Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Focus on the Bullpen… 

When the season began I was certain that the Phillies bullpen was going to be their Achilles heel. How, I scoffed, could Tom Gordon hope to fill the shoes of Billy Wagner? The rotation, I was certain, would have to carry the load, going deep into games to keep the bullpen from blowing it. Well, I am not too big to say that I was utterly and completely wrong. In fact, I doubt that I could have been more wrong. Let’s look at some numbers:

Bullpen / Starters
ERA: 3.60 / 5.68
WHIP: 1.44 / 1.55
HR/9: 0.88 / 1.41
BB/9: 3.42 / 3.46
K/9: 6.62 / 6.51

Yes, walks and strikeouts are basically the same, but the rotation has been surrendering the home runs at a tremendous clip. Even if you adjust for Gavin Floyd’s miscues (2.32 HR/9), the rotation still surrenders too many homers (1.29 HR/9). Simply put, my assumptions as the beginning of the season were backwards: the rotation needs to get its work done quickly and get the game to the bullpen, where the Phillies could preserve their lead or try to come back from the deficit the rotation left.

Let’s start with the Phillies closer and sole All-Star, after Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Tom Gordon. Gordon has had a terrific season as the Phillies closer and has generally out-played his predecessor, Billy Wagner.

Wagner / Gordon
ERA: 2.27 / 2.23
FIP: 3.04 / 2.92
WHIP: 1.11 / 1.10
HR/9: 0.68 / 0.99
BB/9: 3.86 / 2.72
K/9: 11.34 / 11.14

The two are basically even on every stat. Gordon has done a great job. I certainly didn’t expect that, noting that Gordon has been the Yankees set-up man for the last two years and is thirty-eight this season. I was wrong. For the first half of the season, Gordon has hurled the ball well and is a major reason why the Phillies are still in the playoff race.

The rest of the bullpen is pretty much the same story: not expected to pitch well, maligned, etc. Rheal Cormier is a pitcher who has done a great job for the Phillies:

ERA: 1.17
FIP: 3.56
WHIP: 1.11
HR/9: 0.00
BB/9: 3.8
K/9: 4.1

Cormier’s ability to keep the ball on the ground has served him well with the Phillies. Cormier is exactly the type of pitcher than the Phillies need on the team.

Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary have both turned in decent performances with the Phillies thus far this season acting as the setup guys along with Cormier:

Fultz / Geary
ERA: 4.19 / 3.50
FIP: 3.39 / 3.55
WHIP: 1.40 / 1.66
HR/9: 1.05 / 0.58
BB/9: 2.51 / 2.72
K/9: 9.00 / 6.02

I should note that the team FIP is 4.69, much worse than what Gordon, Cormier, Fultz and Geary have done for the Phillies.

Naturally, of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Those exceptions are Ryan Madson and Ryan Franklin. Madson and Franklin’s careers this season are interwined because Madson got the spot in the rotation at the beginning of the season that Franklin assumed was his. Madson pitched so badly at the start of the season that he was forced to return to the bullpen earlier in the season, where he did poorly: surrendering three home runs in ten and a third innings (2.61 HR/9). Madson has returned to the bullpen, where he will hopefully resurrect his career.

Franklin, however, has been every bit the nightmare that was expected of him. A flyball pitcher playing on a team that plays in a hitters park, Franklin has been very prone to the long-ball: 1.75 HR/9. In fact, delete Franklin’s nine home runs from the bullpen and their home runs allowed per 9 innings drops to just 0.72 … (Throw out Madson and the bullpen drops to 0.64) ... Franklin’s problem is that while he has a lot of talent, he simply cannot be consistent. While his walks allowed are o.k. (2.91 per 9 innings), his inability to get strikeouts (3.88 per 9 innings) doesn’t justify his home runs allowed. Okay, be a power pitcher who gives up the long-ball from time-to-time, but you should at least get some K’s too! Franklin’s FIP is 5.77, much higher than his 4.08 ERA. Aside from Julio Santana and Gavin Floyd, there isn’t a pitcher on the Phillies with a worse FIP.

Finally, we come to Arthur Rhodes, the player the Phillies got by giving up Jason Michaels. I think we can finally say that the Phillies got the shaft on that deal. Here is Rhodes performance:

ERA: 5.40
FIP: 2.68
WHIP: 1.91
HR/9: 0.00
BB/9: 6.04
K/9: 10.16

I’m really not impressed at all by it. Simply put, Rhodes has turned in a lousy performance to date as the Phillies setup guy. He’s only hurled 28 and a third innings and he’s been inconsistent.

Let’s hope that the Phillies bullpen can continue to defy expectations and continue to win. I am very impressed by the job Fultz, Gordon, Geary, and Cormier have done. Now if the rest of the pitching staff could only take some cues from them…

Since he can apparently do it. Maybe Cole Hamels can start and pitch relief all at once?

I kid of course... It's starting pitching this team needs. It always has been. For years.

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