Analysis

Leave the Pen Alone!

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.

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