2015 Phillies Report Card: Sean O’Sullivan
Well, here we are. Here is, specifically, the place where the Phillies slowly, surreptitiously decline year after year, then become the laughingstock of the baseball world, then finish in dead last. It’s the bottom of the barrel and it’s a dark place, and it’s Sean O’Sullivan‘s place, and no, you can’t come in because you laughed (a lot) at that .gif of Sean getting hit in the throat. There are plenty of players who represent this particular version of terrible Phillies baseball — players who fairly or unfairly embody the ineptness of the team, including Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, and Cody Asche — but none of them fit the description quite as well as Sean O’Sullivan. It’s not his fault and he’s probably a nice guy, but here we are.
Sean O’Sullivan started 13 games for the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies. In those 71 innings, he registered a 6.08 ERA and a 1.606 WHIP. In his final three starts, culminating in a July 6 loss in Dodger Stadium, he gave up six runs in each game. He gave up 16 home runs and only had 35 strikeouts. He was Bad. Even for the Phillies.
How does a team get to the place where Sean O’Sullivan starts 13 times? He’s organizational depth. He’s a replacement player. Obviously there were front office issues that pushed the team off a cliff, but there were also injuries over the last few years to Jonathan Pettibone, Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin, Jesse Biddle, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee. O’Sullivan was pressed into duty, and despite horrible stats for the season, he wasn’t unspeakably awful every time he toed the rubber. His job was to go out against Major League hitters and get through five innings. The team needed innings, and Sean O’Sullivan obliged. He even threw in four quality starts out of thirteen.
But! He was actually not the worst starting pitcher on the 2015 Phillies. That unsavory title belongs to David Buchanan, who essentially took O’Sullivan’s spot in the rotation. While both were similarly awful, Buchanan likely has a future with the Phillies. It seems highly improbable that the Phillies would have a need for O’Sullivan in 2016. I would very much like it if I did not see him pitch for the Phillies in 2016. His presence on the team would be a constant reminder of the complete failure of the franchise from top to bottom. I’d like to believe that is all in the past, and that the team is headed for brighter days very soon.
When I lived in Philadelphia, it seemed like every time I went to the ballpark, Kyle Kendrick was the starting pitcher. Since Kyle Kendrick wasn’t any good for most of that time period, it was frustrating to pay to see the worst pitcher on the team. As I unknowingly witnessed the slow, premature death of a dynasty, I made Kendrick the emblem of the team’s failure. Inevitably, after a regrettable appearance by Kendrick, I’d help my fellow citizens boo him off the mound. It was awful. After all, Kyle Kendrick didn’t ask for his fate as a Phillie. Perhaps he would have been better off if the team really had traded him to Japan. At least there, he wouldn’t have to endure the barbs of a fanbase just a little too close to the taste of champagne, but also far too familiar with the feeling of never having a taste.
I won’t boo Sean O’Sullivan. But among 190 pitchers in baseball who pitched 70 innings or more in 2015, he was one of the worst. His WAR was -0.8. The only pitchers with a WAR as bad as or worse than O’Sullivan’s are Jeremy Guthrie (-0.8) … and Kyle Kendrick (-1.0).