Leave the Pen Alone!

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, May 09, 2010 10:05 PM | Comments: 72
Analysis, Posts

It’s a fickle, volatile club to be a part of.  One day, you’re a hero closing it down after a fine effort by the starter, or shutting down an opponent for an important middle inning.  The next, you’re the bane of the fans existence, a thorn in their side after blowing a four-run lead, or even by just allowing a lone runner to cross home plate.

The life of a relief pitcher is one that most people couldn’t handle.  Pressure-packed moments are what they often deal with, and if success isn’t the end result, then it’s nothing but a failure.  Relievers will never get the benefit of the doubt (unless you’re Brad Lidge, and you got yourself a free year after the perfection of 2008) and that’s evident now more than ever.

Take for instance Danys Baez, who is no doubt struggling.  Many are calling for his head just a few appearances into the season, an unfair assessment when you look at how all bullpens are constituted. Baez is getting paid a relatively large sum money for the position he’s in; one which he hasn’t succeeded as of yet.  But find me a bullpen where there isn’t a struggling relief pitcher.

Ryan Madson and David Herndon are also part of the struggling bunch, but luckily enough, there are others out in the pen picking up the slack.  Chad Durbin has been a stalwart. Antonio Bastardo was an adequate situational lefty in his short stay.  Jose Contreras has been the brightest of the bunch.

Many right here on our own commenting boards ripped the move, wondering why the Phils would go after a 38-year old that had struggled for many seasons as a starter. Ruben Amaro saw steady relief pitcher written all over him.  His rocket fastball is perfect for a 7th-or-8th inning situation.  His off-speed stuff has been found. Contreras is proving the doubters wrong, sporting a sub-one earned run average.

But, that’s exactly the point here.  Bullpen arms are often times feeble, many times fragile, other times exceptional.  Luck plays a huge role in a lot of what goes on beyond the centerfield fence.  There have been questions surfacing from readers asking if the Phils will look to make a deal for bullpen help or scour the wire for an arm. There’s no need.  It’s really no help, anyway.

If you want to be happy with your bullpen, come to terms with it’s unpredictability and temperamental makeup.  Baez, on occasion, will find his rhythm. Other times, he won’t. Contreras will likely hit an icy patch.  Madson is surely going through his darkest hour. David Herndon hasn’t quite perfected the sinker.

All will struggle, all will succeed.  As a fan, give this cast of characters the benefit of the doubt.  It’s a high-pressure situation that breeds failure. Yes, this bullpen can be better.  Give them the chance to be.

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1714 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

  • Posts: 0 Blaise

    Being the greatest team in the history of sports, I don’t think this team has anything to worry about.

  • Posts: 0 Blaise

    lolololol I thought you were going to say “Ryan Madson and David Herndon are also part of the struggling bunch, but luckily enough, Ryan Madson broke his toe and won’t be pitching in Philadelphia for a while.”

  • Posts: 0 binger

    Why for you say dat?

  • Posts: 0 Serin

    leave britney alone!!!! ;_;

  • Posts: 0 Ron Gant

    The full wretchedness of our bullpen has yet to show itself.

  • Posts: 0 DrMagnificent

    Ryan Madson being out is not a good thing. He’s probably our best reliever.

  • Posts: 0 Brian

    why the lack of talk about nelson figueroa? he’s also struggled a bit as of late i suppose but at the beginning he was stellar. i still think he definitely gives this bullpen a boost especially as a multiple innings reliever as well.

  • Posts: 0 DP

    This could be the plot summary for that MLB Network show “The Pen.”

    [I also think you're completely right.]

  • Posts: 0 Kennedy

    Good points made, but I still think they should call up Scott Mathieson. Right now I’d take my chances with him over most of our pen. Danys Baez is pitching better than his ERA, but Mathieson throws gas. Herndon might have potential, but Rule V picks who are unable to fulfill their roles do not belong on contender teams. Luckily we’re way, way better than the rest of our division, which helps to nullify the issue.

    My solution to one bullpen problem: option Herndon back or make a deal to keep him. Call up Scott Mathieson.

