Back in 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies rode a perfect season from Brad Lidge and a 3.22 bullpen ERA that led the National League to a World Series championship. This year, the Phillies’ relief pitchers have put up an ERA of 4.41 that ranks fifth-worst in all of baseball, which has directly led to the Phillies’ dismal 60-67 record that puts them 17.5 games back of the Washington Nationals in the division race.
The Phillies made a major splash this past offseason when they signed four-time All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon to a $50 million deal but they were dealt a rough blow when Michael Stutes, David Herndon, and Jose Contreras all missed serious time to injury, and Antonio Bastardo never regained his form from 2011.
Papelbon is the only relief pitcher the Phillies have signed in 2013 which means the rest of the spots will be filled by players under team control that haven’t hit free agency yet or outside pitchers that will hit the free agent market. In a later article, I’ll take a look at 10 potential free agent pitchers the Phillies could pick up but this will look at the internal pitchers in the system and whether they have a chance to contribute in 2013.
Jonathan Papelbon: Papelbon is signed to a four-year, $50 million deal, and he’s fulfilling that in year one. He made the All-Star team and his stats are tremendous – a 2.70 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 11.1 strikeout rate to just a 2.2 walk rate, and a 1.3 WAR that makes him the seventh-best overall reliever in the National League. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 100%
Antonio Bastardo: I’m incredibly frustrated by the performance of Antonio Bastardo, and I think you could make a strong case that he has been the single most disappointing player on the 2013 Phillies thus far. Bastardo was nearly unhittable last year, but he has regressed immensely this year, as he has a 5.26 ERA, 5.0 walk rate, and a frighteningly awful 1.6 home run rate. Bastardo has had his moments in which he has been everything he’s supposed to be – like his last performance when he struck out the side and recorded his 20th hold of the year. But since June 13, Bastardo has been one of the worst relief pitchers in baseball – he has a 8.53 ERA in 10 innings pitched. He’s 0-3 with two blown saves, he has a .826 opponents’ OPS, and he has walked 12 batters and allowed a ridiculous five home runs. He really needs to settle down and be the pitcher he is capable of being, and while he will absolutely be back for the 2013 campaign, Bastardo may not be utilized in the eighth inning role for which he shone in ’11. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 100%
Michael Stutes: Michael Stutes was a surprise addition to the 2011 Phillies, as the team called him up from Triple-A when he was a relative unknown. With the team’s bullpen decimated by injuries last year, Stutes was pulled into key seventh and eighth inning situations and played very well. He fashioned a 6-2 record, 3.63 ERA, high 8.4 strikeout rate, and just a .218 opponents’ batting average allowed and .672 OPS. Stutes has barely pitched this season (5.2 IP) but expect him to be back and ready to make a big impact in 2013. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 95%
Kyle Kendrick: Whether it is as a starter or a reliever, Kyle Kendrick will absolutely make the 2013 Phillies. After all, the team is paying him $7.5 million over two years, and he’s performed surprisingly well as of late. Kendrick is 7-9 with a 4.12 ERA and he’s really settled down over the last two months, fashioning a 2.05 ERA in his last 13 appearances. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 100%
David Herndon: David Herndon is an extremely similar pitcher to Kyle Kendrick, as he’s a ground ball pitcher who pitches to contact and doesn’t strike out a high percentage of hitters. Herndon had a 3.32 ERA last year – even though that total was very deceiving because he had a 5.08 FIP, low 6.2 strikeout rate, high 3.8 walk rate, high 1.4 home run rate, and awful -0.6 WAR. Herndon recently had Tommy John surgery and that will likely keep him out for most of 2013 as well so there’s no chance he makes the 25-man Opening Day roster. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 0%
Josh Lindblom: When the Phillies acquired relief pitcher Josh Lindblom in a trade for Shane Victorino at the trade deadline, it seemed like a pretty solid move. Lindblom has been awful in eight innings since the Phillies acquired him. He’s walked a batter per inning, he’s already been taken yard three times, and he has a 7.88 ERA and 8.97 FIP that gives him an atrocious -0.6 WAR with the Phillies. He’s under team control for many more seasons, so he will very likely be on the team in 2013, but he better play better than he’s been this year. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 90%
Jose Contreras: The Phillies made a big mistake signing a 39-year old relief pitcher to a multi-year contract, and as a result, Jose Contreras has barely pitched this season. He is a free agent after the year and he won’t be back. There’s probably a good chance he retires. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 0%
Michael Schwimer: In limited action back in 2011, Michael Schwimer was extremely subpar, allowing a 5.02 ERA and high 1.535 WHIP in 14.1 innings pitched. He has been much better this year, although his 4.46 ERA is only half a run higher. But he’s lowered his hits allowed, walk rate, and home runs allowed, and he’s pitching in higher-leverage situations. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 60%
Jake Diekman: Jake Diekman has a lot of potential, as he throws a fastball in the mid-90s and a hard slider that is tough to hit. He’s also a lefty and has held left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average and .641 OPS this season. Diekman struggles with his control (over six walks per nine innings) but he also strikes out a ton of hitters (12.3 K/9) and he’s still in his rookie season. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 60%
Jeremy Horst: The Phillies got Jeremy Horst almost as an afterthought in the trade that sent Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds. Horst has been a blessing for the Phillies this year though. He’s a left-handed reliever with a tiny 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched, and he’s striking out over 10 batters per nine innings. Horst has been a savior with how poorly Bastardo has pitched. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 50%
Joe Savery: The former pitcher-turned hitter-turned pitcher has struggled when he’s been given the opportunity to pitch this season. Joe Savery has a 5.40 ERA in 19 appearances, and the Phillies have lost 18 of the 19 games in which he’s pitched in 2012. Savery doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters and he’s really nothing more than a Triple-A fill-in when there’s an injury at the major league level. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 25%
Phillippe Aumont: I think Phillippe Aumont has a good chance to be a special pitcher. He was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade several seasons ago and was just called up to the major leagues. Aumont throws hard and strikes out a high percentage of hitters, and he threw a hitless frame in his first big league action the other day, which will be the beginning of a six-week trial period he will have with the team. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 30%
Justin De Fratus: I think the Phillies have pretty high hopes for Justin De Fratus. He has missed most of this season due to injuries but he got a late call-up for the major leagues in 2011 and made the most of that opportunity. De Fratus threw four innings, allowing just one earned run and one hit while striking out three batters. De Fratus was 6-3 with a 2.99 ERA combined between the Double-A Reading Phillies and Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in ‘11, striking out 99 batters in just 75.2 innings pitched. Chance of Making the Opening Day Roster: 35%
Raul Valdes: Raul Valdes has been ridiculously successful for the Phillies this season, as he has posted a 3-1 record and a 2.33 ERA in 27 innings pitched. Valdes has allowed just 5.6 hits per nine innings this year and he’s at 10.2 strikeouts, which makes him one of the better left-handed relief pitchers in the game this season. Chance of Making the Opening Day Roster: 40%
B.J. Rosenberg: B.J. Rosenberg had a terrific season at Triple-A before the Phillies called up him to the major leagues. He has struggled immensely when he has pitched, looking overmatched and like he doesn’t belong in the big leagues. I think the Phillies should continue using Rosenberg for the remainder of the season simply to see if he has anything that could put him on next year’s roster but don’t count on him making an impact. Chance of Making the 2013 Opening Day Roster: 10%