Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Phillies 2013 Review: Relief Pitching

Another bad year for the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies bullpen was plagued by injuries, suspensions, and overall bad pitchers who should not have been in the major leagues but were thrown into the fire.

In 2012, the biggest hole in the Phillies bullpen was the 8th inning. They were missing a set up man who could give the ball to Jonathan Papelbon. During the off season the Phillies went out and got a viable option for the 8th inning and that was Mike Adams. Adams was coming off an injury that removed a rib but he was ready for Opening Day. With health as a concern, Phillies fans were hoping Adams could stay healthy for the entire year because as shown in the past he is a good reliever when healthy.

At the start of the 2013 season the back end of the Phillies bullpen was going to be Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo, Mike Adams, then closer Jonathan Papelbon.

First, as stated above, Mike Adams was suppose to be a good option out of the bullpen when he was healthy and at the start of the season he was healthy but did not pitch well. He did not pitch poorly but fans were expecting to see a little bit more consistency out of Adams. About half way through the season Mike Adams went on the disabled list with an injury and did not return for the remainder of the season. He finished with a 3.96 ERA. This left a big hole in the 8th inning.

Side Note: Mike Adams should be ready for the start of Spring Training.

Left hander Antonio Bastardo was left to fill the role of the 8th inning exclusively. Bastardo was primarily a 7th or 8th inning pitcher already and would come in to get a left handed batter out in the 8th inning when needed so he had the experience. Bastardo pitched well for the Phillies in 2013 and when Adams went on the disabled list Bastardo filled in nicely. But on August 5, Bastardo was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball as part of the Biogenesis baseball scandal. Bastardo ended the season with a 2.32 ERA, very respectable.

In 2011 Michael Stutes got a big league call up and contributed big time to the Phillies 102 wins. He was a steady arm out in the bullpen and could be used in different situations. He could give you two innings out of the bullpen, he could come in when you have a big lead, or be the set up man for a night.  But after only pitching 5.2 innings in 2012 Stutes had a right shoulder injury and was shut down for the remainder of the year.

For some odd reason Michael Stutes, who proved to be a good option out of the bullpen in 2011 and was hurt for the majority of 2012 started the 2013 season in the minors. This made zero sense to me. Stutes was a pitcher who could be counted on a lot better than players like Justin De Fratus, Joe Savery, Jake Diekman (at the time), and other fill in the blank pitchers who did not perform well. But the Phillies decided to pitch him in Triple-A, which makes absolutely zero sense. Eventually on May 24, Stutes made his season debut and over the next month Stutes made 14 appearances out of the bullpen and he didn't pitch all that well. However, Stutes was then placed on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. He did come back to pitch two scoreless innings for the Phillies at the end of the season. Hopefully in 2014 Michael Stutes can stay healthy for the entire year and prove that he is a good option for the Phillies in the 7th inning and have the ability to pitch in many different game situations.

This all leads to the always interesting never know what he's gonna say on the Phillies Phanavision, Jonathan Papelbon, who claims that his favorite place to take a vacation is on the moon. Possibly the most disappointing part of the bullpen in 2013 was Papelbon. From the naked eye it does not look like Papelbon pitched bad. With a 2.92 ERA and 29 saves, it looks like Papelbon had a pretty productive year. However, Papelbon blew 7 saves and lost velocity on his fastball. Whether if it had to do with the lack of high leverage situations he was put in due to the lack of success of the team or an increase in age; Papelbon's average fastball velocity was 92.0 which is down from 93.8 the previous season and his K/9 was down to 8.32 in 2013 where as in 2012 it was 11.83 (courtesy of fangraphs.com). In 2014 and beyond Papelbon will have to learn to locate his fastball a little bit better if he wants to remain as a major league closer since he is no longer a big time strikeout pitcher.

The rest of the Phillies bullpen was pretty horrendous except for the emergence of two pitchers: Jacob Diekman and BJ Rosenberg. Both of these pitchers pitched well late in the season. In Diekman's final 19 appearances he only allowed one run. Diekman's BB/9 improved tremendously, by going from 6.59 in 2012 down to 3.76 in 2013.

B.J. Rosenberg pitched well for the Phillies up until the final couple of weeks when he surrendered six earned runs combined in his last six games pitched. Prior to then he pitched 14 scoreless appearances.

Diekman and Rosenberg are both have very good fastballs and have potential to help out this bullpen in 2014. If they can locate their pitches well these two pitchers will serve big roles in 2014.

Pitchers like Justin De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont, and Joe Savery have all proven to be inconsistent and have difficulties finding the strike zone. I do not see these players having very successful major league careers. De Fratus most likely has the most potential and has pitched the best out of these three but he is still too inconsistent to start thinking that he can contribute a lot for this team.

I won't even mention pitchers like Luis Garcia, Cesar Jimenez, Chad Durbin, J.C. Ramirez, and Raul Valdes who all pitched absolutely terrible in 2013 and deserve to be in either Triple-A or at a regular 9-5 job.

Overall, the Phillies bullpen ranked 27th in baseball in ERA at 4.19 and there BB/9 was the highest in baseball at 4.30. Having a good bullpen is crucial in having a good team because the bullpen is relied on nearly every night to hold the lead for a pitcher, keep the team in the game, or bail the starting pitcher out.

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