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August 21 2007

I don't think there are a lot of fans out there who are feeling real comfortable these days when the Phils go to their bullpen.  And while you might like to see the Phils let their starters go deep into the game and leave their relievers riding the pine, that's probably not possible given the current rotation.

Possible or not, it seems a little like Charlie Manuel agrees with you.  No NL team's bullpen has thrown fewer than the 363 innings that Phillies' relievers have thrown this year.

Manuel has had two largely different pitching staffs over the past two seasons, both of them bad in different ways. In 2006, the Phils came into the year with what everyone expected to be a weak rotation that featured unproven starters Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson taking the ball forty percent of the time. The pen, to the surprise of many, turned out to be very solid for much of the year.

This season everyone expected the pen to be bad and it was. The surprise of the season for the Phillies, though, was that the completely overhauled starting rotation sputtered. After just three teams had allowed more runs than the Phillies in 2006, only four NL staffs have been charged with more runs than the Phils this season.

The Phillies are certainly hurt by their park, but their ERA on the road this season is 4.71, tenth in the NL.

Here's a look at how Manuel has used his bullpen with the two different staffs:


April 25 11 14 227.0 148.2 65.5 78.1 34.5
May 28 15 13 248.0 180.2 72.8 67.1 27.2
June 28 15 13 251.0 157.1 62.7 93.2 37.3
July 25 15 10 226.2 156.2 69.1 70.0 30.9
August 17 9 8 149.1 95.2 64.1 53.2 35.9
Total 123 65 58 1102.0 739.0 67.1 363.0 32.9
April 24 10 14 213.0 135.2 63.7 77.1 36.3
May 28 17 11 254.2 163.2 64.3 91.0 35.7
June 27 9 18 240.1 137.0 57.0 103.1 43.0
July 25 13 12 223.0 147.0 65.9 76.0 34.1
August 29 18 11 262.2 167.0 63.6 95.2 36.4
Sept 28 18 10 256.1 165.0 64.4 91.1 35.6
Oct 1 0 1 10.1 6.0 58.1 4.1 41.9
Total 162 85 77 1460.1 921.1 63.1 539.0 36.9

As you would expect, he has gone to the pen less this season than he did in 2006. Curiously, June was the month that he used the pen the most often in both 2006 and 2007. Over the past two years, June of 2006 was the month that he called on his relievers the most as they threw 43% of the total innings the Phillies pitched. Back in June of 2006 the Phillies rotation was battered -- Brito, Mathieson and Adam Bernero combined to make five starts in which they allowed 27 earned runs in 18 2/3 innings (a 13.02 ERA). The Phillies were 0-5 in those games. Hamels, Myers and Lidle all made five starts for the Phils -- Myers was 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA, Hamels 1-4 with a 6.49 ERA and Lidle 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA. Perhaps the biggest problem with June of last season was that despite the fact that Manuel had to overuse his bullpen, the team still performed horribly, going 9-18. It was a double-whammy, the bullpen guys pitched too much and the team lost anyway.

This June, at least when Manuel had called on his pen the most, the Phils won. They went 15-13 in a month that saw Garcia and Lieber both pitch ineffectively and then hit the DL. This followed the May jettison of Myers to the pen and his trip to the DL at the end of that month.

It became apparent early in the year that the Phils had problems in the pen, and the Phillies responded by not using them.  May of this year was the month over the last two seasons that the pen threw the lowest percentage of the Phils total innings. 

As they make their push for the playoffs the Phillies are in a tough spot. I don't believe you can expect the current rotation of Hamels, Moyer, Lohse, Kendrick and Durbin to pitch the Phils deep into games.  I don't think you can expect the bullpen to get people out.  After Brett Myers, I don't know who the guy in the pen is you feel second-best about, but it's not going to be a name that makes anyone giddy with confidence. Mesa? Gordon? Romero?

The Phils are going to need more, and it's going to have to come from somebody who has been unable to give them much so far this year.  Maybe Eaton or Garcia returning to the rotation and giving the Phils some good starts down the stretch.  Geoff Geary pitching well out of the pen. Madson's been great this season, here's hoping he gets healthy in time to help.  I'd still put Myers back in the rotation.  I don't think the Phillies will.

Kyle Kendrick (5-3, 3.94) faces righty Brett Tomko (2-10, 5.67) tonight as the Phils play the first of three against the Dodgers in Philadelphia.  Kendrick has made eight quality starts in the 12 times the Phils have given him the ball, the highest quality start percentage for any of the Phillies' pitchers this season. He continues to mow down righties and get hit harder by lefties. Righties are hitting .224 with an 0.89 ratio against him, lefties .324 with a 1.78 ratio.  He faced the Dodgers on July 18 in LA and allowed four runs in six innings. Andre Ethier and Luis Gonzalez homered off of him in that game. It's simply not reasonable to expect Kendrick to pitch deep into games, but he's done just that of late, throwing seven innings three of his last four times out.  The Phillies need him, but you have to worry about how much he's pitched. Including his time at Double-A he's now thrown 156 2/3 innings this season and there's no end in sight. Too many.  He turns 23 on Sunday. He threw 176 innings last year, so it's time to seek out the worry button.  Tomko has allowed 16 earned runs in 22 innings over his last four starts (6.55 ERA). Lefties are slugging .487 against him on the season.  He hasn't faced the Phillies this year, but Russell Branyan is 6-for-10 against him in his career with three home runs and Burrell 3-for-8 with two home runs.

There are some must-win games coming for the Phils, but they don't start tonight.

Yoel Hernandez hit the DL with a bad case of peer pressure (sore shoulder).  Fabio Castro was called up from Triple-A where he has thrown to a 3.76 ERA in 52 2/3 innings this season while appearing in 20 games, six of which were starts.  The Phillies needed him earlier this season and he couldn't come through, throwing to a 12.27 ERA in five appearances.  They need him now, too.

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