Bullpen

And if Madson can just steer clear of any other chairs with malicious intent, the back of the pen might be okay

Just as long as he doesn’t have a problem with pitching like three innings a game.

The biggest worry for many Phillies fans as we head into the NLCS seems to be that the offense either just won’t show up or won’t be able to handle the San Francisco pitching. I sure hope that doesn’t happen, but there seems to be a whole lot of evidence that the Philly offense can hit just about anyone. Instead of worrying about the areas where we know the Phils are better than the Giants, I wonder if we should take some time to worry about the areas where we know San Francisco is better than the Phillies.

By that, of course, I mean the bullpens.

There is no argument to be made that the Phililes had a better bullpen that the Giants this year. The Phillies relief corps was in the middle of the pack in the NL while San Francisco was perhaps a tick less dominant that the Padres, but still at least the second-best bullpen in the league. Phillies relievers threw to a 4.02 ERA (tenth-best in the NL) and a 1.39 ratio (tenth-best), the Giants bullpen had a 2.99 ERA (second-best) and a 1.31 ratio (sixth).

It’s not really very close. There was one area where the Phillies had an advantage, though, and might still in the series. Here’s the NL rank for runs allowed per batter faced in innings six through nine for each team (the numbers include results for all pitchers for each team, not just relievers):

Inning SF PHI
6 1 4
7 1 12
8 9 1
9 3 12

So, you shouldn’t be hoping to put up a whole lot of runs against the Giants in the sixth, seventh or ninth, but you also shouldn’t be looking to do much against the Phils in the eighth.

If you’re a Phillies fan, you’re almost surely guessing that we have Ryan Madson to thank for his dominance in the eighth inning. And you’re right. But Madson wasn’t the only reliever who shined for the Phils in that role. Contreras was also fantastic in the eighth inning and got a lot of chances there, thanks to the toe incident that sidelined Madson early in the season. Madson wound up facing 114 batters in the eighth inning for the season and Contreras 111. As good as Madson was, Contreras pitched just about as much as Madson did in the eighth and was nearly as effective. Here’s what the duo did in the eighth for the season:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
Madson 29 2/3 1.52 0.81 32
Contreras 27 1/3 1.65 1.17 24

While it’s nifty that Contreras threw so well in the eighth over the course of the year, you have to wonder a little about how relevant that is going to be in the series. Contreras threw to a 5.63 ERA over his last eight appearances in the season. He had an 0.56 ERA in his first 18 appearances of 2010, but since June 1 he’s thrown 40 2/3 innings with a 4.43 ERA and a 1.40 ratio. If you see him pitching in the eighth in the NLCS it’s probably going to mean that Madson is hurt or the Phils are up or down by a lot of runs.

If there’s not a ton of reasons to have confidence in what Contreras might do at the back of the pen in the series, it sure seems like there is a lot of reason for confidence in Madson. Madson threw to a 1.04 ERA and an 0.89 ratio over his last 36 appearances to end the regular season, striking out 44 in 34 2/3 innings.

There’s more, though. The Phillies haven’t just been dominant in the eighth inning. The Giants have oddly also been ineffective, slipping into the bottom half in the NL in runs allowed per batter faced. They also floundered in the eighth inning in the NLDS against the Braves. Here are the numbers for their three relievers who have faced the most batters in the eighth inning, righties Sergio Romo and Guillermo Mota and lefty Jeremy Affedlt:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
S Romo 30 2/3 1.47 0.72 34
G Mota 22 1/3 6.45 1.30 15
J Affeldt 19 2/3 4.12 1.63 19

There’s not a lot of mystery about who was helping and hurting the Giants in the eighth during the regular season — Romo was really good and Mota and Affeldt, especially Mota, were less good. Romo didn’t have a good NLDS, allowing hits to both men he faced in game two and allowing a run while getting two outs in game three. He ended the set with a 40.50 ERA and a 4.50 ratio for the post-season. The Giants let righty Santiago Casilla and lefty Javier Lopez handle the eighth with a one-run lead in game four. Casilla threw to a 1.95 ERA with the Giants and struck out 56 in 55 1/3 innings, but he pitched more in both the sixth and seventh innings than he did the eighth this season.

The ninth inning has been a different story, of course. Brian Wilson has been perhaps the best closer in the league after Billy Wagner, leading the NL with 48 saves while throwing to a 1.81 ERA and an 1.18 ratio for the season.