  • Posts: 0 Lewisauce

    I don’t think Herndon’s gonna make it here. He’s a nice player, but if the rest of ‘em are healthy when Madson comes back, Herndon’s simply the odd guy out. I know his spring numbers were stellar, but has anybody watched him closely? The couple of times I’ve seen him, he’s been hit hard, but the hits were right at sure-handed people. Only a matter of time before he’s exposed as a AAAA guy, and we have our own AAAA guys.

    That said, the ‘Pen is doing its best. Remember our starters not named Roy had a shaky first three weeks, and the pen was used A LOT. Statistically, they can’t log that many innings without a blow up or two. That’s just how it works. And they’re going to get lots more work in Interleague play, because if you think Kendrick and Moyer are going 8 and 9 innings against AL teams, you’ve been living under a rock.

    Contreras was a damn good find by RAJ. Durbin is steady; even Figgy is important as a Condrey-type who can give you the bonus of a spot start. Lidge will keep the antacid industry in Philly afloat all summer.

  • Posts: 0 Keith E

    Pat, while realizing that real-estate is a high commodity, can room be found on the page for NL East standings? Thanks, Keith
    GO PHILS!!!

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Really love the attitude Pat, it’s so easy to find things to pick apart and want flashier names especially in the bullpen.

    I love how the bullpen’s been assembled and the renewed willingness to give young arms a chance and I think on a game to game basis the Phils have one of the most versatile pens in the league. The downside I guess is you do worry when your facing an elite teams run producing bats in the 8th or 9th and you don’t have guys you’d consider to be elite relievers at the top of their game.

    Durbin when he’s been healthy has been nothing short of Werthesque out of the bullpen as a guy we expected virtually nothing more than just a body when he signed. I’d speculated we’d make a run at Contreras as a starter and I was really pleased with that signing, while many were looking at the name and the ST performances it was almost forgotten he’s a guy who can come into the game and just throw a couple of outright dirty pitches.

    To me Baez has been an incredible disappointment so far, I wasn’t expecting him to be much more than an around 4 with a reasonable amount of K’s and a few too many walks but he’s looked consistently poor. I thought with his history and return to health he could slot anywhere in the bullpen and bridge to the next guy but he hasn’t looked at all versatile or consistent in one role.

    All you can really expect from your bullpen is to quietly help you keep the game moving and keep our stars with a bat instead of a glove in their hand and considering the adversity, their doing a very solid if not great job so far.

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    Excuse me you people are forgetting, madson replacement is in lehigh valley, he is ready Mathieson is really lighting up the radar gun at 97 with good secondary pitches. In my opinion madson and ibanez should be shopped to free up the money to try to sign werth. but remember werth will be 32 next season so my offer 4 years, 60 million.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    Maitheson needs to be eased back into the majors since he spent so long out of the game but boy is he a nice guy to have in the wings.

    Probably a subject for a different day but the Phils can surely scrounge together $15 a year over 4 for Werth even if it means eating most of Raul’s remaining year to trade him, problem is is it going to be worth it for the Phils to stay in the bidding at $70-80 or 5 or 6 years if he test the market…?

  • Posts: 0 mikemike

    My logic to trading madson and ibanez is its frees up 15 million, if you can move them to help sign werth, and brown and mathieson will replace those two at less than a million total. only way I see we can do it.but you can move a madson but ibanez will be hard to do.

  • Posts: 0 NJ

    I don’t think the Phils need to even entertain the idea of trading Madson. It’s unlikely Romero comes back at $4.25m, Moyer’s unlikely to return and Durbin will likely be able to parlay a really good spell with the Phillies into a multi-year deal somewhere. I love Raul but I agree you move him and eat a lot of that final year if you can keep Werth but we have no idea what his offers are going to be elsewhere… And a couple will probably at least resemble the Rowand to Giants deal.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    IF….IF Mathieson can fill that role by Madson at some point…then I could see the logic in shopping Madson to free up money for Werth.

    But we really don’t know if Mathieson is gonna pan out for the long haul. He sure looks good now, though.

    Thing is….Madson is now damaged goods. He wasn’t exactly stellar in a lot of his appearances this season and now with him being out for an extended time his value is diminished.

    It’s nice to see Contreras step up to be that late inning guy.

    Also, the way Werth is going…4 yrs/60 M won’t cut it. Either the Phillies will have to ante up….or Werth is gone….probably headed to Boston. (He’ll end up being a real “cult hero” there….along the lines of Youkalis, Varitek and Kevin Millar.)


