Ryne Sandberg checked out en medias res, realizing he was not built for his role. Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ben Revere, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley were offered parachutes at trading time. And Ruben Amaro Jr. was given a pink slip, but his legacy isn’t as bad as you think, and he’ll land on both feet wearing designer loafers.
But of everyone that had something to do with the 2015 Phillies, it was Justin De Fratus who was the most unfortunate casualty.
In fact, of all the players that have swung through the doors on Citizens Bank Way since 2012, De Fratus may be the most symbolic of this recent run of poor baseball. A workhorse reliever since being called up in September 2011, De Fratus has been asked to do myriad jobs: run the eighth inning, pitch some middle relief, pitch multiple innings after a bad start. And in 2015, the 27-year-old (he turns 28 on Wednesday) was asked to do all of that, sometimes in the same week. That’s the unfortunate part.
De Fratus pitched 80 innings in 2015, which is quite a lot for a reliever on a bad team. He faced 362 hitters, which is most among all relievers. And his 1,445 pitches were also highest in baseball among relievers. That’s an increase of about 75 percent from his 2014 total of 831. Again, very unfortunate.
In essence the Phillies put tons of mileage on De Fratus’ arm by using him irresponsibly from outing to outing. He just about pitched two full seasons, for what he’s used to. That doesn’t look good for his future prospects, which are currently uncertain, as he was recently released by the Phillies. Again, very unfortunate.
The numbers show that De Fratus fared much better in the first half than in the second. In the first half he struck out 48 and walked 18, with an opponent’s batting average of .266 (.333 OBP; .447 SLG). His second half? Only 20 strikeouts and 14 walks, and a triple-slash line of .328/.399/.484. Does that mean he ran out of steam as the season progressed, a sure sign that he was pitching far too much than normal for him?
Let’s look at another split: numbers in relation to days’ rest, another indicator of overuse.
With three days’ rest, De Fratus struggled (though it’s seven games and a very small sample): .368/.415/.658 with a 2 to 1 K/BB ratio. With two days’ rest (13 games), he was slightly better: .342/.391/.544, but a much better 3.29 K/BB ratio. One day of rest (19 games) is the sweet spot: .230/.299/.368 and a solid 2.86 K/BB ratio. Finally, on zero days’ rest (13 games): .295/.386/.508 and a 1.5 K/BB ratio.
The narrative here is that De Fratus is a typical middle reliever: good every other day – and yes, he was outstanding every other day.
We can also see that De Fratus was bad – though just 34 plate appearances – when facing hitters for the second time in a game: .406/.424/.625, 7 K and 1 BB.
This narrative? He’s not a long man.
But yes, small samples. The point is the Phillies certainly had no plan for De Fratus; or, if they did, it was “he’s the guy we throw out there because, hey, we know what he is). Either way that’s a failure on their part. De Fratus’ final 5.51 ERA (and 34 extra-base hits surrendered) will show that he pitched poorly – and yes, you can’t disagree with that – but the story of his season was that his coaches failed him.