With the Phillies offense providing plenty of reasons to worry, you may not have noticed another glaring issue lurking in the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies have a bullpen ERA of 4.35 in the first four games, and if we were to add the 2 unearned runs Stutes allowed, that number balloons to 6.09. The relief crew coughed up a one run lead on Saturday, blew a 4-1 lead on Sunday, and lost both games in extra innings.
The bullpen offers plenty of reasons to feel queasy. First, just look at the names:
Outside of the $50 million man at the back end, none of the remaining 6 bullpen arms evokes feelings of any real confidence, or at least enough to safely vacate the couch to grab another beer from the fridge. Let's take a closer at why each Phillies reliever not named Papelbon should drive up your blood pressure slightly.
Stutes had a good rookie season, but I can’t help but notice the 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning in the playoffs, the 5.79 ERA in Spring Training, and the two runs (not earned) he yielded in his first outing. Stutes could easily be at least as effective as Chad Durbin was a few years ago, but he doesn’t keep me nausea free just yet.
After Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo has the best natural talent of all the relievers. However, Bastardo had an 11.05 ERA last September and his conflicting comments with Rich Dubee are what caught my attention. At the time, Bastardo admitted, "I need a rest right now" and "my arm's not hurt, it's just tired," while Dubee's response was plainly, “He’s not tired.” Bastardo's curious lack of velocity in spring training is also a bit concerning. Bastardo has a live arm and probably all of this means zilch, but let's see him prove it.
Kendrick was impressive last season and worth the $3 million he’ll make for each of the next two years. I have no real beefs with Kyle, but it takes more than one decent season to erase the memories of his Jekyll and Hyde performances over the years.
Qualls came in as the calming, veteran presence in the bullpen. Sounds nice in theory, but it’s not like we’re talking about Mariano Rivera here. I like his durability, as Qualls has appeared in at least 51 games in 7 full seasons, averages 73 games per year, and appeared in 77 games in 2011. But Qualls owns a mediocre 3.77 career ERA, his 3.51 ERA last year is not earth shattering, and he is one year removed from a 7.32 ERA. If you ask me, Qualls will be the biggest free agent bust (behind Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton).
We have to just wait and see with Joe Savery, but he probably won’t be around anyway once (wait…if) Contreras returns.
David Herndon is a nice kid with great sinking movement, but he has absolutely no idea where any single pitch will land. No offense to Herndon, but I would take nearly any of the minor league arms over him because he is simply not reliable. In fact, I would venture to say that Herndon is not on the roster at the end of the season.
It’s rare that you’ll find a team loaded with talent in their bullpen. I mean, let’s face it, these guys are probably relievers for a reason. That said, I just don't get a good feeling from this group. Lidge, Madson, Romero, and Durbin from 2008 sound a little better than Papelbon, Bastardo, Stutes, and Qualls, don't you think?
The silver lining to this doomsday scenario is that Jose Contreras might return soon and the Phillies have a stock of several nice arms in the minors. Hopefully they aren't all pitching by May...