    Pat, great assessment of releif pitchers. I guess there is really only one Mariano Rivera.

  • Posts: 0 Ed R.

    Yeah I hate to be a negative Nancy but as good as Werth is playing as as much as we want him to keep putting up ridiculous numbers, understand that those numbers are quickly pricing Werth out of the Phillies price range.

    I agree completely with trading Ibanez and Madson. In fact, I would do it before the season ended if I had my way but I don’t. I said it last year and I will say it again, Werth will not be here next year if Ibanez is. Simple as that. Really the key is the payroll for next year. If the Phillies can find a way to pay Werth next year then they should be able to fit in him for the remainder of his contract, whatever that may be.

    Mathieson however is not the answer to Madson, he is the answer to Lidge. I guess the thought is you use him to set up first and then hopefully be the future closer, if that is the case then that works fine for me. But I do agree, Mathieson does need to be eased back in.

    As for the pen, it has been pretty good so far. Herndon will not be here when Madson gets back, assuming everyone else is healthy. I too was surprised that there was no mention of Figgy. He has struggled a little bit lately but what do you expect from a guy who is going 5-7 days in between appearances? He will be fine and have an ERA somewhere in the low to mid 3′s. But to say Baez has been anything other than a disappointment and a waste of a contract as I said from the very beginning would be generous at best if not inaccurate. Even if I thought Baez was decent, which I don’t, I would still expect the guy to have an era in the high 3′s, low 4′s. Think about this…Baez has given up 1 less run than Roy, in 43 less innings…an era of 6.92…there is nothing unfair in saying that his numbers are not just bad, they are atrocious. At this point he should only be used in mop up duty if even then. I would rather then send him down to the minors and let him figure out how to pitch again.

  • Posts: 0 George

    I agree, leave the ‘pen alone. This early in the season, no one’s pitched enough innings, so two or three runs allowed can translate to a very high ERA. Also, this early pitcher’s roles haven’t been completely sorted out, and when starters are on the DL it gets harder to sort them. There are concerns with Baez and Herndon, and Madson was horrible before he broke his toe, but it will take more than just April and a fraction of May to get a real feel for these relievers’ performances.

    The front office has said repeatedly that Mathieson still needs work on his secondary pitches. One can be awesome in the minors with just a fastball, but National league hitters can catch up to anything, and have a nasty habit of waiting for a bad curve or hanging slider. Mathieson also has had two TJ surgeries, and no one wants to rush him into working too hard too soon.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Figueroa has had one season with an ERA under 3.94, so a low or mid three ERA is extremely optimistic. He’s a mop-up man/spot starter, and was signed to fill the role Kendrick would have had if Happ hadn’t gone down. It’ll be interesting to see just how the staff is handled when Happ returns. The Phils may wish to hold onto Herndon, feeling he has some long-term potential, in which case, either Figgy gets released or Kendrick returns to AAA. Probably the former.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    I like the article, Pat.

    Phaith in the pen!

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    If you had to choose between Figgy and Herndon, I would guess that Herndon would be the one to keep….BECAUSE of his long-term potential. Once he really masters that sinker…..watch out….he will be EXTREMELY valuable!

  • Posts: 0 The Original Chuck P

    Nice assessment Pat… I really enjoy your commentary.

    The truth is that if those guys didn’t lose control from time to time, they would likely be starters. Ups and downs should be expected and we shouldn’t get too high when they’re pitching well or too low when they’re not. Luck plays a role… but I think that consistency and regular rest are probably more crucial than anything else. The more arms, the better (even if a few of those arms don’t seem to be giving you much).

    It’s nice to be back… I was in Florida for work. What a crazy week… 2/3 from the Braves is awesome. I got a text as I exited a plane on Friday night telling me that Jamie Moyer had pitched a complete game shutout and I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it. If Dallas Braden can throw a perfect game against the Rays, anything can happen.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Trading Madson, which is very doable, and trading Ibanez, not so much, will be a good idea if that frees up the money to sign Werth. Jayson Werth is on the cusp of becoming a superstar. Yes, I said “superstar”. Madson can’t close and he can’t start (we tried that, too) Plus, now he’s a moron, to boot. The pen looks like it could absorb his loss. Teams could like Madson a lot at his price. Could we package Madson and Ibanez together and eat little to no cash? Maybe. And I can tell you who might do it. Those L.A. Dodgers.

