When it comes to the bullpen, all anyone will talk about is Ryan Madson. Rightfully so, he could be on his way out after an incredible eight-year run with the Phillies. If Madson leaves, it’ll be up to the youngsters in the Phillies bullpen to make up the difference. Sure, Ruben Amaro may bring someone else in, but this youth movement for the relief corps will eventually take center stage whether or not Madson is around to be a part of it.
Bastardo, Stutes, Schwimer, De Fratus, and Savery could all play a role next year. One guy that’s always overlooked is David Herndon.
Even with a strong finish to the season, Herndon always seems to go unnoticed. Over his final 20 appearances, Herndon gave up just four earned runs in 25 1/3 innings (1.42 ERA), even though a few of those games were still a little bit shaky. The 2011 season was a step in the right direction for a guy who barely stood a chance with this fanbase a year ago.
In 2010, Herndon’s struggled with his confidence and it was downhill from there. That season, Herndon could not piece together a solid string of games until it was too late. He had a decent September of 2010, but the damage had been done well before that. Every time he pitched, people cringed at the thought. It was almost a guarantee he’d put someone on base by any means necessary, as evident by his 1.60 WHIP. Herndon allowed 86 baserunners in 52 1/3 innings.
That number dropped to 76 in 57 innings, however, he also walked seven batters intentionally, so that number is really 69. Still not fantastic, but certainly a starting point for what was a better season for Herndon.
Herndon also minimized the damage he inflicted upon himself. In 2010, he allowed extra-bases on over nine percent of hits. On top of that, nearly 20 percent of his at-bats ended up in singles. People were just always on the bases.
In 2011, his home run percentage skyrocketed from under one percent to 3.7. However, he allowed far fewer extra-base hits compared to the season before. That number fell from nine percent in 2010 to six percent in 2011. His singles rate dropped to just over 15 percent.
One of the reasons the Phillies took a flier on Herndon in the Rule 5 Draft before the ’10 season was because of a heavy sinker that would be an asset. It’s still a work in progress, as he has yet to find true consistency on it. Still, he’s mixing his pitches better as you can see by the charts below. His K-rate rose from 5.0/9 in ’10 to 6.2/9 this past year. His ERA+ (read here for more on it) went from below average at 95 in 2010, to 117 in 2011.
Of course, Herndon’s season wasn’t without the occasional hiccup, and that includes his solid second half. He had three rough outings in September, but a few were under odd circumstances. On September 3 against Florida, he gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs, all solo, in one inning of work. On a hot day in Miami, the ball jumped out. He stunk. The very next day, Herndon pitched 3 2/3 innings of relief and walked seven, although four of those were intentional. After leaving eight men on the bases over three of those innings, he could not escape a jam in the final inning and picked up the loss. But, he ate up innings, which is not to be overlooked.
Herndon certainly took strides to becoming a better pitcher, and he’ll get every opportunity in 2012 as well. He just has to continue to refine his sinker, minimize the damage with men on base, and keep from being hurt by the longball. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Herndon could be a valuable asset next season and play a bigger role. He’ll have to, as the youth movement is one the Phillies cannot look back on; not with a bloated payroll that will likely deter them from adding high-priced bullpen arms.
HERNDON RESULTS 2011
HERNDON RESULTS 2010