The Phillies have gone to their bullpen a lot this season. Often they’ve had to because their starting pitcher was miserably ineffective. Other times Cole Hamels has been injured in the fourth inning. Yet other times they let Eric Bruntlett hit in the top of the seventh for the guy throwing a one-hit shutout. Whatever the cause, the Phillies relief corps has been tested early and the innings are piling up.
This is partly disguised by the fact that the Phillies have played fewer games than many of the teams in the National League — if you look at the innings pitched by bullpens the Phillies aren’t at the top of the list.
In 2008, Phils’ relievers threw 483 innings. Only two NL teams, the Brewers and the Diamondbacks, threw fewer. Almost inarguably, their bullpen was the best in the league. Including last night’s game, they are on pace to throw 574 2/3 innings in 2009 (last year, Pittsburgh’s relievers threw the most innings in the NL at 567 2/3). And if you compare the number of innings the Phillies are throwing in relief to the other teams in the NL, they are on pace to lead the league in innings pitched by the pen (the chart below does not include last night’s games):
Happ is on a pace to throw 99 1/3 innings in relief. Condrey 97. Durbin 106. Madson about 86 1/3. Madson and Durbin have both been starters in the past, so those numbers wouldn’t be career highs for them. Still, it’s a lot of innings to pitch in relief — in 2008, Durbin led the NL in relief innings pitched and he threw 87 2/3. Madson was fifth at 82 2/3.
There’s no way that all four of those guys are going to throw the number of innings the projections above suggest. What the projections do show, though, is that there has been a cost to the miserable start to the year by the rotation even if you don’t see it in wins and losses.
At the same time, it may be a little too early for projections. Condrey, for example, is on pace to win about 19 games, which is 13 more than the six that Hamels, Blanton and Park are on pace to win combined. Durbin and Lidge are on pace to allow 45 home runs a year after they combined to allow seven (they’ve already allowed seven this season). I’d guess that at least one of those things doesn’t even happen.