The Phillies Have a Bullpen Problem

It shouldn’t be surprising that the Phillies have made themselves worse by trading away major league baseball players at the deadline. The Phillies had built in replacements for Howie Kendrick and Jeremy Hellickson in Daniel Nava (with Nick Williams playing LF everyday) and Jake Thompson (with a whole string of AAA starters available if he faltered). What the Phillies are unprepared for is the moving Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit out of high leverage innings. This isn’t really a fault of the Phillies, because if they had extra high leverage arms they probably would have shipped them out too. In the wake of the trades, the Phillies had to use Luis Garcia and Hector Neris for three straight days in order to complete a 4 game sweep of the Braves. This forced a call up of Drew Anderson from AA for the night. With Anderson sent down last night, this is how the bullpen stands.

  • RHP Hector Neris – 3.12 ERA
  • RHP Luis Garcia – 2.25 ERA
  • RHP Mark Leiter Jr. – 4.86 ERA
  • RHP Jesen Therrien – 20.25 ERA (1.1 IP)
  • LHP Hoby Milner – 4.22 ERA
  • LHP Adam Morgan – 6.43 ERA
  • RHP Edubray Ramos* – 5.52 ERA

*Not officially called up

I am sorry, I probably should have included a trigger warning. No matter how you slice it, it is not good. Garcia and Neris have been solid, and for a terrible team, they aren’t bad for the 8th and 9th innings. Leiter, Therrien, and Milner are all rookies, and Therrien has barely been here long enough to really judge. Edubray Ramos is better than his ERA, but it has been a terrible sophomore season for him.

The Phillies have reached down into the minors to try and fix these problems, first turning to IronPigs’ closer Pedro Beato, who got immediately injured, and then to Therrien who has had a good year, but doesn’t really profile as a shutdown reliever. If the Phillies do want to try and fortify from within what are their options?

While the Phillies did open up two new spots on the 40 man roster, they could stick with what is on the roster right now and preserve those spots for other call ups, but who is actually left on the roster?

  • RHP Zach Eflin – Struggling as a starter, secondary pitches probably aren’t ready for relief
  • RHP Ben Lively – He might not be a real difference from Leiter as a reliever, also left his last start with a minor injury
  • RHP Ricardo Pinto – Pinto has looked much better in the bullpen of late, he is not eligible to be recalled until after Thursday game
  • RHP Alberto Tirado – He can’t find the strikezone in AA
  • RHP Mark Appel – Injured
  • RHP Drew Anderson – Might be ready for AAA as a starter, but he does not look MLB ready

Of that group, they could move Eflin to the bullpen and hope for the best, but they really are limited to Pinto when he is eligible. However, they have two 40 man spots, who could they turn to off of the roster?

  • RHP Michael Mariot – Mariot has a 4.43 ERA in what is now his 6th season with time in AAA. He can flash a couple of pitches that look like major league assets, but ultimately he has consistently been org fodder.
  • RHP Colton Murray – Pretty much the home grown version of what Mariot has been.
  • LHP Cesar Ramos – Ramos has been the IronPigs’ swing man this year, but after a 0.71 and 2.87 ERA hsi first two months, he has been at 6.39 and 3.05 the past two months as his walks have increased. If the Phillies need innings in September they could turn to Ramos.
  • RHP Yacksel Rios – Rios has the biggest stuff of the group with a potential plus fastball and plus slider, and so far this year he has a 1.89 ERA in 47.2 innings between AA and AAA. He could be option going forward, but like Therrien he probably is not going to step in and dominate from day one.
  • SHP Pat Venditte – Venditte has a 3.16 ERA in AAA this year, but he also has walked 30 in 57 innings. So far this year as a RHP Pat Venditte has walked 26 batters while striking out 24. As a LHP that ratio is 5 to 29. The switch pitching gig is fun, but in reality Venditte is a LOOGY, and one without great stuff. He is already 32, at this point is he better than the younger Milner or Morgan? Not at all.

So where are we? Stuck. It is likely the Phillies go with Ricardo Pinto over Mark Leiter Jr. at some point in the next week, which gives them a bit more velocity out of the bullpen, but not a lot of bankable consistency. In September we probably see Leiter and Rios to help get more innings out of the unit. Maybe we see Anderson or Appel in relief, but neither should be counted on.

Just due to regression and health, the Phillies lineup and rotation should be better in the last two months than they were in the first four months. It is probably a large enough improvement to keep them from getting the #1 overall pick. Don’t count on them to be too good though, their bullpen is going to really hold them back. So enjoy the games and try not to take the late bullpen implosions personally.

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  1. Scott B

    August 02, 2017 04:21 PM

    What if they take a flyer on John Axford? Was recently released by the A’s..maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle and throw him out there in the 7th.

    • Matt Winkelman

      August 02, 2017 04:24 PM

      Axford has no future with the Phillies, maybe there is a small chance he is better than Therrien, Pinto, and Ramos, but those guys all could be part of the Phillies’ future

  2. Major Malfunction

    August 03, 2017 01:09 PM

    This is like grading wine list on the Titanic post iceberg. The season is in already in the books. At this point, just let them all pitch and see what they can do. Consider the rest of the year an extended audition. At the end of the year, cut bait with the obvious failures and invite the rest to spring training while looking for decent FA relievers. We got plenty of $$$$. Don’t be afraid to buy where you can’t fill it with a prospect. No team is perfect and able to fill every hole through internal moves.

    • Romus

      August 03, 2017 03:13 PM

      With relievers, most closers aside, it is difficult determining their future performance.
      They are so fluid.
      A failure in 2017 can be the success story in 2018. As was Luis Garcia from last year to this year…..and in some respects the polar opposite does occur, Neris somewhat from the unshakable in ’16 to the unnerving in ’17.
      It is such a roll of the dice sometimes from year to year with developing the bullpen.

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