The Phillies wrapped up their 2013 season yesterday, finishing 27th in bullpen ERA, 28th in FIP (defined here), 28th in xFIP (defined here), and 29th in BB/9 IP. To say the bullpen was brutal would be an understatement. The 2013 Phils used 51 players, 21 of which were relievers.
2013 was a strange year for Diekman. Expected to have a shot to make the Phillies out of Spring Training, Diekman was seemingly stuck in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. With the Phillies in need of a lefty reliever, Diekman, much like in 2012, watched as both Joe Savery and Raul Valdes received shots at the big club. To make matters worse, Diekman’s Triple-A performance wasn’t as strong as his 2012 Triple-A stint or 2012 MLB cameo (5.70 ERA, 1.833 WHIP).
But by June 14, everything had changed. Diekman joined the Phillies roster, throwing about 4% more fastballs which had increased by a MPH, throwing about 6% less sliders while adding almost 3 MPH to that pitch, and increasing the use of his change-up by about 3% while shaving off about half MPH.
Diekman ended the 2013 with 45 appearances, including an eight-game scoreless appearance streak to wrap up the season. Diekman averaged under double-digit K/9 IP for the first time since 2010 but also had the lowest BB/9 IP in his career for any individual season. Diekman was able to translate control into less walks and more outs.
Grade: A. Diekman has not only earned a spot in the 2014 bullpen, in my opinion, but he has also established himself in the upper-half of lefty relievers in Major League baseball. He still has drastic platoon splits (150 points better BAA against lefties than righties) but his performance ranked him 22nd in FIP and 20th in xFIP among the 215 relievers with 30 or more innings pitched. While he would have more work to do to be a true eighth inning solution, Diekman was one of the few bullpen arms that answered the bell in 2013.