Results tagged ‘ bullpen ’

Bullpen Blow Up

Jake Diekman,Dan UgglaMarlon Byrd probably summed up last night’s 9-6 loss to the Braves better than anybody:

“For a fan it’s got to be a great game to watch, entertainment-wise. It sucks for us. We came out on the losing end.”

How it happened is incredible. The Braves carried a 2-1 lead into the eighth inning when B.J. Rosenberg served up home runs to Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons in succession to make it 5-1. Forty-four times since 1950 a pitcher allowed home runs to the only two batters he faced in a game. But according to Retrosheet, Rosenberg is the first pitcher in 100 years (and likely ever) to allow home runs to the only three batters he faced in a game. Records only go back to 1914, but nobody hit home runs before 1914 and relievers were not what they are today so it’s highly doubtful it happened before that.

The Phillies then scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 6-5 lead.

But then Jake Diekman, trying to close for the first time in his career, loaded the bases in the ninth before he allowed a grand slam to Uggla.

The bullpen started the game with a 4.35 ERA following a strong performance over the weekend against Miami. It left the ballpark with a 5.53 ERA, which is the third-highest bullpen ERA in baseball. Of course, it doesn’t help that Phillies starters can’t pitch past the sixth inning. Just twice in 13 games have they pitched more than six innings. Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. In other words, they are hitting the 100-pitch mark fairly regularly in the fifth and sixth innings and can’t go any further. And that exposes the bullpen.

(A MLB-leading 14 errors hasn’t helped, extending innings, too.)

Mike Adams is back in the bullpen beginning tonight, but it remains to be seen how much he help.

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Asked this morning about Double-A Reading closer Ken Giles, Ruben Amaro Jr. said on the 94 WIP Morning Show that, “I think we have to think about it.” But Amaro also mentioned how Giles is still learning, how he missed time last season because of injuries and how they need to make sure he can handle the ups and downs of the big leagues first.

“We’re not afraid to bring guys up to the big leagues,” Amaro said.

In six scoreless innings, Giles has allowed one hit and two walks and has struck out 14.

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Tony Gwynn Jr. singled and reached second on a throwing error with one out in the third inning, when Jimmy Rollins bunted Gwynn to third. It was a confusing move at best with Gwynn a good runner and already in scoring position. Rollins gave up a precious out to send Chase Utley to the plate, and then Utley struck out to end the inning.

The immediate reaction: Why would Rollins bunt there? No way the Phillies called that from the bench. It made no sense.

“[Rollins] thought there were no outs,” Ryne Sandberg said. “He forgot [Roberto] Hernandez led off the inning. He thought there was no outs. He was just trying to get the guy over from second to third.”

It Gets Harder from Here

Jose FernandezThis is the challenge the Phillies face tonight.

Following four consecutive losses by four or more runs, the Phillies must step into the batter’s box tonight at Citizens Bank Park and try to beat Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who went 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA in three starts against them last season, striking out 16 batters in 18 innings and holding them to a .359 OPS.

Fernandez has been dominant in his first two starts this year: eight hits, one run, two walks and 17 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

If the Phillies can’t crack the Hernandez code they will fall to 3-7. But it’s early, right? I’ve been reminded the 2007 Phillies opened the season 4-11 before winning the National League East. But a few things to remember there: the Phillies needed to finish 13-4 and the Mets needed to finish 5-12 to make it happen. It also took the Phillies until May 16 to get back to .500, and that team had the best offense in the National League and three MVP-caliber players in their prime in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. This team can’t say that. Perhaps when Cole Hamels returns the Phillies can say they have a formidable 1-2-3 punch atop their rotation, but they still need nights when they can string together a bunch of hits.

Ask Cliff Lee, who has had some of the worst run support in baseball since resigning with the Phillies in Dec. 2010.

The Phillies have hit just .243 with a .317 on-base percentage since they scored 14 runs Opening Day against the Rangers. They have hit just .203 with runners in scoring position in that stretch. But this has been a team effort. In their last four games, the pitching staff has a 5.91 ERA, which doesn’t include the 10 unearned runs they have allowed. The bullpen has allowed 60 percent (6 of 10) of its inherited runners to score this season, which is the second-worst mark in baseball.

I’ve heard countless baseball people say pennants can’t be won in April, but they can be lost. The Phillies entered the season with a very small margin for error. They don’t want to bury themselves too deep too quickly, but a 3-7 start would have them on the way.

