Phillies Are Having Second Half Pitching Problems

Young pitching was supposed to be a strength of the Phillies this season, but as we all know, pitching can be unpredictable. As of right now, the Phillies have a team ERA of 4.56 on the season, which is good for 20th in baseball. On a more granular basis, their starters are actually 17th in baseball, and their relievers are 23rd. The reasons for these declines are many and include injuries, trades, and just being bad. However, baseball does not accept excuses in place of starts, so the Phillies still have to figure out a pitching staff to get through the end of the season. So how do you do that when you don’t have any veterans and you aren’t very good?

The one pitcher in all of this that the Phillies don’t have to worry about is Aaron Nola. In the second half he has a 1.85 ERA, and in 10 starts since allowing 5 runs to Arizona on June 16, he has a 1.71 ERA over 68.1 innings.

The other pitcher who has rejoined that category is Jerad Eickhoff. He hasn’t been as dominant as Nola, but in his 7 starts since returning from the DL, he has a 3.18 ERA over 39.2 innings. He is no longer hemorrhaging home runs, and his strikeout rate is back up as well.

Then it all falls apart. Here are the players who have started games for the Phillies in the second half:

Add to that Mark Leiter Jr. (11 IP 4.09 ERA), who will be getting the start tonight, and you have a motley crew of not very good.

There is not really help on the way either. The AAA rotation features the demoted Thompson and Ben Lively, as well as Thomas Eshelman, Jose Taveras, and Brandon Leibrandt. In reality, the only reinforcements are Thompson and Lively, as the Phillies look to limit Eshelman (and probably Leibrandt), and Taveras has just 5 starts in AA and AAA combined.

The rotation problems have put more pressure on the bullpen, and up until Velasquez’s injury, the Phillies had been running an 8 man bullpen. But now they are back to a 7 man bullpen,with Leiter moving from long man to rotation. It has not helped that the bullpen is young and inconsistent.

There is no fix to the bullpen in the minors either. This means the only real out is to play the numbers. The first move is going to need to be bringing back the 8 man bullpen, so that Pete does not have to push players like Ricardo Pinto into second innings of work. They have two options for where that player comes from. They could promote Ben Lively or Jake Thompson and push one of them or Leiter to the bullpen as the long man. Alternatively, they could bring up a pure reliever, like Pedro Beato or Casey Fien, who are both on rehab assignments just to soak up innings.

This all leads to where this gets really interesting, which is September. The Phillies are unlikely to promote prospects to the majors on September 1, but they could send up Beato and Fien to extend the bullpen. Once the minor league season ends, they have strong candidates to help extend the relief corps and maybe start to limit their starters to fewer innings per start.

  • Elniery Garcia – Garcia is not major league ready and doesn’t have much upper minors experience under his belt, but he is left handed and is not playoff eligible in the minors due to his suspension. Speaking of the suspension, that coupled with an arm injury means he needs the innings too.
  • Mark Appel – Appel is currently rehabbing from an injury, and it sounds like he will be coming back as a reliever. He will need innings after his injury, so why not give him some run in the majors just to get him into the games?
  • Jake Thompson/Ben Lively – Right now both are just starter depth, but both might have some utility in a bullpen if they made full time conversion. For now, they should be able to mop up innings.
  • Yacksel Rios – Rios is the breakout right hander pair to Jesen Therrien. Rios needs a 40 man spot this offseason to not be a free agent. He has good arm strength (FB 94-97) and a solid enough slider to be a good reliever.
  • Drew Anderson – He probably will be at his max innings for the year, but the Phillies have already shown they are fine throwing him into bullpen situations.

No matter what they do, it is going to be a struggle for the Phillies pitching staff. The good news is that Nola and Eickhoff are back on track, and that almost all of the struggles are due to young players getting a major league chance, and not veterans putting up bad numbers..

