All-Star Break Grades: The ‘Pen

Schwimer has been a bright spot for the bullpen in the first half of 2012. Photo: AP

Today we continue with our All-Star Break Grades. Including Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton, 15 Phillies pitchers have pitched out of the bullpen in 2012. For the purposes of these grades, we will lump them in with the starters and focus on the 13 others. As my newest colleague Eric Seidman indicated yesterday, there is plenty of time and room for these fellas to turn it around.

The Surprises

Michael Schwimer – The giant righty from Alexandria, VA has been a pleasant anchor in the Phillies ‘pen. Schwimer trails only Papelbon, Qualls, and Bastardo in appearances for the Phils despite not starting the year with the team and trails only Papelbon in ERA. Schwimer’s 6.75 K/9 IP indicates he is pitching more to contact and should only improve as his BB/9 IP has dropped. Not many expected much from Schwimer, but as he told us on Phillies Nation TV, he was working hard with Rich Dubee to improve his approach, pitch selection, and placement. Grade: B

Jake Diekman – Like Schwimer, Diekman did not make the Phillies out of Spring Training. Also like Schwimer, Diekman has become one of the Phillies most reliable relievers. Diekman burst on to the scene on May 15, bailing Qualls out of a jam, striking out 3 in 1.1 IP to earn the win against Houston. After giving up 4 ER in his next outing against Chicago, Diekman has not looked back. In that time frame, Diekman has 23 Ks in 15.2 IP with a 1.72 ERA and a .220 BAA. Diekman, the only MLB’er ever from Cloud County Community College in Concordia, KS, is a powerful strikeout artist who will continue to improve. Grade: B+

Not What We Had Hoped For

Antonio BastardoBastardo had a breakthrough season last year, finishing with a WHIP under 1 and establishing himself as 1B to Jonny Venters 1A in terms of lefty set-up men in the NL. Bastardo looked like that jump to the next level was real, pitching quite well through mid-June before surrendering 3 runs and blowing a 2-0 lead on the 24th against the Rays. Bastardo has allowed 12 ER in his last 9 appearances, ballooning his ERA to 5.34 and his WHIP over 1.4. Where strides were made last year in reducing walks, Bastardo has faltered, offering 5.7 BB/9 IP. There is plenty of time to turn it around this season and moving forward and hopefully those last 9 appearances were an anomaly. Grade: C-

Chad QuallsPop-quiz: Which Phillies reliever started the year with six consecutive shutout innings? Before Qualls hit the wall, he was mildly effective. But when he hit the wall, he hit it with the force of a bus being rammed by a semi with dynamite in the back of it. Sure, his 4.60 ERA as a Phil is better than Bastardo’s but Bastardo has only 1 blown save versus 5 for Qualls. With a 1.532 WHIP as a Phil, Qualls was allowing over a runner and a half to reach reach base per inning and allowed 7 long balls in just over 34 innings. Best of luck, Yankees fans. Grade: D

Joe Savery – Savery is a sentimental favorite of mine. Very few players’ journey to the Bigs include switching between position player and pitcher several times, sometimes in midseason. Many, including myself, saw Savery as a left-handed specialist. Unfortunately, Savery’s line against lefties spoke otherwise: .265/.270/.412. Savery’s 3.06 ERA ballooned to 5.87 after allowing 9 ER in his last 5.1 IP. If there is anything that I have learned, though, from Savery is that he will be back. I think the last three appearances might have been a case of snakebite; Savery is better than a 5.87 ERA and hopefully will get the opportunity to show that. Grade: D+

Jonathan Papelbon – Maybe it is just the taste of sour grapes for the blown save against the Mets that is still fresh in my mouth. Or maybe it’s because I expect a lot from a $50 million closer. The good? Papelbon leads the NL in games finished, has only two blown saves, and his WHIP is near his career average. The discouraging? His H/9 IP are up, his HR/ 9 IP is almost tripled from last year, his BB/9 IP is at a 57% increase from last year, and his K/9 IP are down by a modest K/9 IP. All closers are overpaid, including Papelbon. But for $50 million, I was hoping for slight improvement, not signs of decline. Still, he has been effective.  Grade: B

Bitten by the Injury Bug

Jose ContrerasWhat a tease Jose Contreras has been. The Big Truck, at times, has shown flashes of a dominating reliever, a pitcher capable of entering the game and getting the big strike out. In his last 7 appearances with the Phillies before his injury, Contreras held 18 opposing batters to a .056/.056/.056 triple-slash, striking out six. Unfortunately, it looks like the Big Truck may have broken down for good just as he was recovering from a tune up. Grade: C- with a Get Well Soon

Mike Stutes – Stutes quickly emerged on the scene as a fan favorite as a rookie right-handed set-up man in 2011 after a late April call-up. He was not as effective this year,and possibly the end of last year, for good reason: Stutes pitched through shoulder soreness. Stutes pitched just 5.2 innings this year. Grade: Incomplete with a Get Well Soon