The Bullpen’s Rocky Start

Mario HollandsYou knew the Phillies would not score 14 runs every night — they needed 81 games to reach 10+ runs in a game last season — and if they planned to win they would need to win close games like the one they lost last night.

It is why Ryne Sandberg drilled fundamentals into his players’ heads in Spring Training. It is why they said they valued versatility and defense when they finalized their bench.

The Phillies would need to play soundly to make up for any lack of pop offensively.

Of course, they also would need to pitch well.

It is just two games, but the Phillies bullpen isn’t off to a great start. They have allowed six hits, four runs, six walks and have struck out six in 6 1/3 innings. They have allowed three of six inherited runners to score. (They finished 29th in baseball last season, allowing 36.2 percent of inherited runners to score.) Sandberg already has leaned twice on left-handers Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo and right-hander B.J. Rosenberg. He also chose rookie left-hander Mario Hollands to face the top of the Rangers lineup in the bottom of the ninth last night rather than use one of his more experienced right-handers. Hollands, who was making his big league debut, walked two of the three batters he faced (the left-handed Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder) before Rosenberg entered and allowed the game-winning hit to Adrian Beltre.

“I’m just using the guys in the ‘pen,” Sandberg said, asked if he is experimenting to find the best relievers for the best roles. “They’re here for a reason. They’re here to pitch. … It’s not experimenting at all. It’s putting them in the best situations to pitch and be successful.”

Theoretically, Sandberg could have used a righty to face the bottom of the lineup in the eighth and have Bastardo pitch against the top of the lineup in the ninth, but he said he wanted his best reliever (other than closer Jonathan Papelbon) to keep the game tied with a chance to win in the ninth.

“Bastardo is our eighth-inning guy,” Sandberg said.

Rosenberg has allowed three of four inherited runners to score in his first two appearances. Brad Lincoln, who was a lock to make the bullpen before Spring Training opened in February, and Justin De Fratus are still looking for their first action.

“Coming out of Spring Training, he was throwing the best, as far as throwing strikes and doing the job as a seventh- or eighth-inning right-hander pitcher,” Sandberg said of Rosenberg.

Relievers are going to blow leads and blow games. It happens in every bullpen. But the margin for error for the Phillies is small. They will need an effective bullpen to have a chance this season. This isn’t the start they wanted.

Dodgers in Town, Amaro Talks Lineup, Bullpen Misses

Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Jr.The Phillies did not play yesterday, which is probably a good thing.

Everybody could use a break.

They have lost 19 of 23 as the ridiculously white-hot Dodgers roll into town. The Dodgers were 30-42 and last in the National League West on June 21. They are 40-8 (.833) since, which is easily the best record in baseball. The Phillies were 49-48 and second in the NL East on July 19, but are 4-19 (.170) since for easily the worst record in baseball. I know anything can happen any night at the ball yard, but this could be a really ugly weekend.

A couple things from yesterday:

Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke about next season’s potentially left-handed heavy lineup and the organization’s string of misses the past few years with free agent relief pitchers.

Roy Halladay made his first rehab start yesterday in Clearwater.

The Phillies Got Bullpen Problems

Mike AdamsThe Phillies tied last night’s game against the Twins in the top of the eighth inning at Target Field only to have Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo allow the game-winning run to score in the bottom half of the inning.

We’ve seen plenty of performances like this from the bullpen this year.

Back in February, when the Phillies opened spring training in Clearwater, they thought the bullpen could be a position of strength. The bullpen had a 2.84 ERA the final two months last season, so they figured with the additions of Adams and Chad Durbin to a group that included Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo and a host of talented young pitchers, they would continue to take a step forward. But the bullpen has taken a big step back. Its 4.48 ERA is the third-worst in baseball. It has allowed 42.9 percent of its inherited runners to score, which is the worst in baseball. Its 1.46 WHIP is second-worst.