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  1. Mike Fassano

    August 15, 2017 04:51 PM

    Great article. Due to injuries the Phillies have had to dive deep into their minor league depth this year. Though Pivetta, Eflin, Lively, and even Pinto have shown promise, they’re certainly not ready for the majors. If that’s to be the Front Office’s excuse, I’ll accept that.
    I’m an old man, and in all my years of watching baseball I’ve never seen a line up go into a month long slump before. They had the worst month I ever saw in May, and I lived through the 23 game losing streak of 1961. Are they really that bad? They’re doing somewhat better now, but how many times have they had runners in scoring position with no outs and failed to get a run in?

    • Romus

      August 15, 2017 06:01 PM

      The one piece the Phillies have that could possibly bring back some quality , possibly TOR major-league ready pitching prospects may be Odubel Herrera. I wonder if his return value could be more than an Adam Eaton’s return value was in the Nats/WSox trade last year.
      His first three years has seen him WAR at almost 12, and with his age and contract, plus his defensive skills, he could be a very attractive asset in CF. Would Klentak and company ever explore trading Herrera in this off-season forr those pitchers that would slide into that top rotation slots and complement Nola.?

      • Mike Fassano

        August 15, 2017 06:16 PM

        I agree that we need pitching, but Odubel is too high of a price to pay for prospects. I’ve been critical of him, but my “Eye test” tells me that he’s going to be an all-timer. I’m guessing that you’re too young to have seen Clemente play. He was the ORIGINAL Phillie killer. Herrera’s numbers for his first three years make Clemente look pedestrian. By the time the Phillies are ready to contend, all the kinks will be ironed out.

      • ASK

        August 15, 2017 08:18 PM

        I’m with Mike Fassano. A 4 WAR CF making either $27.5M over the next 4 years (if the Phils decline his 2022 option), $37.5M over the next 5 years (if the Phils decline his 2023 option) or $49M over the next 6 years is too much value to trade for prospects. If they trade Odubel, they better get at least one proven MLB player of comparable value…which may be hard to find. Frankly, I’d rather they just keep their 4 WAR player signed to a team friendly contract and fill in the other 24 roster spots.

      • Romus

        August 16, 2017 07:41 AM

        I think the last two drafts tell you which way the organization is leaning for their future CFer. That is why it would not surprise me if OH is at some point in the next 18 months dealt. They have invested too much in Moniak and Haseley to let them not have the opportunity to be the starting CFer long term. Obviously one will need to move to a corner OF position or be dealt also.

      • Michael C Lorah

        August 16, 2017 08:13 AM

        I’m with Mike and ASK here. Even with Moniak and Haseley in the system, Herrera has too much value. Firstly, Moniak and Haseley are, best case scenario, years away – trading Herrera in the next 18 months leaves the team without a CF for probably at least a year.

        Three years from now, when (if) one (or both) are in AAA and battering down the door, maybe the team will look at moving Odubel then (or using the prospects as bait – IF they’re contending by then, a potential playoff team almost always sticks with the proven player and flips the prospect) or moving somebody to a corner.

        But until somebody in the minors is absolutely forcing the issue (see Rhys Hoskins or Ryan Howard/Jim Thome), I just don’t see any argument for moving Herrera. Yes, the Phils need pitching. Sad to say, they need offense (and defense!) too, and Herrera is one of the few guys with any track record of providing that at a major league level.

      • Romus

        August 16, 2017 09:16 AM

        CF can be manned by Altherr…a plus defender….and like last night, Nick Williams.
        Finding a defensive emplacement for OH, until Haseley/Moniak arrive is in very capable defensive hands.
        And lets not forget Quinn….if for some reason he is able to stay healthy for 80% of a season…he will also be in the mix.
        I like OH……but just not sure the Phillies org are buying on him for the long term.

      • Romus

        August 16, 2017 09:18 AM

        And as for progression….if Haseley is able to hit and follow the Red Sox ABen. or Mets MConf. minor league upward mobility trek….he should be in CF sometime in 2019.

      • Chris S

        August 16, 2017 09:51 AM

        Why do people keep saying they aren’t sure if the Phillies are buying into Odubel long term? They signed him to a 4 year contract because they believe in him. You don’t make that kind of commitment to a player without the thought that he will be with you long term.

