The Phillies are 10% into their season and sit at 2-4. They have lost 2 of 3 to each of the Marlins and Yankees. Not much analysis is needed to see the bullpen is the glaring hole on the team.
The bullpen has been charged with an earned run in 5 of 6 games. Just once did they allow a single run, once two runs, and three times at least three runs. In total, the unit has amassed 17 earned runs in just 16 2/3 innings for an ERA of 9.18.
The sample size is relatively small, but the repeat struggles are not a surprise. A quick look at each pitcher’s career and it is surprising most are on a big league roster.
The Phillies needed to cut two players from their 30 man roster at the 15-day (August 6th) mark of the season. They optioned OF Kyle Garlick and RP Enyel De Los Santos. More changes to the bullpen should come soon.
Assuming an 10-man bullpen for the next 50 games and no midseason trades/ signings:
2020: 2 games, 1 inning pitched, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP Career: 309 G, 312.2 IP, 3.28 ERA, 1.16 WHIP Role if the Phillies are playing in October: Closer
Neris is the only proven commodity in the bullpen. He is probably not a top-15 closer in the game, but he is the best the Phillies will find. Barring injury, he will close throughout 2020.
2020: 2 G, 1.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP Career: 184 G, 332.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 1.34 WHIP Role in October: Setup, High-leverage LHP
Keeping faith in Adam Morgan is one of few accomplishments for Matt Klentak. Morgan has a career ERA under 4.00 as a reliever. He was the most consistent bullpen arm for the Phillies over the past three seasons (4.12, 3.83, 3.94 ERAs in 17-19). Expect him to be used against the opposing team’s best lefty batter and also in a traditional setup capacity.
2020: 1 G, 1.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP Career: 352 G, 335.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP Role in October: Middle relief
Unlike Morgan, Alvarez does not have the velocity or strikeout ability to pitch in high leverage situations. The Phillies have tried treating him as if he is, but his ceiling is a steady middle reliever.
2020: 1 G, 3.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP Career: 90 G, 394 IP, 5.35 ERA, 1.42 WHIP Role in October: Multi-inning High-leverage
Nick Pivetta is safe based on his potential but not his career to this point. The Phillies know he has the stuff to succeed in the MLB, but he has yet to show any consistency. His role could range from long-relief to a multi-inning high leverage. The Phillies are betting on him to pitch the latter.
2020: 1 G, 3 IP, 12.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP Career: 123 G, 525.2 IP, 4.71 ERA, 1.37 WHIP Role in October: Setup (1 inning max)
The Phillies had not realized Vince was best suited for the bullpen at the start of the season. By now, they have to. If not, 2020 will be the 4th straight year of disappointment (after a strong 2016) for Velasquez. In the immediate future, he may serve as an “opener” before getting pushed out of the rotation by Spencer Howard or an acquisition. He has the potential to be effective in the bullpen, and will be given the opportunity to win the setup role in another battle with Nick Pivetta.
2020: Has not pitched Career: 73 G, 74.2 IP, 2.65 ERA, 1.14 WHIP Role in October: Middle relief
Arano did not make the Opening Day roster and was sent to the alternate site. When healthy, he has been extremely effective for the Phillies in 73 games. Expect him to be called up sooner rather than later.
2020: Has not pitched Career: 41 G, 63.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.43 WHIP Role in October: Long relief
Like Arano, Suarez did not make the bullpen in the start of the season. He was very good in 2019 with a 3.14 ERA and 6-1 record, but he is currently on the IL for COVID-19. If he recovers in time, he will fit nicely in a multi-inning bullpen role. There is also a chance he is needed in the rotation if the Phillies choose to not use Spencer Howard or there is an injury.
Bubble – in (3)
2020: 3 G, 2 IP, 9.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP Career: 451 G, 840.2 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.25 WHIP Role in October: Middle relief
Hunter gets the nod here because of his track record and veteran presence. His velocity is down and he has not looked good to start the season (particularly in the 7th inning against the Yankees in the second game of the doubleheader where he allowed 2 earned runs without retiring a batter). If he is able to regain his form, he can carve out a role in the middle of the bullpen. His days of being relied on in high leverage situations should be over.
2020: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 16.20 ERA, 1.20 WHIP Career: 76 G, 97.1 IP, 4.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP Role in October: Middle relief
Deolis Guerra is a veteran compared to many of the members on the list. His past experience (including a 3.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP season in 2016) should prove helpful. He will be given a longer leash than others, and should hold down a spot for the season if he can pitch to an ERA around 4.00.
2020: 2 G, 1.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.40 WHIP Career: 12 G, 10.0 IP, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 WHIP Role in October: Long relief
Kelley could end up as the last man into the bullpen. He has allowed 4 batters to reach in 1.2 IP this year after struggling mightily for the Red Sox (8.64 ERA) in 2019. He has not given up a run yet, which gives him an early edge on the bubble.
Bubble – out
2020: 1 G, 1 IP, 36.00 ERA, 5.00 WHIP Career: 17 G, 42.2 IP, 6.54 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
Former minor league star Cole Irvin ranks high on the list of early season disappointments. He surrendered 4 earned runs in his 1 inning of action, allowing a winnable game to slip away to the Marlins. He will be given looks, but it is unlikely he cracks the final bullpen as the 4th lefty.
2020: 2 G, 2 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.50 WHIP Career: 16 G, 23 IP, 5.87 ERA, 1.65 WHIP
McClain will have the chance to earn a spot in the bullpen. If he does not pitch under 4.00, he should find himself on the outside looking in. Inevitable injuries to the pen throughout the season may preserve McClain’s spot on the team, even if his statistics suggest otherwise.
2020: Has not pitched Career: 289 G, 285.2 IP, 3.56 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Parker has not pitched this season for the Phillies as they opted to go with a young bullpen. After a league-worst start, they may begin to rethink and call on a veteran presence. Parker had a decent 2019 (4.55 ERA, 65 K in 61.1 IP), but he is not on the roster yet which does not bode well for his chances to stick with the club.
2020: 1 G, 0.1 IP, 27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP Career: 1 G, 0.1 IP, 27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP
Ramon Rosso earned a spot on the Opening Day roster with a high-powered fastball that the rest of the bullpen lacked. Unfortunately, he did not show control of it and cost the Phillies any chance to come back in the first game of the season. He should not last long on the roster this year, but may be a piece to watch for the future.
Cleaning out their lockers
2020: 2 G, 1.1 IP, 27.00 ERA, 4.50 WHIP Career: 48 G, 56.2 IP, 5.56 ERA, 1.57 WHIP
Austin Davis has been kept around the past three seasons after strong performances in the minor leagues. He has not shown any consistency in the majors. His most recent appearance (4 ER) against the Yankees may prove to be his last with the Phillies.
Enyel De Los Santos
2020: Has not pitched Career: 12 G, 30 IP, 5.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
Enyel has spent time on the roster due only to Reggie McClain’s placement on the Paternity List. He should not pitch any meaningful innings in 2020. The Phillies had nothing to lose by adding him to their 60 player pool.
Injured for Season
Seranthony Dominguez & David Robertson
Early in the season, the Phillies bullpen (9.18 ERA, 1.92 WHIP, .338 AVG) has been the worst in the National League and Major League Baseball as a whole. The names on this list do not inspire confidence that things could change.
If the Phillies are going to make a run at the playoffs, they have an offense and rotation that can keep the team afloat, but only if the bullpen is consistent. The combination of Neris, Morgan, Velasquez, Pivetta, Arano, Alvarez, and Suarez has potential, but the Phillies would be wise to find upgrades for the remaining three spots…… sooner than later.