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Thoughts From a Lost Season: The Bullpen

Horst was a great find by the Phils. (US PRESSWIRE)

Quick thoughts on 2012 with the relief pitchers up next. Coming up, position players. Click here for the starting rotation. Phillies Nation will also have a more thorough breakdown of each player coming later this month.

-Let’s begin with the highest paid relief pitcher on the team, and in baseball, Jonathan Papelbon. I’ve struggled with what to think about his season, but much more negative stands out for me. I guess that’s because the Phillies were not a winning ballclub, so the negatives overshadow the positives.

Focusing on Papelbon, you can’t help but notice his inabilities in non-save situations. His 3.90 ERA in those games with four losses, some of them crushing, were tough to swallow. No pitcher is going to be perfect, but he was asked to keep games tied or close and couldn’t do it some of the time. In normal save situations, he was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, sporting a 0.87 WHIP and a 1.49 ERA. Papelbon was able to save 39 games this year, so he did more right than wrong. But when you’re the highest paid guy that anchors an overall subpar bullpen, failures stand out. He’s gotta’ be a little better next year.

-I’m really excited about the youthful explosion in the pen this season. Players that maybe wouldn’t have been utilized had it been a “normal” Phillies season saw plenty of action, which can only serve them well for the near future. Let’s start with the lefties:

Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman, and Antonio Bastardo could provide the Phillies a stable of quality left-handed pitchers for a long time. Horst was perhaps the Phillies best relief pitcher this season. His minuscule 1.15 ERA stands out, as does his 11.5 K/9 rate. Horst still needs to work on walks, but he looks like an absolute steal in the trade with Cincinnati for Wilson Valdez.

Diekman has had his struggles with command, but you can’t teach 97 mph. Diekman has a power arm but needs to hone his skills. I think he wins a job next season. Keep in mind that it was merely a year ago that Bastardo emerged out of nowhere to become a filthy reliever. Who’s to say that can’t be Diekman next year?

Bastardo will obviously be out there in 2013. After some wild moments from him early in the season, he reshaped his year with a dynamic second-half performance. Opponents hit just .188 against him after the break, and he owned the lefty/lefty matchup: they hit just .169 against him. Can’t wait to see if these three can continue to toy with lefties in ’13, with Diekman having much of the work to do among the three.

-Some others gave a glimpse of what could be in the bullpen. Justin De Fratus pitched some big innings down the stretch and finally overcame a bum elbow. He, too, throws hard and looks to make a bigger impression in 2013.

Phillippe Aumont was the most surprising of the bunch. He struggled mightily with command in Triple-A this year, but was summoned to the bigs and pitched very strong at times. Walks are certainly an issue with him, but he dominated, at times, with a heavy sinker and an upper-90’s fastball. The sky is the limit for the big Canadian.

-The jury is still out on Josh Lindblom, but again, he’s got a pretty good arm. The Phillies are expecting big things from him since they gave up an all star to get him.

Raul Valdes was a diamond in the rough. Not sure how he fits for 2013, but he impressed at times, as well. His 0.742 WHIP in 31 innings proves it’s tough to get on base against him. As a situational lefty, Valdes killed it.

-Remember Chad Qualls. Yep.

-Don’t forget, there are still guys like Stutes, Schwimer, Herndon, and Rosenberg that will be vying for a few spots next year.

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