Let’s take a look at the stable of relievers, and how they have fared:

  • Jonathan Papelbon. He is being paid a fortune to close, but he is doing the job. He is 11-for-11 in save opportunities with a 1.59 ERA, but you’ve got to think the Phillies will try to move him if they decide to sell before the July 31 trade deadline. It doesn’t make much sense to have a high-priced closer on a rebuilding team.
  • Mike Adams. The Phillies signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract in December, acknowledging it carried risk following TOC surgery in October. Adams’ stuff hasn’t been the same and he has had problems staying healthy. He is 1-4 with a 4.22 ERA with a 7.11 ERA since coming off the DL May 26.
  • Antonio Bastardo. He has a 2.42 ERA in 27 appearances, but a 1.478 WHIP and is averaging 5.6 walks per nine innings. He also is striking out fewer batters than he has in the past. Bastardo always seems to be in trouble. Maybe that explains why he has entered a game with runners on base just three times. He has allowed two of four inherited runners to score, including one last night.
  • Chad Durbin. Released. He had a 9.00 ERA in 16 appearances.
  • Phillippe Aumont. Manuel specifically mentioned Aumont last night when asked about the bullpen’s struggles. He said everybody expected him to take a step forward this year. But he had an alarming 2.077 WHIP, averaging 6.9 walks per nine innings before he got sent to Triple-A last month. In eight appearances with the IronPigs, he has an 8.59 ERA and has walked 12 batters in 7 1/3 innings.
  • Jeremy Horst. He is second on the team with 26 appearances, but has a 5.55 ERA. That kind of sums up the bullpen’s struggles right there.
  • Raul Valdes. The Phillies sent him to Triple-A after posting a 7.65 ERA in 10 appearances.
  • Mike Stutes. He has had good results since coming up from Triple-A, carrying a 1.80 ERA in eight appearances. He has walked just one batter in 10 innings.
  • Justin De Fratus. The Phillies wanted him to open the season with the team, but they didn’t think his arm was where it needed to be. De Fratus has a 1.80 ERA and a fantastic 0.800 WHIP in 13 appearances. You wonder if he could move into Adams’ role if Adams continues to struggle. He has the coaching staff’s trust.
  • B.J. Rosenberg. Ruben Amaro Jr. called up Rosenberg on May 17 to replace Valdes, saying he was throwing the best and he had a big arm that could strike out people. But Rosenberg posted a 12.00 ERA in three appearances, following a 6.12 ERA in 22 appearances last season. Rosenberg throws hard, but he hasn’t proven he can get hitters out on a consistent basis.
  • Joe Savery. He has been with the team three times this season after throwing the ball well in Triple-A. But he has only pitched twice with the Phillies.
  • Jake Diekman. He has not pitched with the Phillies this season, but I include him here because they raved about his arm and upside, and with the struggles of Horst and Valdes he could have been called up at some point, except he can’t throw strikes. He has a 5.70 ERA and has walked 24 batters in 30 innings in 30 appearances with Lehigh Valley.

Everybody Scores on Phillies Pen

Jeremy HorstIf a Phillies relief pitcher enters a game with a runner on base there is a very good chance he will allow that runner to score.

The Phillies bullpen has allowed 46.3 percent (25 of 54) of its inherited runners to score, which is the worst mark in baseball. (The Mariners have been the stingiest at just 15.9 percent.) Upon further inspection, the Phillies’ mark is one of the worst in baseball in nearly 40 years. Going back to 1974, the 2013 Phillies’ bullpen has been the second-worst in baseball in allowing inherited runners to score.

  1. 1977 Reds: 48.1 percent (74 of 154)
  2. 2013 Phillies: 46.3 percent (25 of 54)
  3. 1974 Mets: 46.0 percent (63 of 137)
  4. 1992 Phillies: 44.8 percent (73 of 163)
  5. 1974 Expos: 44.2 percent (69 of 156)

The MLB average from 1974 through today is 33 percent. The best Phillies bullpen in that stretch? The 2011 bullpen, which allowed only 25 percent to score.

“I have a big concern about our bullpen,” Charlie Manuel said. “If we can’t hold people how can we win the game? You can say you’ve got to score runs to win, but at the same time how many runs do you have to score?”

Here is how individuals in the Phillies’ bullpen have fared:

  1. Justin De Fratus: 0 percent (0 of 4)
  2. Raul Valdes: 33 percent (1 of 3)
  3. Mike Adams: 40 percent (2 of 5)
  4. Jeremy Horst: 42.9 percent (9 of 21)
  5. Antonio Bastardo: 50 percent (1 of 2)
  6. Jonathan Papelbon: 50 percent (1 of 2)
  7. Chad Durbin: 60 percent (9 of 15)
  8. Phillippe Aumont: 100 percent (2 of 2)

“I think it’s a matter of pounding the zone, being the aggressor,” Durbin said about pitching better with runners on base. “I think we get 1-0 and 2-0 then you have to throw the ball over the plate and all the pressure is on us. So, the success I’ve had in the past with it has been getting ahead with an offspeed pitch or a well-located fastball to put the pressure on them and kind of let our defense get comfortable.”

