Bullpen Will Make or Break Phillies’ Season

Posted by Corey Seidman, Mon, April 09, 2012 03:55 AM | Comments: 22
Analysis, Posts

Antonio Bastardo was a prime reason the Phillies blew so few saves in 2011.

The Phillies’ opening series at PNC Park drew up a very specific formula for the season.

The big strength was starting pitching — Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley combined to produce this line: 20 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 14 K.

The big weakness was offense — the Phillies hit .204/.264/.255 with three extra-base hits.

The unit that blew Sunday’s series finale, however, was the bullpen. Say whatever you want about offense, when you allow seven baserunners over the final 2.2 innings, that is the root cause of a loss.

In Sunday’s game, the Phillies used Michael Stutes in the seventh inning (allowed two runs), Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo in the eighth inning of a one-run game (blown save) and David Herndon in the ninth, with the score tied 4-4.

This type of setup could be used in many games this season, especially those started by Worley or Joe Blanton. The Phillies right now don’t have a specific eighth-inning reliever. They don’t have a Mike Adams or a Ryan Madson of old.

They have an Antonio Bastardo who has lost velocity and may have to nibble more, leading to even worse control. They have Stutes, who is coming back from shoulder soreness in the spring and may have had his best success before the league knew what to expect from him. They have Kendrick, a career starter/long-man who has the exact skill set you don’t want coming out of the ‘pen late. They have Herndon, a groundballer who leaves too many pitches high in the zone and routinely allows early baserunners.

All of these pitchers could have good seasons. All of these pitchers could struggle mightily. No conclusions are being formed after three games, these are simple facts.

What it boils down to, however, what we saw first-hand in the three games at PNC Park, is that the Phillies will be playing in so many one-run games that the bullpen’s success or failure will determine the season. If the bullpen is as good as it was last season, the Phils can win 94-96 games. If it’s average or worse, they could win 88.

I don’t think many folks realize just how critical the bullpen was to the team’s 102 wins last season. The Phillies’ bullpen, as a unit, blew just three saves in the first 110 games of 2011. That’s not just ninth-inning blown saves, either. That’s blown saves in any inning.

It is unrealistic to expect that sort of effort this season. It’d mean the Phillies would allow the tying run(s) to score after the starter exits in just 1.9% of the next 107 games.

But this was the missing piece of the discussion when comparing last year’s team to this year’s. Yes, last season the Phillies were without Chase Utley until May 23, and the second base fill-ins combined to hit .211 with no home runs. Yes, last year’s team began the season without Hunter Pence.

But last year’s team also saw a mixture of solid bullpen work and incredible late-inning luck that doesn’t figure to carry over. Getting leads will be one hardship for this team. Maintaining them will be another.

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 TheDipsy

    Corey – The offense is what’s going to make or break the Phillies season – not the bullpen. A bullpen can be fixed justlikethat with a little trade or too, especially when you already have an elite closer. An offense – not so much. A bullpen giving up a run or two is a problem when the offense can’t score. The bullpen will be fine, IMO.

    The Dipsy

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      i have to agree with you on your analasis on what will make or break them! the offense yes of course! and the bullpen will be fine. my guess though is that the offense could be okay but i think the phils need someone to manage the (smallball) so to speak. from what i’ve seen so far even a non professional as myself can blatantly see the mistakes made by charlie with his asking certain players to bunt in situations were they shouldn’t be(rollins) 2 on nobody out in the first! (nix) with a shift on! here’s a guy who is supposed to hit rh pitching and god knows how many bunt attempts he’s had in his career at this point. he has no business bunting him. also had vic bunting! i mean god if that’s charlies idea of small ball we’re in trouble cause it doesn’t get any smaller than that! and it’s only been 3 games! and all these questionable stuff. and i don’t even want to mention the management of the bullpen! now i like charlie but i think without any boppers he’s exposing his lack of managerial skills sad to say. my question not to seem sarcastic is why did cleveland fire him? did he expose himself once their power hitters left? and how did he manage his bullpen without an offense pounding other teams? just asking if anyone out there knows. i hope it was just the fact that we never play well in pittsburgh, we’ll see what happens at home against a supposidly good upcoming team with pitching and offense!

  • Posts: 0 c schreiber

    I don’t see many comments on this “no hitting lineup”. What happened to all you clowns who were worried for weeks about Amaro’s trade of Valdez and what are we going to do for a good utility infielder. Christ, that’s all you clowns talked about. As I said than and again I’ll say it now WE NEED HITTERS not utility infielders.

    • Posts: 5189 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Why are you calling everyone clowns, dude? Do you know anyone on this comment board that runs the team? If you do, please share your well concealed overflowing fountain of knowledge.