David Herndon – Herndon’s sneaky-good year last year (3.32 ERA, 6.2 K/9 IP for a sinkerballer) had me overly optimistic that Herndon would be a great fit in this year’s ‘pen. Unfortunately, the Herndog faced some elbow trouble, underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-June, and will be shelved until mid-2013. Grade: Disappointingly incomplete with a Get Well Soon

Non-Rostered Call-Ups

Raul ValdesThe journeyman Valdes has been surprisingly effective for the Phils. Fifth on the team in innings pitched out of the bullpen, Valdes started the year with an 8.1 IP scoreless streak. Two hiccups against the Mets and one against the Pirates later, Valdes now sports a modest 3.80 ERA but an impressive 0.891 WHIP. Valdes has done a great job filling in for injured Phils and, if judged in context, deserves an above average grade. Grade: B

Brian SanchesSanches has only pitched in 5 games for the Phils and has given up home runs in 3 of them. In a very small sample, Sanches has been incredibly ineffective, struggling slightly with walks but more so with the long ball. No grade for Sanches, but it hasn’t been pretty. Grade: Incomplete

Jeremy Horst – Horst has had an excellent start to his Phillies career, pitching 5 scoreless frames. Way too early to tell, but he has already been more valuable than Wilson Valdez and should continue to improve with more Big League experience. Grade: Incomplete

B.J. Rosenberg – Rosenberg has been on the wrong side of some big innings in his three appearances with the Phils. The big 26 year-old righty shows big promise and it is important to remember that Rosenberg has jumped 2 levels this year to pitch in the Show; before 2012, Rosenberg had not pitched higher than Double-A Reading. Despite an ugly start on Friday, Rosenberg still has a 2.36 ERA in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Grade: Incomplete

Click to comment


  1. Mike R

    July 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm


    Good analysis but I’d knock everyone down about a full letter grade. If Qualls’ first half doesn’t merit an F, no one’s ever would.

    Overall, the pen gets a D-, only avoiding an F because of Papelbon’s general effectiveness. But the rest of this crew is close to the central reason the Phils are out of contention.


  2. Ryne Duren

    July 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    ian i’m on board with your analasis. i can only disagree with sanches in a way. his stats when he was up earkier are skewed a bit. he was left in to pitch a game where he was in for 3+ innings and over 50 pitches. he was clearly gassed and our esteemed manager didn’t even have anyone warming up and snaches got hammered big! i think he was sent down shortly after that. so my initial thought was yea incomplete but recently he came in and wasn’t gassed and gave up a bomb. i think as of now he would be a d+ only because he’s a veteran who’s done it before and maybe he just had a bad inning. he might be one of those guys you can bring he everyday but for an inning. he could be very effective as he was for the marlins. good article

    • Ryne Duren

      July 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      hahahahaha i meant sanchez NOT snaches.

      • brooks

        July 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm

        I agree Ryne, after that outing I was watching him pretty carefully, wondering if his true colors would show but “Snaches” did pretty well and I would rate him a B even for the limited time I’ve seen him.

        Qualls on the other hand – I would shudder every time I saw either Danny Baez, Michael Herndon step on the field, not as much as I do with Qualls. Good riddance! And good luck Yanks.

        AB getting a grade above a D? Not in my book. I have no idea what is the matter with him but he sure is off the mark but we know that Cholly will use him time and time again…

    • Lance

      July 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      I watched that game. I told my wife that I was wondering who they were going to put in because sanches had pitched 2 good innings. There we no way he would pitch a 3rd. And sure enough……I was wrong.

  3. Ian Riccaboni

    July 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Mike + Ryne – Thanks! Took some time to really sift through all of these guys and their games individually but was fun.

    I think the real keepers from the ‘pen are Papelbon, Diekman, Schwimer, and Bastardo with the hope that he puts it back together. The rest has been sadly ineffective with a number of injuries.

  4. George

    July 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    What about inherited runners allowed to score? Most all of these guys get a fail on that alone. Reliever’s effectiveness can’t be based only on appearances, ERA, and WHIP.

    Also, since when is Papelbon a $50 million closer? I know he’ll eventually make that, but he doesn’t make that for just one season. It’s about time people were more honest about his pay, instead of making it appear he has the highest yearly salary of any guy in a baseball uniform.

  5. Shloimy

    July 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Guys nobody is a 50 million dollar closer but if you want a good closer either you develop one or overpay for one.

  6. brooks

    July 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    My spidey sense is tingling – I feel a win coming tonight boys. Maybe not so much from Mr. Lee but a W nonetheless.

    • Lefty

      July 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      Go back to sleep Spidey and when you wake up tomorrow remember that Michael Cuddyer has an .800 batting average against Clifford. 3 for 5 with a home run.

  7. DCmikey

    July 12, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Fri night

  8. Pat Gallen

    July 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Definitely would have given Qualls an F. He just flat out was not good at all.

    Papelbon gets a C for me. If you’re making $50 million, you can’t suck in non-save situations. Most times he’s been as advertised, but for that kinda coin, he’s gotta be the best.

