The Phillies Bullpen Had A Great Week
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.
|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.
|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.