      Valdez was traded for a pitcher, not a “hitter”. A pitcher- one that I might add, had no chance of making the ball club. The clowns you refer to had a legitimate gripe, Mr. c shrelber. Your argument works if there had been complaints about Valdez being traded for a great hitter. Of course they need hitters, every team could use more, no?

      Right now the only bozo I can see is you. Oh and BTW what does “c” stand for anyway, oh let me guess, no it can’t be, that’s just too funny.

      • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren


  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    Im one of those clowns. However i can t help but imagine that Valdez might of come through in on of those situations that Galvis did not. One thing about Valdez he seemed pretty good at getting the RISP.

    • Posts: 5189 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      He didn’t seem it bacardi, Valdez was the best on the team. He hit .370 w RISP, next best was Hunter Pence at .333.

  • Posts: 5189 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    I agree that the bullpen will make or break the season for the same reason they needed to be stellar last season. With key members of the position players aging and/or ailing at various different times during the season, the club can not score like they may have once been capable. IMO-The Dipsy is right, and Corey is too. The bats have to be better, and the pen must be stellar for this to work.

    I’m actually proud of Charlie right now, he is playing the percentages, moving runners, and doing all he can with what he has. Last year he’d have left Worley or Blanton in to pitch the seventh, but this year he knows he has to score, and can’t chance letting them bat that late in the game even when they are pitching well. I didn’t think he had this ability to make moves like LaRussa used to, in him. It’s early yet, we’ll have a dogfight to the end I think, but I like the new Charlie Manuel right now, even though I imagine he hates managing this way. But with absence of consistent power, all he can do is play the cards in his hand.

  • Posts: 2069 Brooks

    Avatar of Brooks

    Lefty you are laying it on just a little too thick my friend..

    What would Herndon be doing in a game after the 7th inning?
    Why would Joe Blanton be coming in the 9th?
    Don’t waste any more time and start bringing back some of those kids who deserve a spot on the roster. Put Orr in a PH situation for Galvis. Lets see some Mayberry at first again..
    Jimmy does not need to hit third. Bunting the runner over is great but as a number 3 hitter?
    Why is Nix still in a uniform?

    Nix, Galvis, Thome, Schnides – 0 for 22. OK, its early.

    On a brighter note – when Stutes kept the ball down, he looked awesome. I think there was one ball hit well when he had control of his pitch. Better control than Schnides for sure.
    Oh yes, the other bright note is today we get to see Cole, Chooch back in the lineup and hopefully more of Pierre.

    • Posts: 5189 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      I know that much of what you say is true. But it is so early yet. I’m saying I think Charlie might be coming around to managing the club that he has at hand. He doesn’t have the big boppers anymore, so he’s managing it the way he has to. Can you find mistakes? Sure, you can pick it apart and find anything you want. I could say that he should have replaced Bastardo with Papelbon before the score was tied. Surely, for all that money, Paps can throw a four out save instead of three right? I can see the holes, but I like that he’s making an effort with defensive replacements late in games- when have you seen him do that before? Bunting, moving runners, etc. – this is all new to him- it shouldn’t be, but it is. Anyway, I’m sticking to my guns, Charlie has been given a less than great hand of cards, and I think he’s doing the best he can with it.

  • Posts: 0 Dave Lerch

    I agree, the bullpen will play a critical role in this team’s overall success. It is the key .Honestly,I believe the offense will produce better than what they demonstrated this weekend We will have leads to protect. We can’t have the bullpen coughing up leads late in games,because we don’t have the pop offensively to play catch up. With that said, we were going to struggle offensively this year even with Howard and Utley in the lineup and as a result, we need this bullpen to perform at a high level. I don’t think we have enough right now. Stutes can’t get it done and neither can Herndon. I cringe when Kendrick is called to come in a game and I don’t have confidence in Bastardo. This is a real problem that we need to address to be successful. The offense will be average with or without Howard and Utley and the starting pitching will be stellar. We need bullpen relief.

