The Phillies’ bullpen was a disaster in 2012, placing 21st in ERA (3.94) and 29th in eighth-inning ERA (4.89). The ‘pen blew 19 saves — 11 more than their 2011 total. And it lost 27 games after losing just 18 in 2011.
So it made sense that when the Phillies were set to unload Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the trade deadline, they would look for at least one young reliever who could come in to help a beleaguered unit. Victorino was dealt to the Dodgers for 25-year-old right-hander Josh Lindblom and 23-year-old starting pitching prospect Ethan Martin.
While Martin flourished at Reading, going 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA in seven starts, Lindblom didn’t have much success in a Phillies uniform. He had a 4.63 ERA for the Phillies, and while he struck out 27 batters in 23.1 innings, he also walked 17.
Lindblom has heat — his fastball ranges from 92-96 mph, but he has trouble keeping the ball in the park. He allowed 13 home runs in 71 innings this season, nine of which came on the first or second pitch of an at-bat. It’s a trend that makes you nervous going forward at Citizens Bank Park.
The 6-foot-4 Lindblom does have potential, though, and he’ll be cheap for a few more years since he has less than two years of major-league service time.
The Phils should use him as a righty specialist in 2013. Right-handed hitters are batting .191 with a .576 OPS off Lindblom in a career sample of 248 plate appearances. Lefties, though, are hitting .282/.396/.500.
Lindblom can still be a quality bullpen piece for the next two or three years if the home run trend changes, but he should not be the eighth-inning answer in 2013, whether it’s just him or a combination of he, Antonio Bastardo and possibly Phillippe Aumont. Lindblom’s propensity to hit the sweet spot of the bat and the control problems of Bastardo and Aumont would set the Phils up for another season of late meltdowns.
If the Phillies sign a veteran reliever with a track record of setup success — a Mike Adams, Ryan Madson or Brandon League — Lindblom can move into the complementary role he is better suited for at this point.