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:

Mike Adams 1.1 7 0 0 0 3 1 0
Phillippe Aumont 1.0 5 1 2 2 1 2 1
Antonio Bastardo 2.2 11 1 1 1 3 2 0
Justin De Fratus 3.1 12 1 0 0 1 3 0
Jake Diekman 1.2 7 1 0 0 1 1 0
Mario Hollands 3.1 13 1 0 0 3 5 0
Cesar Jimenez 1.0 3 1 0 0 0 1 0
Jeff Manship 4.0 12 0 0 0 0 6 0
Jonathan Papelbon 3.0 11 3 0 0 0 3 0
Totals 21.1 81 9 3 3 12 24 1

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.

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  1. adam

    June 02, 2014 08:48 PM

    Refreshing news. Looks like we’ll be getting into the bullpen already in the 6th tonight…
    I’m wondering if we can get a Longenghagen article talking about the phillies potential draft picks in the first and who they might hit on in the second round.

    • Evan

      June 03, 2014 09:14 AM

      Aumont…yeah….I really think the Phils need to just outright him, but since he was the ‘prize’ of the Lee deal, I guess they have to keep him around and hope he gets his head on straight. Diekman has looked much, much better as of late so do we just chalk this up to a bad outing?

  2. crow

    June 03, 2014 10:34 AM

    Calling Aumont up is just a baffling move. OK, he had 3 or 4 solid outings at Lehigh Valley, but he’s had a poor season generally and looks for all the world like a broken pitcher. Even an untrained eye can see that he has difficulty repeating his delivery. After each lousy pitch he reflexively looks down at the mound as if he’s thinking, “There must be something wrong with the mound to account for the fact that I felt so bad throwing that pitch.”

  3. Bob

    June 03, 2014 10:41 AM

    I think you’re correct about the walks and their correlation to the Phillies’ pitching struggles. If you look at BB/9, the Phillies are the second worst team in the MLB. Of the 10 teams who stand to make the playoffs right now, six of them are in the top ten in lowest BB/9. Should you expand the field to the top half of MLB teams, eight of the ten current playoff teams are in the top half of BB/9. The two who aren’t – Angels and Blue Jays – are having great offensive seasons.

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