      • Romus

        August 16, 2017 02:18 PM

        His contract is almost entirely team friendly.
        It is somewhat similar to Yelich…but a notch shorter (a year) and approx 15% smaller.
        When it comes to added value….the contract is built for an attractive trade chip up to 2020.
        According to COTS:
        17:$1.25M,….18:$3M…. 19:$5M…. 20:$7M…. 21:$10M…. 22:$11.5M club option ($2.5M buyout). 23:$12.5M club option ($1M buyout).
        IMO, if the Phillies were planning on OH being their future core…..the AAV would have been more and those two year ‘club options’ would have been ‘mutual options’

      • Chris S

        August 16, 2017 03:52 PM

        That is just a smart contract. Why overpay if the player is willing to take less? That doesn’t mean the FO isn’t committing to Herrera it just means that they didn’t want to pay market value for his 4 WAR a year (approx. $20 Million a year). Team options are also smart because if you give a mutual option that allows the player to get out of the contract. If they did a mutual option Odubel would opt out to test free agency if he continues to put up the numbers he is because he would make $20+ Million a year on the open market. Odubel’s contract is a smart one and one the Phillies should be looking to do more of in the future.

      • Adam Dembowitz

        August 16, 2017 05:13 PM

        Is it just me or does Romus get his comments voted down a lot? Keep ’em coming Romus, I got you.

      • Romus

        August 17, 2017 08:20 AM

        AdamD….thanks for the encouragement.
        And the voting down, LOL,
        ….personal vendettas from posters from another Phillies site that just carry over to CA
        Been that way for a few years now.
        I am still in the running however for the thumbs down grand prize awarded annually.

    • Jim Shorts

      August 16, 2017 01:34 PM

      a team can sign a player to a long term contract that is very team friendly with the thought that he is then a much more valuable trade commodity.

      the two are not mutually exclusive.

  2. JerseyJim

    August 15, 2017 11:50 PM

    They to acquire a lot of pitching this offseason again.

  3. Whitey

    August 16, 2017 11:10 AM

    Developing a High Level Ace starter is not something the Phils do often. They have money – go get a free agent starter.

    • Chris S

      August 16, 2017 11:26 AM

      They don’t do it often because it is hard to do and has a lot to do with luck. Hamels was their last one, but Nola is looking more and more like an Ace with each passing start.

  4. Tim Duncan

    August 16, 2017 12:33 PM

    Question about Herera; his defensive metrics are high – does the fact that he takes many fly balls away from the corner OF’s that should be theirs, factor into this? Would his rating be lower if he let the corner OF’s make those catches? I’ve never seen a CF do that to the extent that OH does. Nava was upset recently at Herera for taking a ball that he had lined up and it almost caused a collision.

  5. RU

    August 16, 2017 10:59 PM

    Romus is usually given negative ratings on this site and others. That said, he is always insightful and more than specific when it comes to doing the sabermetric analysis. I often agree with him and usually say so. There has been considerable amount of electrons or bytes spent by hundreds of internet bloggers whether to trade Odubel or not ? here and elsewhere. I only wish we could focus this sort of attention on more meaningful issues – which is not me, just saying…..anyway, the more I watch OH – like Mike Fassano, and maybe others, I am an old man, and I know when I see a particular talent over those years I can tell that he has gifts that are extraordinary – and whether we like the immature, dopey, inattentive OH or not – this man is a truly gifted baseball player. I cannot recall ever seeing – in more than 65 years – a player do some of the things he does with the bat ! He looks like a little leaguer one minute and in the next he hits a ball 6 inches off the ground over the right field wall ????? He is without question, the most undisciplined hitter I can think of and yet – only a very select few have a higher average since the All Star break, nor a higher WAR, nor the amount of extra base hits ??? He is without question a player of extraordinary natural talent. Will that turn into franchise history making HOF territory ? I would not bet against it. Unless I could get a young, well known front line pitcher – like Walker Bueller plus 2 other players I would even begin to entertain the idea of trading him. After Hoskins, he is the future – like it or not.

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