs.the Phil’s are following the same pattern as the first half of last season, get to .500 and then lose three or four in a row. Hopefully they will get back to .500 again. Changing Managers has made no difference. Next we need to change the GM and then the final phase which is the new GM will change the players. It’s time to start all over. This July shall be interesting, by then we will either be hanging around with still hope or the more likely scenario of its time for big changes and looking towards a future.

    • Tom

      May 10, 2014 01:28 PM

      While I agree it seems hopeless…the thing that scares me is that if they do a firesale we’ll have to sit through at least 16 months of “this guy’s not ready” or “he needs more at-bats” or “we didn’t get enough for this guy”. The only thing worse than not having a “deep” minor league system is hearing that every promising player you’ve had in the last 10 years needs “more time”. Yuck.

  5. pedro3131

    May 13, 2014 09:16 PM

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to lump Papelbon into the “can they turn it around crowd” Since that Texas game he has already turned it around. How further round can he turn from 14 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts against 3 walks?

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