2014 Phillies Report Card: Jake Diekman
Here’s a pretty thing:
That, friends, is a who’s who of the elite relief pitchers in Major League Baseball. Aroldis Chapman. Craig Kimbrel. Kenley Jansen. Wade Davis. Dellin Betances. Andrew Miller. And … Jake Diekman? The Phillies’ lefty from Nebraska, who was picked in the 30th round of the 2007 draft, finished seventh in the majors in strikeouts among qualified relief pitchers.
In a year that will be remembered for bad, boring baseball, the Phillies’ bullpen emerged as a bright spot for a franchise that has few. Diekman (@JakeDiekman) was one of the main reasons for that emergence, making more appearances than any other Phillies reliever, and finishing ninth in the National League in that category.
After two years of shuttling back and forth between Lehigh and South Philly, Diekman finally played a full season in The Show. As such, we should take with a grain of salt any comparison of 2014 to his 2012 and 2013 MLB numbers. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that this year he had a career-best in strikeout percentage (K%), strikeout-to-walk percentage (K-BB%), skill interactive ERA (SIERA), and expected fielder independent pitching (xFIP). Still, Diekman’s 1.42 WHIP and 104 ERA- (ERA adjusted for park and league where 100 is average and lower is better) leave a bit to be desired.
Diekman — reminder, he’s a lefty — faced twice as many right-handed batters as left-handed batters this year. Against lefties, he gave up a .232/.273/.304 triple slash (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage). Against righties, the numbers jump to .244/.363/.385. That’s not terrible, but it’s not good, and is still distinctly different than how lefties hit against the Dieker. Looking at the splits another way, lefties had a .257 wOBA against him, and righties had a .327 wOBA. So against Diekman, righties were Jacoby Ellsbury, and lefties were some kind of horrifying amalgam of Matt Dominguez and Zack Cozart.
It’s not Jake Diekman’s fault that Ryne Sandberg called on him to face so many right-handed batters. In time, it’s possible that he’ll figure out how to stop walking so many righties (30 BBs out of 213 righties faced, or 14%, compared to 5 BBs out of 100 lefties faced, or 5%). It would help if next year, the bullpen has a 6th/7th inning righthander that Sandberg trusts besides Justin De Fratus.