Phillies bullpen not in the clear yet


William Ketner

Phillies players Archie Bradley (top left), Hector Neris (bottom left), Connor Brogdon (top right), and David Hale (bottom right).

Pitching is easily one of the hardest jobs in sports. Trying to throw a little ball through an imaginary box 60.5 feet away, that seems to change spots slightly every game, while someone else is doing their best to hit your pitch is no easy task. One slight mistake as a pitcher and the batter can make you look foolish.

However, there is a unit on every team known as the bullpen, who will come into the game in relief of the starting pitcher in late innings. This job is even harder, as you now have to face the pressure of the fact that you could be the one who blows the game or wins it for your team.

Last season, the Phillies’ bullpen was a complete trainwreck. The unit of pitchers that came into the game to provide relief to the starting pitchers, provided very little of that and a heavy dose of heart attacks and disappointment to the fans. The 2020 bullpen posted an ERA (earned-run average) of 7.06. This is the worst mark for the team in 90 years, since the 1930 Phillies posted an ERA of 7.69. Those two marks are the worst in team history.

Another mind blowing number from this bullpen is 14. This represents the amount of blown saves by the Phillies’ 2020 bullpen. In an ordinary 162 game season, this wouldn’t be so bad. There was one problem though. This season was only 60 games. This means that the Phillies blew a lead in just over 23 percent of games played last year. Considering the fact that the Phillies were just one game out of a playoff spot, it is perfectly reasonable to say the bullpen was the reason the Phillies missed out on October baseball for the 9th year in a row.

The Phillies certainly worked to improve the bullpen over the offseason, making several changes, and the bullpen is off to a much better start. However, this should not remove you of all concern regarding the bullpen.

Last season, teams recorded the highest batting-average and 4th most home runs against the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies also recorded the 4th fewest strikeouts last season. The reason for this is that the Phillies bullpen had very little velocity across the board. This was fixed through the additions of Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod. The one problem here is that Alvardo, although he throws triple-digits consistently, has had trouble controlling his pitches at times so far this year. There is no point in throwing fast if it’s not in the strike zone.

Some returners have performed well, while others have continued to struggle. Connor Brogdon, a bright spot last year, has been another huge bright spot this year, having yet to give up a run in 6 appearances and 6.2 innings pitched, with one of those appearances being the 10th inning of opening day, in which he was forced into a man on second with no outs by rule. Hector Neris has also improved, having just a 1.42 ERA.

However, Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard continue to struggle as they did last year. Each of their ERA’s sit at 9.00 which means they give up 1 run per inning on average. Each of their WHIP’s (walks and hits per inning pitched) sit at 2.75 for Velasquez and 3.00 for Howard. Neither is a good number.

However, the one who has struggled the most out of not only the returnees, but the whole bullpen to the point he was sent down to the minors was Jojo Romero. His ERA sits at an astounding 22.50 with a 3.00 WHIP.

New addition Archie Bradley also is not off to a great start with an ERA of 6.00 and a WHIP of 1.67. Not only was he not off to a great start, but he now is on the 10-day DL battling an injury, and who knows how this will effect him.

The final member of the bullpen is long-reliever David Hale. His job is the same as Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard. This is to provide several innings of relief for a pitcher who really struggles out of the gate instead of the more typical 1, maybe 2 innings. His ERA sits at 5.40 which isn’t good, especially for someone who will pitch more than 1 inning at a time. He also possesses a WHIP 1.05 which isn’t bad.

Through the start of the year, the bullpen has looked far better than last year. However the truth of the matter is that you couldn’t get any worse of a bullpen then last year’s for the Phillies and the bullpen still has some concerns.