It’s Ohio Week In Philly

Chase UtleyHola, amigos.

It’s been a while, I know. I took a few days away from the blog to recharge the batteries. But it’s back to baseball tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

This week is a good test for the Phillies. They went 4-3 in San Francisco and Arizona and return home to play five games against the Indians and Reds. The Indians outscored the Phillies in two games two weeks ago in Cleveland, 20-2. The Reds swept the Phillies in three games in April by a combined score 16-4. If my math is correct, that’s zero wins, five losses, six runs for and 36 runs against. So I guess we’ll see if that 4-3 road trip meant anything.

A few random stats to digest:

  • From Elias Sports Bureau: Ryan Howard drove in the game-winning runs in the 10th inning Sunday. It’s the 13th time Howard has had extra-inning go-ahead RBIs. The only active players with more extra-inning, lead-assuming RBIs are Raul Ibanez (16) and Placido Polanco (15). Adam Jones and Albert Pujols also have 13.
  • I took a look in yesterday’s Inbox at the Phillies’ All-Star candidates. Interestingly, I found Chase Utley‘s .858 OPS best among NL second basemen. He’s third in baseball behind only Ian Kinsler (.911) and Robinson Cano (.895). Among NL second basemen, Utley is first in slugging percentage (.514); tied for first in triples (two) and home runs (seven); second in hits (41) and RBIs (24); third in batting (.289) and on-base percentage (.344); tied four fourth in runs (21) and sixth in doubles (seven). There is no question Utley has been the team’s bright spot offensively on a team that has struggled to score runs. (The Phillies’ three losses in San Francisco and Arizona were by a combined three runs.) Where would this team be if Utley’s knees were keeping him from the lineup?
  • The Phillies are 12th in the league with a 4.11 ERA. Remove Roy Halladay and they have a 3.60 ERA, which would rank sixth. I’ve said this for a while, but I consider the complaints about the Phillies’ pitching overblown. Halladay isn’t the same and he might never be, despite his optimism. No matter who takes that fifth spot while Halladay is out (right now it’s a four-man rotation), it’ll be an improvement over his 8.65 ERA. And while the ERAs of Jeremy Horst (5.51 ERA), Chad Durbin (6.17 ERA) and Raul Valdes (7.00 ERA) are scary, we’re not really pinning this team’s record on three pitchers in the front of the bullpen are we? Typically those guys are pitching when the Phillies are trailing or when the starter has gone less than six innings (again, which means things probably haven’t been going well). They aren’t pitching in too many high-leverage situations. Clearly, they need to pitch better, but this team’s problems fall mostly on the offense, which is 13th in the league averaging 3.54 runs per game. At some point this offense is going to have to get its act together or we’ll be looking at a fire sale in July.

Nine Up, Nine Down

Chase UtleyHere are some things we’ve learned through the first nine games of the season:

  • You should be worried about Roy Halladay. Despite protests from Halladay and everybody else in the Phillies clubhouse and front office, Halladay has not looked good since 2011. So this isn’t a four or five start slump. This is a slump that has extended beyond one full calendar year. It started in Spring Training 2012 and has lasted through his first two starts in 2013. Besides a drop in velocity, Halladay’s ERA from 2010-11 to 2012-13 has jumped from 2.40 to 4.95, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 6.75 to 3.43. He is going the wrong direction in every relevant statistic. Maybe he can figure out things and be productive, but right now there is no evidence to suggest he is close. He faces the wretched Marlins on Sunday. They’ve had Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hitting cleanup. It is a good opportunity to have some success on the mound. Maybe it gets him going.
  • Don’t be worried about Cole Hamels. If we’re at Defcon 2 with Halladay, we’re at Defcon 5 with Hamels. There is nothing to see here. Please, disperse.
  • It’s more the rotation than the bullpen. Phillies starters have a 6.24 ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. That is the biggest issue right now, not middle relievers like Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. Certainly they need to do a better job. They have allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score. That 80 percent mark is the worst in baseball. (Technically, the Reds have allowed 100 percent of their inherited runners to score, but they’re only 1-for-1.) But the middle relievers have been pitching too much and have put into too many tough situations. That blame falls on the starters. They are the ones that need to do better. They are supposed to pitch deep into games and they have not done that nearly enough.
  • The Phillies rank seventh in the National League, averaging 4.67 runs per game. They have looked better recently, and they show some potential. Chase Utley, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are swinging well right now. Domonic Brown has been OK. I believe Ryan Howard will be better than he has been. The only drag right now is Ben Revere. He has struck out seven times in 38 at-bats. That’s 5.86 plate appearances per strikeout. He struck out 54 times last season, or once every 10.24 plate appearances. John Mayberry Jr. has been productive, but even if he continues to swing well the Phillies are going with Delmon Young in right field when he is ready. Add Young and Carlos Ruiz to the lineup before the end of the month and this lineup has a chance to score some runs.
  • Utley looks like the guy that earned the “Best Second Baseman in Baseball” tag from 2005-09.
  • Cliff Lee can be streaky. The Phillies should be thankful he started on a good streak, otherwise they’d be in deep doo-doo.