    The Dispy

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Interesting Werth article on phuturephillies.com. The article puts Phillies payroll at 60% of revenues. The only tough year on Werth’s contract is 2011 because of Lidge and Ibanez. Here’s their proposal.

    2011 $8 million
    2012 $16 million
    2013 $18 million
    2014-2015 $19 million

    Some valid arguments on why $19 million in 2014 isn’t a huge sum. Look at Utley’s contract compared to Holliday’s 7/85 vs 7/120.

    Mathiason has 7 straight games, 7 innings with 0 bbs, 11 kos 4 hits 0 runs. He may just be ready now that he has his control.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Wait a second. What proposal?

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    He wouldn’t sign that deal in a gazillion years.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Phuture phillies proposal. 5 years $80 million. $16 million per year is nothing to sneeze at.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Yes, but 8 is in the first year so that takes the value down significantly. Thats 8 mill he can’t invest the first year. I wish he would sign that. he also probably thinks he can get at least 6 years somewhere else. Make no mistake, he’s gonna be looking to break the bank.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Werth is and SHOULD be looking at the best deal he can get. Wouldn’t all of you if you had the chance?

    5 years MINIMUM is what he will command in that 16-18M range per….and THAT’S probably not enough.

    You’re looking at your new Red Sox outfielder, I’m afraid. Any bets on how many balls clear the Monster vs. slamming off of it?

    Ruben, for the love of God, please try to figure this out if it’s at all possible.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    People chill out.. Once you start talking about Werth as if he’s next greatest thing since sliced bread, then you should realize you’re overreacting. Giving $80 million to Werth is CRAZY unless he actually hits .350 for the year..

    Moving on…

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    I’d go 5/80, after that it gets dicey. We really have to hope Raul stays hot.

    D. Brown is really tearing it up. He’s batting .346. Michael Taylor has been struggling in Oakland’s AAA system, but he should come around.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Even with his insane .350 2010 average, his CAREER avg is .269

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Thanks for nothing, Manny.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Well Dipsy… you and your knee-jerk reactions are borderline crazy… good thing you’re not the Phillies GM.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    How are we overreacting? The guy is gonna command some BIG bucks…rightfully so….and we all want him to be a Phillie for life.

  • Posts: 0 psujoe

    Almost everyone agrees Holliday was way over paid because St. Louis had to protect AP. I think Werth tops out a 5/80 not bottoms out. I think 5/85 is too steep and 6/96 too long, but what do I know.

  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    One recurring thought for the past week – what about moving Rollins to free up some cash for Werth? He’s one of my favorite Phils of all time, I hate even thinking about it, but this thought won’t go away. Rollin’s plusses and minuses are well known, not going to go into them, but I think we’ve seen his best years already, and is likely to get overpaid in his next contract. As much as I dislike Vic at lead-off, he’s not much more frustrating than Rollins can be.

    If you could move Rollins and Ibanez to free up salary (Fenway has one of the worst infields in baseball, Scutaro is having a rough time, and Papi is done – maybe the BoSox bite, give us Scutaro and some decent prospects for Rollins and Ibanez?) and extend Werth (5 yrs, 90M), do you do it?

    I don’t think Werth is going to hit 346 with 60 hr, 150 rbis, but very realistic for him to hit near 300 with 40 hr, 120 rbis. As the season goes on, it will be less likely that he plays for the Phils next year.

    I’ll enjoy it while Werth’s here, not going to worry too much about next year, but a thought that keeps creeping in whenever I see Werth hit a bomb, Castro/Valdezat playing short.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    You’re proposing TRADING Jimmy Rollins….which really makes no sense at all….but yet you offer no reasons why you feel this way (“Rollins plusses and minuses are well known, not going to go into them.”

    All players have plusses and minuses….J-Roll no exception. What he brings to this team is invaluable….even with his minuses. Stellar defense, hits well when he’s locked in, leadership on and off the field. He’s really the heart and soul of the Phillies.

    Besides, who would you suggest play short?

