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Eyre Acquisition Makes Sense

The Phillies yesterday traded for left-handed pitcher Scott Eyre, who was designated for assignment by the Cubs. Eyre was 2-0 with a 7.15 ERA for the Cubs this season, obviously bad numbers on the surface, but really, Eyre isn’t that bad.

The 7.15 ERA comes from four of his last five appearances with the Cubs. He gave up a run to Toronto, then four days later gave up four to Tampa Bay. A week later the Cubs shuttled him out against Baltimore and he let up two runs, then they popped him on the disabled list with a left groin strain. In his first appearance back he surrendered three runs on three hits to Milwaukee in 0.1 innings. That was the end of him in Chicago.

But before those poor starts Eyre had a long scoreless streak. Pitching mostly to one, two or three batters, Eyre continuously got outs, barely walking hitters and letting up base hits. From May 10 to June 13 he walked just two and allowed five hits. Not bad.

In 2007 Eyre was maybe Chicago’s most valuable reliever down the stretch. From July 4 to the end of the season, Eyre let up just two runs, and it was in the same game. In 2006 Eyre had a few long strings of scoreless baseball. In 2005, after August 7, he surrendered just four runs. For his career, Eyre has a 3.24 ERA in September and October. While there’s reason to feel concern because of his recent slide (and possible injury problems), he could provide a long stretch of good play down the stretch.

And he can beat lefties. They’re hitting .244 against him for his career (.259 this season). Meanwhile, righties this year are hitting a horrible .421 against him. Yowza. But like it was predicted, Eyre is here to face lefties.

Of course, JC Romero is in the same mold. Lefties are hitting just .083 against Romero, while righties are at a .289 clip. Obviously Romero is being used in a setup role (110 PA against RHB, just 81 PA against LHB), but he gets guys out much more reliably than Eyre this year.

This means Eyre won’t be thrust into the back end. Instead, he could see time in the sixth and seventh innings, with one lefty coming up. Eyre shouldn’t see right-handed hitting. Let him build his confidence and health back while facing what he can defeat out of the gate. Hopefully he’ll start showing nice results, and the Phils can then slow him into the back end as the fall approaches. The goal, obviously, is to have him as the situational lefty in crunch time, with Romero as a glorified LOOGY in the latest innings. It’s a good situation, though the Phils could still use an experienced righty who can pull some weight off Chad Durbin and possibly Ryan Madson.

Most of all, the move will help solve the puzzle lingering in the front end of the bullpen. Either Les Walrond or JA Happ will be brought back to AAA Lehigh Valley once Eyre debuts. Walrond probably deserves another chance in the bullpen; Happ, however, should either get extended innings or go back down to the minors. Hopefully the Phils know this too, and will make the adjustments accordingly.

Eyre cost the Phils pitcher Brian Schlitter (and the $1.15 M left of Eyre’s salary), who was 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA in the Clearwater bullpen. These stats are sure to make you swallow the loss hard: 58 K, 21 BB, 1.83 GB/FB ratio. But you have to give up something. Eyre is here for the rest of the season; hopefully by the end of August he’ll be an integral part of the bullpen. If not, at least they took this gamble.

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