    Bastardo is nearly an F in my book. He’s been so frustrating, just have to remind myself he’s still only been in the league 2 years really.

    • Ken Bland

      July 12, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      If I live to be 100, chances are I’ll figure out how Papelbon made the all-star team. There’s so much time between now and then, I figure it will happen.

      But I assume you’d agree on 2nd thought that the contract is irrelavant to judging a guy’s all star worth. If not, we go separate ways on it, which is cool.

      • Pat Gallen

        July 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        Well shouldn’t that play some role in it? A player that gets paid that much money should be held to a higher standard. If you’re being paid by the best, then you should be THE best or close to THE best. So contract has to play a part when guys are making that much dough.


    July 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Qualls deserves an F and I am glad he is gone. I like Horst and Schwimmer overall. I am concerned about Bastardo. I also like Diekman and his funky submarine style. Good article, Ian !!! Keep up the good work

  10. upandaway

    July 12, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    18/20 save chances converted does NOT deserve a “C”.
    I agree, he’s had a few rough outings. For that, a “B” is fair. But look at the fates of Madson and Bell. The Phillies did well on signing the best closer not named ‘Mo’.

    • George

      July 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      I have to agree here. Papelbon is being paid to save games, which he’s pretty much done. He’s not the only closer who doesn’t do well in non-save situations, and he hasn’t been in so many that his so-called grade should drop so much. Also, he’s not the highest paid reliever so he doesn’t have to be the best. And lastly, he’s not making $50 million for one year’s work. He’ll probably save a lot more than 18 games in his future years. In fact, he may even double that number this year. Compare Papelbon’s situation to that of Ruiz’s. People don’t harp on Ruiz’s full contract amount; they only cite his current pay. It’s not fair, and I’m sick of that kind of crap.

  11. Lefty

    July 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Ha! You guys gave Brian Sanches a new name, I love it. From now on I’ll refer to him as Snaches.

  12. DavidE

    July 12, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    You’re grading too much on a curve.

    Papelbon C-
    Qualls F
    Bastardo D-
    Kendrick D
    Schwimmer B-
    Savery D
    Diekman B-
    Valdes B-

    Papelbon fell apart the past month with late losses to the Dodgers and Mets and blowing leads to Colorado twice although he was bailed out. Qualls blew at least 3 saves. Bastardo lost 2 games in the last 10 games. Schwimmer had one bad outing in the last month and a few earlier in the season but has started to look good. Kendrick had that real bad relief appearance against the Mets.
    Diekman has been pretty good but gave up a lot of steals in his last game. Valdes has generally been okay but gave up the homer in Sunday’s game to the Braves.

    Let’s put it this way. The bullpen has really been bad. At least 4 of the losses to the Mets resulted from bullpen breakdowns including 2 by Papelbon. And, if the bullpen had been better, Charlie would in some cases have pulled the starters earlier. Last year, the Phillies had great work out of Madson, Bastardo, Contreras (except for a few spots during the year) and Stutes. This year they had very good work from Papelbon for April and May and failing work from hm in June and July.

    If the bullpen had been as good as last year, the Phillies would probably be at .500. This has been a major disaster area.

  13. Ken Bland

    July 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    @ Pat,

    Per your


    The AS selection is difficult to sift through because it’s so subjective, and seems so popularity driven, but I don’t think people look at performance versus salary. Joey Votto is now highly paid, and that might have contributed to more name recognition than a couple years back when despite having a great first half, Charlie opted to take Ryan Howard over him, but as a consistent elite player now, forgetting all the nonsense that goes into voting, I believe people look at Votto’s excellent numbers compared to other first basemen, and vote for him on that, not versus the high salary. If he drops to human levels, people will flock elsewhere because other guys will look more impressive (I assume, anyway) through numbers. Not because he’s not playing to his contract.

    So I view it, anyway. I’m speaking strictly of the AS process, not overall reputation. Players contracts are more justified in that area of fan expectation, but to be honest, I see a lot of separation between on field baseball performance, and the combination of supply and demand, and rich egos driving rich men to throw money around in an emotional bid situation.
    So just as a matter of one person’s opinion, I use the word MORE justified a little loosely in allowing for fan expectations to be conjunctive with what they expect from a player.

    • Ken Bland

      July 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm

      referenced Pat quote showed in white font above. For those that read black type better, viva la noire…

      “Well shouldn’t that play some role in it? A player that gets paid that much money should be held to a higher standard. If you’re being paid by the best, then you should be THE best or close to THE best. So contract has to play a part when guys are making that much dough.”

    • schmenkman

      July 13, 2012 at 1:21 am

      Yep. It’s not the All-Value-for-the-Money Team. But in any case Papelbon did not deserve to be there.

  14. "Big Ed" Delahanty

    July 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Gotta give Qualls an F; if an F- existed then he would get that. Bastardo also scores very low for me,a D. He has had the end of last year and the first half of this year to get it together, but hasn’t even come close on important occasions.

  15. chris

    July 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    these grades are soft and clearly made by phils fans. this bull pen stinks and there is no way that qualla would get a D. he would get an F.

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