Phillies Bullpen: So Far, So Good.
Last year, he Philadelphia Phillies had one of the worst bullpens in the history of Major League Baseball. They finished the shortened 60-game MLB season with a 7.06 ERA, which was good for the second worst bullpen ERA in the history of Major League Baseball. Number one on the list, would be the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies lost an MLB-leading 21 games after holding a lead at some point during the game last year. Opposing teams his .315 with an astounding .946 OPS, both league highs.
The Phillies have a day-off today before traveling to Atlanta to play a weekend series against the Braves. They are currently 5-1 on the year, which is good for a tie as the best record in baseball. I’m very aware that the Phillies have played less than five percent of their games on the schedule, but the re-tooled bullpen has impressed over the first six games this season.
After the bullpen single handedly kept the Phillies out of the playoffs last year, the Phillies hired Dave Dombrowski as the VP of Baseball Operations. Dombrowski joined the Phillies in early January and promised Phillies’ fans that he would re-tool the Phillies roster and expect to win-now rather than rebuild.
He made key signings with JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius and then shifted his focus to pitching. Dombrowski signed Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado, and Sam Coonrod. He invited a handful of other relievers to compete in Spring Training for an Opening Day roster spot and when it was all said and done, Brandon Kintzler joined the bullpen as well at the end of camp.
Starting pitching depth was addressed by adding Matt Moore and Chase Anderson to the back half of the rotation but Dombrowski, the Phillies, and fans alike, knew that the 2021 season would need much more than a few starters and Realmuto/Gregorius to be a playoff contender this year.
During the shortened 60-game season last year, Phillies relievers threw just 64 pitchers at 96 mph or better. That total was the fewest in Major League Baseball. To put that in perspective, in just six games this year, Phillies relievers have already thrown 74 pitches over 96 mph which is good for fifth most in the majors. Yes, it’s still way too early to call this bullpen a top five crew across the MLB, but those stats alone can forecast a much improved unit over the squad from 2020. The Phillies bullpen has four wins in six games. Connor Brogdon has three of them himself.
- 1st Opponents Batting Average (.190)
- 6th Opponents OPS (.572)
- 8th WHIP (1.18)
- 10th Strikeouts/9 (10.64)
- 21st Walks/9 (4.50)
- 13th ERA (3.27)
Those numbers would be even better than they are on paper if you remove Vinny Velo’s inning in which he walked four batters and allowed four hits and runs. If the Phillies starting rotation can hold up and provide a bridge into the bullpen’s set-up, there’s reason to believe that the Phillies will be in playoff contention come September.
Again, it’s early on in the season, winning provides confidence, and that’s exactly what the Phillies are doing. Brandon Kintzler had this to say about the Phillies bullpen during Spring Training.
“My mentality,” he said, “is basically just, ‘Fuck you. You’re not fucking beating me today. You’re not going to beat us today. As soon as we get the lead, we’re going to come out, we’re going to shove it up your ass. And if a guy gets in trouble, then the next guy needs to fucking shove it up your ass.’ When I went to Miami, that’s just what I preached and preached and preached. … You know, we weren’t the most talented team, but we worked together. We had to play together. I think I’ve been on winning teams four years in a row and I’ve kind of learned what makes teams win. It’s playing together. But you absolutely have to suffocate the team when you get the lead.”
During the Phillies comeback win against the Mets last weekend, Bryce Harper had this to say about the bullpen and what he expects from them this year:
Solid pitching from their starting rotation will certainly help. The Phillies will open up a seven game road trip tomorrow in Atlanta before heading to New York to face the Mets. They survived their first home stand, and only time will tell if the Phillies bullpen can hold up through the dog days of summer.