“Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!” Those were the famous words of the late Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, Harry Kalas, after the final pitch of the 2008 World Series.
The past couple of seasons have been an utter disappointment in the eyes of many around the Philadelphia area. Once the last out was recorded in 2008, the Phillies expectations skyrocketed year after year. In 2009 they were runner ups in the Fall Classic, they were bounced in the NLCS in 2010, barely put up a fight in the 2011 NLDS, and then fell very short of returning to the post season in 2012.
In 2008, the bullpen was a key factor to the team’s success. The closer at the time, Brad Lidge, was perfect in save opportunities. Lidge was not only the most dominant player in the team’s bullpen due to his consistency, but he was virtually unable to be hit. With a 1.95 ERA in 69.1 innings pitched, Lidge was a force to be reckoned with late in ballgames.
But it was not just Lidge who was dominant. The ‘Bridge to Lidge’, as many fans called them, paved the way late in games in order to get the ball to the right-handed closer. In fact, the opposing team had a combined batting average under .200 (.197 to be exact) against Ryan Madson, Scott Eyre, and J.C. Romero.
If the Phillies are going to compete in 2013, then they are going to need to see more consistency out of their bullpen. One of their biggest problems a season ago was getting the ball to their prized free agent acquisition Jonathan Papelbon.
The Phillies bullpen had the 10th highest ERA out of all 30 MLB clubs, but they also pitched the least amount of innings in the majors. Their 69% save percentage in ballgames was the 16th best in all of baseball. In contrast, the 2008 bullpen recorded a 3-0 record with a 1.79 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched.
The newest off season acquisition and now the team’s likely setup man Mike Adams will have his work cut out for him if he wants to help an ailing bullpen. If Adams and others such as Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes can return to form and bounce back from injuries and down years in 2012, then Charlie Manuel could again feel comfortable taking his starters out after the sixth or seventh inning like he did in 2008.
The Phillies key to success in 2013 depends on how well the bullpen shapes up and how well the team bounces back from a disappointing 2012 season.