Here’s what the two guys that faced the most batters in the ninth for each team did in the inning:

Player IP
ERA Ratio K
B Wilson 54 2/3 1.81 1.10 69
J Affeldt 15 2/3 3.45 1.47 15
B Lidge 37 2/3 3.58 1.27 43
R Madson 18 1/3 4.42 1.31 25

No contest there between Wilson and Lidge. Neither Madson or Affeldt impressed with their chances in the ninth, but Wilson and Lidge are going to be the guys looking to convert save opportunities in the series. Opponents hit for about the same average against Wilson and Lidge, .207 against Lidge and .210 for Wilson, but Wilson threw 17 more innings in the ninth and allowed fewer homer runs (three for Wilson and five for Lidge) and walked fewer hitters (17 for Wilson and 19 for Lidge).


It only feels like they’ve already played 18 days in a row

The second half of the season got off to an ugly start for the Phils as the Cubs took three of four in Chicago. In a season where the offense has been a big part of the problem, the losses had a lot more to do with the number of runs the Phillies allowed than the number they scored. The Phils scored 19 runs in four games and didn’t manage to win either of the games in which they scored six runs.

The pitching, on the other hand, was awful. The Phils gave up 28 runs and twice yielded more than ten. Halladay and Moyer combined to allow 12 runs in nine innings in games one and four of the series. The pitching staff gave up 45 hits in 35 innings in the set and seven of the hits were home runs.

It was the bullpen, though, that I think we need to be the most worried about. Contreras and Baez combined to allow six runs in 1 2/3 innings in game one. Madson gave up a critical homer to Aramis Ramirez in game two and Romero, Herndon and Baez combined to allow five runs on seven hits over two innings in last night’s game.

Here’s what the relievers did overall in the series:

IP H BB R ER ERA Ratio
10 20 4 12 11 9.90 2.40

The Phils don’t have an off-day until August 2. That means game one of the series in Chicago was the first of 18 games in 18 days. That would be a problem if the bullpen was pitching well. They aren’t.

Here’s what the seven guys currently in the pen have done since June 15:

Pitcher IP ERA Ratio
Herndon 9 2/3 3.72 1.66
Contreras 9 11.00 1.78
Lidge 8 2/3 7.27 1.73
Baez 8 1/3 4.32 2.06
Romero 8 3.38 1.50
Durbin 6 3.00 1.50
Madson 3 1/3 5.40 0.90
       
Total 53 5.60 1.66

First of all, David Herndon has been pitching pretty well of late, but he shouldn’t be the guy on the team throwing the most innings. In general, with the exceptions of Contreras and Lidge, the ERAs for the group aren’t that terrible. The ratios are, though, with Madson the only guy in the group with a ratio under 1.50. He’s only thrown 3 1/3 innings since June 15.

The biggest worry is the guys at the top of the list, the pitchers who have been throwing the most, are the guys that are getting blasted. If you combine the numbers for the four guys who have thrown the most innings in relief since June 15 (Lidge, Baez, Contreras and Herndon), they have a 6.21 ERA and a 1.79 ratio in those appearances. Hopefully the return of Durbin and of Madson will mean some relief for those guys. Despite the big home run that Madson allowed to Ramirez in game three of the set, the duo combined to allow just that one run over 3 1/3 innings in the four-game set with the Cubs.


Madson getting so tired of telling people where the bathroom is he may be thinking of having little cards made up

With 12 pitchers left in camp, the Phillies pitching staff could be set. If it is, the bullpen guys aren’t exactly going to wow you with their experience. David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo have combined to throw one inning in relief for their careers. Kendrick, who could still be in the rotation to start the year, and Contreras have mostly been starters — they have combined to toss just 43 2/3 innings in relief. Here’s what the career numbers pitching in relief look like for those four guys, keeping in mind they have a chance to make up more than half of the Phillies pen when the season kicks off:

  IP ERA Ratio K
Contreras 27 2/3 3.90 1.63 28
Kendrick 16 3.94 1.31 8
Bastardo 1 0.00 1.00 0
Herndon 0 - - 0
         
Total 44 2/3 3.83 1.50 36

That’s not a whole lot of innings. Clay Condrey, for example, threw 42 innings in relief for the Phillies last year. In 2009, the Phils started the year with Condrey, Durbin, Lidge, Madson, Happ, Eyre and Taschner in the pen. By innings pitched in relief, Happ (8), Taschner (140), Durbin (153) and Condrey (158 2/3) were the four guys with the least experience. That group of four pitchers had combined to throw 459 2/3 innings in relief entering the 2009 season.