  • Avatar of "Big Ed" Delahanty

    I realize it is only three games into the season; therefore, I am by no means hitting the panic button, but the last two games were downright ugly. I understand and accept that our punchless offense with our stellar pitching is going to produce a plethora of close games; however, with such a proximity, there is no room for error. The past two games Manuel has made some very questionable managerial decisions. Although Cholly set out to incorporate small ball this year, he has a long way to go before he masters it the way someone like Larussa did, in fact, I think he is overemphasizing it, like having the 3 hitter bunt, or Nix bunt!!! I feel that a team must have a synergistic and symbiotic relationship, that being said, all aspects must being running together on all cylinders, or close to it, for us to win. I gave my opinions a couple posts ago on that. I think, and I am by no means a baseball expert, that the Amaro made an error by acquiring Nix and Wigginton. Great that they are multi-dimensional in their ability to play positions, but after that dropped throw from Schneider yesterday that gave birth to a rally, I could do without their mediocre fielding and hitting. Instead, they should have brought up Pods and Luna. I realize that spring break numbers are bunk, but overall, I feel they are better than the aforementioned two – so let’s nix Nix and Wigginton. Let’s move Mayberry to first, and dare I say it, bring up Brown and give him a shot in left. Or move Mayberry to first and leave Pierre in left. I am worried about our bullpen and its use. Halladay, Lee, and Worley (who is avoiding a sophomoric slump nicely) have pitched excellent; the bullpen has not. Bastardo does not look like himself, nor does Stutes. Herndon, despite what ever stats say he is better than Stutes, should not have made the team, as he leaves the ball up in the zone way too much, and is not consistent. Kendrick is Kendrick. Why not try the Savery kid? Where was Pap? All that money to play just one inning so far. I’m mystified. We need a healthy Contreras soon. The offense must do a little more than have Chooch and Pence knock in all the runs, but as evidenced yesterday, even when they do, the bullpen sans Pap cannot hold it. Finally, Jimmy, who? Where is Rollins?! Did his new off-season workout consist of everything except hitting the ball? His tweets and quotes are the only thing hitting this year. As a former MVP, he really needs to step-up. Moreover, the whole lot of them really need to step-up, but I have faith they will, just not sure how long my faith will last with the path they are on. Go Fight’ins!

    • Posts: 0 Ryne Duren

      big ed i’m with you and your concerns and feelings. my problrm is that i always go with my gut feeling and my gut isn’t feeling so good right now. i think we are going to be in for a long season a painful one at that! i had the same feeling after the 83 season, and we all know the downhill spiral after that! the only difference now is the aces we hold. but if cole signs somewhere else and doc goes downhill— well you get the picture

  • Posts: 0 George

    After THREE lousy games, everyone is overreacting. And the Phils even won one of them!

    Sure, the bullpen didn’t look stellar yesterday, but despite Blanton, it certainly did fine the second game of the year.

    Sure, Manuel has made some mistakes, but early in the year he has to try new things if only to figure out who can or can’t do what. (I’m sure he knows now that Nix can’t bunt!) The inning pitched by Bastardo: how would Manuel know in advance that Antonio couldn’t handle it, unless he actually let him pitch?

    My worry right now is not the BP guys who’ve been less than great; my concern is Chad Qualls’ current foot problem. He’s pitched well, and his being unavailable yesterday certainly didn’t give Manuel many options. If Qualls is okay, and when Contreras returns, the bullpen should be much, much better. If Qualls has a major problem, though, something will have to be done.

  • Posts: 0 Dave P

    It’s still so early to be doing any sort of analysis. But if you guys are going to dwell on the negatives, you might as well give some props to the starting rotation. 2 runs in 20 innings, combining for a WHIP of 0.6…I’d say that was a solid series for our starting guys.

  • Posts: 0 George

    One other note:

    This is essentially the same pen as last year with a new closer. The 2011 pen contained Stutes, Herndon, Kendrick, Bastardo, and Contreras. It also had Baez (Yuck!) and Romero for a while, and this year those two are gone and Qualls has been added. If this years pen sucks, last year’s must have been just as bad or worse.

  • Posts: 32 joycedaffodil

    Avatar of joycedaffodil

    The last time I commented, I was given a royal bash when I said I thought relying on Howard, Utley and Rollins to get us out of this jam was not clearly a solution. Where oh, where is the hitting. Infielders wonderful, but someone needs to begin a game of small ball. I am a die hard Phillie Fan. When our 8 year old son asked me to take him to a Phillies game as his Dad was away on a business trip, I was hooked. The guys love baseball, but Mother is a die hard fan. Our son is now 35 and our grandson is here today wearing his Phillies hat, Phillies jacket and even Phillies diapers. How much worse can it get. Come on guys, don’t disappoint us this year. Don’t want to focus on the pennant, just want to see some hitting.

  • Posts: 13 Boto

    Avatar of Boto

    Defense behind the plate didn’t help either. Anyone notice the 2 passed balls on third strike that Schnieder had yesterday in the 7th? He threw one out, but threw the second one away. That runner was one of those who scored. It’s a whole different game with 2 out and nobody on as opposed to 1out and 1 on. Those passed balls started the downward spiral.

  • [...] Phillies Nation says the bullpen, not the offense, will make or break the Phillies season. [...]

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