The Phillies had very few bright spots during the 2014 season. However, the biggest bright spot was the bullpen, which finished ninth in MLB with a 4.3 WAR among bullpens.
The Phillies’ bullpen was pretty average in terms of ERA, ranking 18th in MLB with an overall ERA of 3.64, but ranked 9th in opponent batting average at .233, and 10th in strikeouts with 480.
The biggest issue for the Phillies’ bullpen in 2014 was the number of walks they allowed. They ranked 12th in MLB with 189 walks in 2014, and the biggest contributors were Jake Diekman, who walked 35 batters in 71 innings-pitched, Mario Hollands, who walked 21 batters in 47 innings-pitched, and ex-Phillie Antonio Bastardo, who walked 34 batters in 64 innings-pitched.
Getting strikeouts from the bullpen is something that every team wants, and the Philies have the arms to get the job done.
Diekman, who was the biggest contributor to the number of walks for the Phillies’ bullpen, was also the run-away leader in strikeouts with 100.
This trend is what defined the Phillies’ bullpen in 2014; they were able to pile up the strikeouts, but they also gave up a lot of free-passes. While strikeouts can make a bullpen great, walks can become an achilles heal.
Here’s a statistic that tells the whole story: In 2014, the bullpen ranked third in MLB with a 24.8 strikeout percentage, but they also ranked fifth with a 9.8 walk percentage.
The Phillies have the flame-thrower arms to strike batters out, but at the same time, accuracy is still important when throwing that hard. So far, the Phillies’ hard-throwing relievers have struggled with their accuracy, but that’s something that can be worked on and improved during the offseason.
The bullpen finished 2014 on a strong note. In August, the Phillies ranked sixth in MLB with a 2.60 ERA, and also ranked sixth in strikeouts with 90. In September, they ranked seventh with a 3.09 ERA, and finished the second half of the season eighth in strikeouts with 208, but also finished eighth in walks with 76.
However, the bullpen earned a 3.4 WAR in the second half, which ranked second in MLB.
The biggest reason for the bullpen’s strong finish? Ken Giles.
Giles was brilliant last season, as the young righty showed the ability to throw a 97-100 mph fastball consistently, and a nasty slider to put batters away with two strikes.
In 44 games last season, Giles posted 1.18 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 45.2 innings-pitched. Once Jonathan Papelbon and the Phillies part ways, Giles will be the clear favorite to take over the closer role. In the mean time, he’ll be the bridge to Papelbon.
The recent acquisition Jeanmar Gomez will help add depth to the bullpen. The 26-year-old righty is coming off two straight solid seasons for the Pirates in which he posted a 3.27 ERA while walking 51 batters in 142.2 innings-pitched.
With Papelbon coming off an excellent season, and flame-throwers such as Diekman, Justin De Fratus, and Giles, the Phillies’ bullpen could be one of the best in 2015. The only thing holding them back is the number of walks they allow. Bastardo being traded to the Pirates should help cut the walks down, and the Phillies hope that their remaining relievers, Diekman and Hollands especially, will be able to find more consistency with their control.