Which of the Philadelphia Phillies' Relievers Actually Belong in the Major Leagues?

By Bryn Swartz

It’s time to face the facts, Philadelphia Phillies fans. This team has virtually no chance of reaching the postseason. They’re 14 games under .500 and it would be a stretch for them to even finish with a winning record.

There are many issues with this team. Hitting with runners in scoring position. Hitting for power. Starting pitching. Leadership. Injuries.

But the main issue all season long has been the bullpen. The relief pitchers. They’re the reason this team loses so many close and late games.

It would be impossible to get rid of all the poor pitchers in the bullpen but for the sake of this article, we’re going to look at the pitchers on this team and evaluate whether they have any business belonging in the major leagues… or whether they should take the next bus back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Let’s begin with the two pitchers who obviously deserve to be in the major leagues. That’s closer Jonathan Papelbon and lefty Antonio Bastardo. Papelbon is a five-time All-Star and one of the top closers in the game, and Bastardo is still a dominant reliever, even though he’s struggling through a down year.

Now for the fun. Here are the rest of the pitchers, including the three injured relievers. They’re in order of most innings pitched to fewest innings pitched.

Chad Qualls. Joe Savery. Raul Valdes. Michael Schwimer. Jake Diekman. Jose Contreras. David Herndon. Brian Sanches. Michael Stutes. Jeremy Horst. BJ Rosenberg.

Qualls was traded to the New York Yankees after the Phillies designated him for assignment. I don’t think he belongs in the major leagues anymore. He had a good career but he’s 34 now, and I think he’s very similar to Danys Baez for the 2011 Phillies.

There’s no way Savery belongs in the major leagues. He has a 5.87 earned run average this season and he’s nowhere near the left handed specialist that the team hoped he would become.

Valdes is an unusual situation, a relief pitcher who made his major league debut at age 32. But he’s actually been one of the team’s best relief pitchers this season. In 21.1 innings, he’s allowed just 15 hits and four walks, and he’s struck out 24 batters.

Schwimer is what I would call a Quad-A pitcher. He’s too good to be in the minor leagues but not good enough to be in the major leagues. I’d be fine with him being the worst pitcher on a major league staff, but on this Phillies team, he’s actually one of the top right handed options, as pathetic as that is.

Diekman has been a very pleasant surprise for the Phillies this season. He’s 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 17.2 innings this year. He’s been even more valuable than Bastardo this season, making him the top left handed reliever for the 2012 Phillies.

Contreras is a good reliever, but at 40 years old and after suffering a ligament tear in his elbow last month, he’s probably never going to pitch again.

Herndon is better than people realize. He had a 3.32 ERA last year and he’s be one of the top relief pitchers on the squad if he wasn’t injured this year.

Sanches is actually a pretty good reliever but he’s been awful this season in limited action for the Phillies. He has major league talent. It’s just a shame that he didn’t show it for the Phillies this year.

Stutes could be one of the team’s top relievers over the next decade. But he’s been hurt for almost all of 2012.

And the final two guys on the list, Horst and Rosenberg, shouldn’t be anywhere near the major leagues. Yeah, Horst has pitched well but he’d likely regress to the mean pretty quickly, and Rosenberg has been absolutely brutal in limited action.

The interesting thing about the relievers on the 2012 Phillies is that nobody is awful. But one by one, they take turns blowing games at crucial moments. One game, it’ll be Schwimer. Then Diekman will get lit up. Then Valdes. Even Bastardo this season.

There’s been a lot of bad luck for the Phillies too.

The relievers who are actually reliable, like Contreras, Stutes, and even Herndon, have been injured for most of the season. And pitchers like Qualls and Sanches are actually good talent but they’ve pitched poorly this season.

During the 2012 offseason, upgrading the relief corps for the Phillies may not be the biggest priority for the team. They already have some decent relief talent, better than people have realized. They’ve just had bad luck and injuries this year.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for Eagles Central and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.

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