Howard homered twice yesterday as the Phils topped the Rays 4-3 yesterday. Blanton allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings to drop his spring ERA to 3.86. Contreras threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Durbin allowed an unearned run over two frames, keeping his spring ERA at 0.00. Victorino also homered in the game. Dobbs was 2-for-4 with a double, raising his average to .345.

This article suggests that despite the fact the Phillies have 12 pitchers in camp at this point, they are not necessarily the 12 that will start the season with the team. Interpret that as you will, but I choose to hope it means a secret deal for CC Sabathia is in the works. Fingers crossed.

A post here looks at some pitchers who may be available now or in the coming days.


No way Jose

Ruben Amaro suggested last week that Phillies fans might want to relax about the lack of lefties in the pen and further suggested that righty Jose Contreras and his splitter might be a big weapon against lefties this season. I actually feel pretty relaxed about the pen, but more because I feel confident that Amaro and the team can address the issues and less because I think that Contreras and his splitter are the answer to what ills the Phils.

Last week I mentioned that the Phillies have been improving steadily against left-handed batters over the past couple of years. In 2007, by OPS against for lefties, the Phillies were the worst pitching team in the NL. In 2008 they made it to the middle of the pack and last season only three teams in the league held lefties to a lower OPS. The table below compares how the OPS against for left-handed batters against Contreras and his new fellow righty Danys Baez stacks up against what the Phillies overall did against left-handed pitching over the past three seasons.


OPS by left-handed hitters
Year vs PHI vs
Contreras
vs Baez
2009 .735 .713 .707
2008 .772 .826 Did not play
2007 .825 .887 1.004
       
Total ’07-’09 .778 .821 .823
       
Career - .757 .766

Good news, bad news there, but I think there’s a little more bad news. The worst news is that in 2007, when the Phillies allowed the worst OPS to left-handed batters in the NL, Baez and Contreras were both getting hit even harder than the Phils. The other bad news is that overall for the three year period, both pitchers have allowed a higher OPS overall that the Phils have.

The good news is that both pitchers had very good results against lefties in 2009. Lefties have a career line of 272/352/413 against Baez, but hit just 248/312/395 against him in ’09. A tiny .232 BAbip for Baez last year adds a lot of question makes to his nifty 1.13 ratio for the season, but while his BAbip for righties was a paltry .198, lefties managed a more reasonable .269. Even if you’re a total non-believer in batting average for balls in play, Baez still lowered his walk rate against lefties in ’09 compared to his career levels. In 2009 he walked 7.8% of the 141 lefties he faced. Coming into the season he had walked about 10.8% of the lefties he faced.

I’m a little more wary of the success that Contreras had against lefties last year. First of all, it came off of the ’07 and ’08 seasons in which lefties combined to hit an ugly 316/376/488 against him. Second, despite the success against lefties, Contreras just didn’t pitch very well last year. Between Chicago and the Rockies his ERA was up near five with a 1.47 ratio. While he did hold lefties to a snazzy .713 OPS against him, righties pounded away to a 292/350/450 tune. It’s going to be a whole lot more important for him to be able to get out righties in 2010. So even if you could take his ’09 success against lefties, if it comes with that kind of line from right-handed batters he’s going to have some trouble being successful in 2010.

This says that JC Romero will throw off a mound on Saturday and that Bastardo is the front-runner for the job of lefty out of the pen. It also suggests that Rich Dubee thinks that Bastardo’s future may be at the back of the bullpen.

The Phillies signed 32-year-old lefty Brad Wilkerson to a minor league contract. Wilkerson was an everyday player for the Expos/Nationals from 2002 through 2005 and hit 32 home runs for Montreal in 2004. He has a career 247/350/440 line over about 3,700 at-bats but has hit 226/311/411 in 1,063 plate appearances since the end of the 2005 season.

Lidge’s prospects for being ready by opening day don’t seem particularly bright.


Phils going to need to find some new friends to get by with a little help from

Last week I mentioned that while the Phillies got worse at preventing runs overall last year, using opponent batting statistics they still got better against left-handed batters.

A couple more things about that.

