“Stuff”, Or My House as the Phillies Bullpen

Jonathan Papelbon - Philadelphia PhilliesMy wife and I bought our first house and have been doing our best to make it our home for the past two or three weeks. Even as we continue to empty boxes, a distinct pattern has emerged: use the dining room as the central unpacking location, move to appropriate or desired future room, place in semi-organized pile. Following these steps, my wife and I will root through said semi-organized piles and make more little piles: things to keep in this room, things that really belong in other rooms, and things that are due to the trash. It’s almost like the famous George Carlin “stuff” bit but in reverse.

The Phillies have a lot of “stuff” right now in the bullpen and nobody has taken the Mrs. Riccaboni role of “jumping in and throwing anything that isn’t of significant financial or sentimental value”. The Phillies have taken solid steps recently, optioning Raul Valdes and releasing Chad Durbin, but there is still a lot of “stuff” floating around. After the positive output of the bullpen last night and good vibes still flowing, today would be a good day to sort out what the Phillies have going in advance of the return of John Lannan. With Lannan returning Monday, somebody has to go back down to Lehigh Valley. Let’s take a look at the candidates.

The Living Room – The Keepers

The living room is the premiere spot for “stuff”. This is where your guests see your best stuff, the stuff the little superficial/proud/egotistical part of you wants everyone to see. This list, in reference to the Phillies bullpen, is very short: Jonathan Papelbon is the $600 mirror, antique coffee table or whatever other item you can think of that is analogous to “really expensive item that does exactly what it is supposed to do but looks tremendously out of place in a living room full of shoddy stuff”.  Papelbon obviously stays but the Phillies want their best friends, like the Tigers, to be absolutely certain that he is everything he is advertised. He stays in the living room and there is one less person in the bullpen pile of stuff.

Mike Adams, who could not find a consistent landing spot last night in his follow through but managed to pitch effectively, also fits into this category. He’s the really cool piece the Phillies found at the flea market that is still too new to get rid of but they aren’t quite sure why it doesn’t fit.

The Office

Justin De Fratus (1.59 ERA, 0.706 WHIP) and Michael Stutes (1.54 ERA, 1.029 WHIP) have bounced back really well from injuries that limited their 2012 seasons and look like bullpen cogs. They emerge from the pile of stuff from the dining room that goes to the office. That’s where all of the sentimental, hand-crafted and other things go that have personal meaning for the Phillies. While you’re moving, you bring with you Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, and Joe Savery because they kind of fit that description, too.

The Kitchen

If there’s anything I have learned from my wife about home decor, it is that you need as many novelty decorations as possible in your kitchen. Bastardo and Diekman, as lefties, are by baseball’s definition novelties. Bastardo, with his previous successes, seems like a no-brainer however, since May 1, after an awesome April, Bastardo has been highly ineffective (4.73 ERA, 2.17 WHIP), numbers that are bleeding over into his season’s line: career highs of 1.588 WHIP and 5.6 BB/9 IP, and a 5.3 K/9 IP drop in K/9 IP compared to 2012. In comparison to Horst, he has been the better pitcher, but the numbers are showing that hitters are finding ways to hit his slider and that he’s getting less swinging strikes and more hitters are making contact on his pitches across the board. Bastardo would be a cheap risk ($1.4 salary in 2013, two more years of arbitration) and could net a lottery-ticket type player or a Major League bench player in return but for now, he stays.

Diekman is worth an opportunity to show that he can be an effective Major League reliever. In his short stint as IronPigs closer, Diekman progressively found the strike zone more and more, locating 64% of his pitches for strikes in his last five appearances, striking out nine with a .064 BAA. At 26, he may not be able to learn a whole lot more at Triple-A and the Phillies should let him have an extended opportunity again in 2013 much like they did in 2012, when he held lefties to a .200 BAA. Because there’s no more room in the kitchen for novelty decorations, you move on to the bathroom.

The Bathroom

How fitting – the bathroom. This is where you put the decoration that you are most comfortable with getting messed up in. There was a stretch this season (May 4 through June 4) where Jeremy Horst looked like the Jeremy Horst of 2012. He posted a .225 BAA and threw 61% of his pitches for strikes with a 3.18 ERA. He gave up three home runs in that span but generally wasn’t solely responsible for the Phillies losing. Horst has pitched considerably worse since then but 2012 has earned him some breathing room, and for now, he’ll hang out in the bathroom, mopping up bad situations.

The Basement

Ah finally, the basement. The place where you keep all of the stuff that you intend to use one day but ultimately forget about until you find it, at which point, you use the same justification to keep it around a while longer. The basement would have been a perfect description for guys like Andrew Carpenter, Michael Schwimer, and others who the Phillies thought could contribute and believed they would use eventually but just wound up with a spot for them. Since Joe Savery was the 19th overall pick in the 2007, he has done everything the Phillies have asked of him. Be a pitcher? OK. Switch to hitting? OK. Hey, why don’t you switch back? OK. But there’s just no room for him right now. Savery has a great story but I would be he heads back to Triple-A on Monday when Lannan returns.

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