Willis Struggles, Has Sore Arm

This is not how Dontrelle Willis wanted to open Spring Training with the Phillies.

He allowed three hits, four runs and two walks in just 2/3 inning today in a 10-3 loss to the Astros. He said afterward he has some soreness in his left arm, although he does not believe it is serious.

“My arm just felt fatigued out there today,” said Willis, who has allowed four runs in just 1 2/3 innings in two Grapefruit League appearances. “I need to go out there and battle and make better pitches. But I’ll be all right. I just need a day. I’m really frustrated with my location, but if you’re tired, you’re tired. That’s the bottom line.”

A good spring is important for Willis, who is fighting for a bullpen job. Theoretically, Willis might have an advantage over other pitchers in camp because he is a veteran left-hander, but he does not have a guaranteed contract like Chad Qualls, Jose Contreras or Kyle Kendrick, so the Phillies do not need to give him a chance at the beginning of the season if they do not feel he can help the team.

If Willis makes the team it likely will be as a left-handed specialist. Lefties are 1-for-3 against him this spring, while right-handers are 4-for-7 with three walks.

“We’re going to take the best team possible,” Rich Dubee said. “Again, I don’t see any reason to have a second lefty if he’s not better than the righty before him. If he can’t get anybody out, what kind of look is that? Really. What kind of look is it? The fact of the matter is how servicable are they? That’s what we’re looking for. How do they fit in the mixer of the whole bullpen? I don’t care if he’s lefty or righty, who is the most effective guy?”

Willis said he isn’t concerned, but he knows he needs to do better.

“I was just horse—- today,” Willis said. “You take that for what it is, but you have to be smart about it, too. I’m trying to help the ballclub here and that’s not going to get it done. If I’m tired, then I’m tired. As an athlete, you have to humble yourself that hey, you went out there and tried and now let’s reel you in and get you right.”

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!
Here are our upcoming book signings:

  • April 2: Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 3: Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.

Looking Down the Road: Bullpen 2012

Hola, amigos.

I’ve recovered from a three-night trip to Seattle, which included the redeye home Sunday night. If you missed it, yesterday I wrote how the team’s cheap, young relief pitchers could help the Phillies spend money elsewhere in the offseason. That could be big with Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Raul Ibanez, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload and Danys Baez eligible to become free agents after the season. The Phillies literally could be looking for a new shortstop, closer and leftfielder, along with a replacement for Oswalt and more.

Before spring training started the Phillies’ bullpen projected like this: Lidge, Madson, Baez, Jose Contreras, J.C. RomeroAntonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.

Bastardo was the only pitcher making less than a million.

I’ll go on a limb and say the Phillies resign Madson. If that happens the Phillies’ bullpen could look like this in 2012: Madson, Contreras, Bastardo, Michael Stutes and David Herndon taking up the first five spots. Some combination of Michael Schwimer, Justin De Fratus, Mike Zagurski, Phillippe Aumont and other inexpensive relievers taking up the final two spots.

The Phillies would go from six of seven relievers making $1 million or more to just two of seven making $1 million or more. Now, that’s not going to allow the Phillies to go out and sign the most expensive free agents on the market, but a couple million here, a couple million there, can help them replace some of the talent they’re certain to lose.

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