First, a big part of their success against left-handed hitting had to do with some right-handed pitchers that 1) were great against lefties in 2009 and 2) aren’t going to be on the team in 2010. Lefties hit .172 and on-based .262 against Condrey, who faced about as many left-handed batters in ’09 as Scott Eyre (65 for Condrey and 67 for Eyre). Lefties hit 229/283/313 against Tyler Walker. Brett Myers saw most of his action as a starter but also made eight appearances in relief — overall for the year, lefties hit 233/314/360 against him.

Here’s what that trio did combined against left-handed batting in 2009:

Condrey, Walker and Myers combined vs
lefties in 2009
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
289 .219 .296 .332 .628

They were really good against lefties. Of those 289 batters faced, about 59% were faced by Myers and he saw about 90% of his action as a starter. So we don’t want to overstate the impact on the bullpen. Still, it’s true that the Phillies had good numbers overall against lefties last year and a big part of that was because of the work of some now departed right-handed pitchers.

The second thing about lefties in the pen comes with a small sample size warning, but in his limited action against lefties in 2009, Romero was just terrible. The 32 left-handed batters that he faced hit 308/438/538 against him. He came into the season having allowed about one home run to every 93 left-handed hitters he faced and allowed two to the 32 lefties he faced in ’09. Scott Eyre was the king of getting lefties out in relief for the Phils in ’09 — they hit a paltry 210/269/355 against him. The tiny number of lefties that Romero faced in 2009 makes it hard to worry too much about what they did against him. He’s been fantastic against left-handed hitters over his career, holding them to a fantastic 215/310/293 line. Let’s hope that proves to be the much better measuring stick than what he did in limited action last season.

Chan Ho Park has agreed to a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $1.2 million. Contreras will get $1.5 million from the Phillies this year and Baez $5.25 million over the next two years.

This says the Phillies have maintained contact with Pedro Martinez and considers the possibility that the Phils will add a back of the rotation starter. Moyer looks like a sure thing to me to join Halladay, Hamels, Blanton and Happ in the rotation if he’s healthy.


Help wanted

After having the best bullpen in the National League in 2008, the Phillies’ pen faded to the middle of the pack in 2009. At this point it looks like five of the bullpen spots for 2010 have been filled by Lidge, Durbin, Madson, Romero and Baez. The table below shows what those five combined to do in 2009 and what the Phillies bullpen overall combined to do for the year:

  IP H BB SO
ERA Ratio
Five 2010 PHI
relievers in 2009
294 273 138 253 4.47 1.40
2009 PHI pen 492 457 223 417 3.91 1.38

So if those five guys each did exactly what they did in 2009 in 2010, here’s what the other guys in the Phillies pen would need to do this year to match the overall numbers for last year’s bullpen in those categories:

IP H BB SO
ERA Ratio
198 184 85 164 3.09 1.36

Golly. That’s a lot of pretty good innings the as yet unannounced pitchers would need to give to match a Phillies bullpen from 2009. They would need to pitch much better than the five pitchers in the pen combined to pitch last year. Even if they did, the 2009 Phillies bullpen wasn’t very good.

The five guys we know are in the pen aren’t going to do what they did in 2009 in 2010, of course. Brad Lidge will almost surely pitch better and if he doesn’t he will almost surely pitch less often. He was so miserable in 2009, though, he could still be a lot better without being good. Romero, too, seems like a good candidate to contribute more in ’10 than he did in ’09. In 2009 he threw just 16 2/3 innings for the Phils — if he does that in 2010 as well the Phils are going to have a whole bunch of problems.

Madson has had very similar numbers over the past three seasons as a full-time reliever. I think it’s possible he gets better in 2010, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Durbin’s 2009 wasn’t impressive, but it’s important to remember that he outperformed his career levels for ERA and ratio. He prevented home runs at a better rate and struck out batters more regularly than he has for his career. He was fantastic in the first half of 2008. Maybe he will be again, but I think it’s more reasonable to expect that his numbers for his career are the more relevant measuring stick.

Baez could see some improvement coming over from the American League, but he is coming off of his best year since 2005. The 1.13 ratio he posted in 2009 was outstanding, his best mark since 2001. He dropped his walk rate compared to his career levels, but his strikeouts dipped way below his career levels in 2009 and his batting average for balls in play was a tiny .232 on a Baltimore team where the average pitcher had a batting average for balls in play of .309. The .232 mark was the lowest it has been for Baez in any year of his career. I’m not saying that Baez isn’t going to help. Not at all. The Phillies need him. I am saying that he’s not going to have a 1.13 ratio this year.


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