Phillies Bullpen Showing Improvement (At Least for a Few Days)
The Phillies are about to wrap up an obnoxious five-game series with the New York Mets, which has included back-to-back-to-back extra-inning affairs. A win tonight would help the Phlilies salvage the series at 2-3 instead of 1-4. At the moment, they’re 24-30, six games out of first place at the bottom of the NL East.
If there is one positive to take away, it’s that the bullpen has done a great job despite being responsible for two extra-inning losses. Collectively, the bullpen which once ranked as one of the two worst bullpens in baseball now has the seventh-worst ERA among all 30 teams at 4.06. Here’s a look at how the ‘pen performed over the last four days against the Mets:
|Justin De Fratus||3.1||12||1||0||0||1||3||0|
That’s a 1.27 ERA with a 15 percent walk rate and a 30 percent strikeout rate. The walks are still way too high but we’ll take what we can get right now. The strikeout rate is encouraging because it was one of the bullpen’s biggest drawbacks earlier in the season. Their current 23 percent K-rate now ranks as the 12th-highest, and they can slither into the top-five if it continues. Missing bats is crucial for relievers, particularly those pitching in high-leverage situations, because they’re less likely to be victimized by bad luck or unfortunate hit sequencing.
The next step is to improve on the control. The bullpen’s aggregate 11.2 percent walk rate is the sixth-highest, climbing up a few rungs with the 15 percent rate over the past four days. That the Phillies’ relievers have shown almost no progress in this area is perplexing, particularly when you figure that it hasn’t just been an issue in 2014, but last season and the year prior as well. (The Phillies’ bullpen posted the worst walk rate in 2013 at 10.8 percent, and the sixth-worst in 2012 at 9.9 percent.) At this point, it might be worth using Pavlovian training for the relievers during their bullpen sessions. Throw a strike, get a piece of candy and a pat on the head.