  • Posts: 0 RichieAllen

    In reading the posts here ,it seems everyone thinks Werth will sign a monster contract that we cant afford next year.
    Ok so lets trade him for prospects now.
    Isnt that the rationale behand the Cliff Lee trade.
    Only kidding,didnt mean to mention You Know Who.

  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    Plusses – best defensive ss in NL, possibly in baseball, excellent sb%, intangibles.

    Minuses – worst ob% for leadoff hitter (although not his fault where he hits), every defensive and offensive measure (except stolen bases, which took an uptick in 2008) steadily in decline since 2007. This isn’t some weird statistical anamoly – everything is in decline (BA, slug%, WAR, UZR,….), and he’s an injured 32 year old – young for an accountant, old for a guy who relies on speed.

    The trade to Boston is a long shot – there probably isn’t a team that takes both Rollins and Ibanez without asking for money also, or give little of use back.

    The Phils aren’t going to exceed the cap – can’t keep everyone. To keep Werth, salary is going to have to be cut somewhere – need a few sub $1M players to keep it balanced. Is Werth worth having Castro/Valdez,… at short? If not, ok. Who do you move? Not Howard or Utley. Ruiz would be hard to replace. Joe B is the only consistent righty starter. Who’s taking Raul’s contract? Really only looking at PP, Vic, and Rollins as possibilities. If all are more valuable than Werth, it’s an easy decision. If you really want Werth, someone else has to go – Phils are not going to add another $18M/yr.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    You just stated the reason why trading Jimmy Rollins is a ridiculous idea…

    “best defensive ss in NL, possibly in baseball.”

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    Victorino, who has a team friendly contract, would go before Rollins I would think. Hey Manny, I didn’t say what I would pay Werth or what I thought he is actually worth (no pun intended). I just said that he is on the cusp of becoming a superstar. I’m not giving him 17m a year if I’m Amaro. I would give him 4y/58m and that nothing to sneeze at.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Dipsy, if Amaro offers 4/58 then Werth LAUGHS in his face. That offer is an insult.

  • Posts: 0 The Dipsy

    I’m not giving him 6/105. Thats crazy.

    The Dipsy

  • Posts: 0 jeff stone

    I think rub should trade ibanez, madson, and hamels for lee. But phils should first negotiate a deal with lee. With all the money saved on ibanez, madson and hamels, plus moyer and romero coming off next year and lidge the year after, they should have the money to sign lee and werth. Move brown to AAA and bring him up in august. With halladay, lee, utley, howard and werth signed long term along with brown and happ, the phils would guarantee this dynasty is extended a few more years.

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Who said 6/105??

    I think 5/80-85 is a good offer. Maybe overpaying a little….but not what other teams may offer. I can see someone offering 6/114-120.

  • Posts: 0 bfo_33

    I’m not trying to run Rollins out of town, but to keep Werth, someone of value has to go. Who knows when Jimmy comes back anyway – calf strains are tough, esp on a ss. I’d take an average defensive ss and a 5 tool righty over a great defensive, good offensive aging ss and another lefty in this line-up. Vic is another possibility, I think Werth could make the transition to center.

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    I love it when people suggest we trade those who have large contracts who are not performing. WHO exactly is going to take that trade and for what. No one is touching Ibanez right now and if the Phillies move him they will have to pay part of the contract.
    This is just arithmetic folks. You can’t have $20 million for Howard and Halladay and then add Utley ($15 million) , Rollins (probably $12 million in 2012) et al and sign Werth for a big deal. Not unless you raise ticket prices $5 a piece AND not lose any attendance. Even then, the Phillies would be pushing the luxury tax limit which is a real problem for those not owning their own cable system.

    Werth had developed into a very good player but we can’t have all-stars at each position. Sure everyone would like Ibanez’s third year to disappear but it is not going to. We need space for some younger players (i.e. low dollars) and the odds are Werth goes this winter, right after Carl Crawford is signed. I see him getting 4 years at $65 million unless the bidding gets crazy. Good for him. We will have to move on and plug in someone else.

  • Posts: 0 Manny

    Werth’s value right now is at an all-time high… it would be foolish to try to sign him NOW for 5 years or more.. Just give it some time and things will work themselves out.

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