The Phillies will have two new setup men in the bullpen this season. Of course Tom Gordon will be moving back into the closer role, while Arthur Rhodes will have the task of setting the table in the eighth. Rhodes, who came to the Phillies from Cleveland for Jason Michaels, is expected to play an important role this season as Uggie Urbina’s replacement. So what should we expect from the guy? Well essentially, he’s not much different than Urbina, or even Tom Gordon for that matter (FanGraphs chart the similarities well). An ankle injury in 2003, as well as other more recent minor injuries, have affected his mechanics and taken a bit of his velocity. His fastball tops off in the mid 90s, but is most effective when combined with his hard slider.
ESPN’s scouting report claims Rhodes has been tough on left-handed hitters; but actually they have higher offensive numbers against the similarly left-handed Rhodes. One stat that jumps off the page is the fact that in the past three years, right-handed batters have scored 61 runs against Rhodes while left-handed batters have score exactly zero runs.
So far in seven appearances this spring Rhodes has pitched six innings, allowing one run on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. Uncle Charlie has commented that, ”Arthur has looked very good. He’s in good shape, is throwing good, and has had a good spring. We’re going to use him in the eighth inning.” Of course they’re gonna use him, Rhodes is another member of the Pat Gillick society – the two were together in Baltimore and Seattle.
Last season, the 36-year-old was primarily used as a setup man in the seventh and eighth innings and went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 47 appearances. He didn’t pitch much in the last two months of the season as he left the Indians to first due to a personal matter (Aug. 2 – 12), then on the 15-day DL with an inflamed right knee (though he wasn’t really injured), then family illness (Sept 14-end of season). Although some time off for the veteran may be required this season, the Phils will be in trouble if Rhodes misses this many games again this season. Backup setup men might include the Julio Sanata or the inconsistent Rheal Cormier.
On a few occasions in his career he was given the job as a closer, but proved not to be up for the job. In 2004, he blew 5 of 14 save opportunities before being reverted back to a setup man. Last season, he was 0-for-3 in save opportunities. "I don’t want to talk about closing," he said. "It’s totally different." Hopefully, Manuel won’t give him the opportunity to add to his blown saves total, but this brings up an interesting article from Baseball Prospectus about new ways to judge middle relievers like Rhodes. Keith Woolner is tinkering with the idea of introducing some new stats to the position which up to now could only garner "holds." Here are his preliminary ideas:
- Shutdown (the opponent): pitcher enters the game with the tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck, pitches 3 or fewer innings, and never loses the lead.
- Slam (the door on them): pitcher enters the game with the tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck, pitches 3 or fewer innings, never loses the lead, and finishes the game.
- Cough (up the lead): pitcher enters the game with the tying run either on base, at bat, or on deck, pitches 3 or fewer innings, and loses the lead.
- Choke (away the lead): pitcher enters the game with the lead, but the tying run not on base, at bat, or on deck, pitches 3 or fewer innings, and loses the lead.
- Cinch: pitcher enters the game with the lead, but the tying run not on base, at bat, or on deck, pitches 3 or fewer innings, and never loses the lead.
- Stem (the bleeding): pitcher enters without a lead, and down by no more than 2 runs, and exits without letting the lead exceed 2 runs.
- Letdown: pitcher enters without a lead, and down by no more than 2 runs, and allows the lead to exceed 2 runs.
- Mopup: pitcher enters with the score down by more than two runs, and leaves without his team tying or taking the lead, regardless of outcome.
Choke is one of the more interesting concepts in the lot. It helps to quantify something most of us know, but can’t always express in words, you know like "clutch." For instance, Jose Mesa is near the top of the list in career chokes with 4 - many witnessed personally. So with this useful new criteria in place, we’ll be able to chart Arthur Rhodes performance this season, but if it in anyway approaches Mesa-like pitching, we’re not gonna need them.
UPDATE: Arthur Rhodes pitched one inning tonight in the Phillies’ 3-0 win against the Yankees earning him a "shutdown." Tom Gordon recorded a "cinch" and Robinson Tejeda got the save.
P.S.: The Phillies traded Aquilino Lopez to the Padres for minor league outfielder Matt Thayer and third baseman Trey Johnston. Thayer hit .337 in 63 combined games with Class-A Lake Elsinore, Class-A Fort Wayne and the rookie league Arizona Padres. Johnson hit .302 over 20 games with the Arizona League Padres.