In a season where not a lot went right for the Phillies, one of those things that did was the emergence of left-handed reliever Jake Diekman.
Diek emerged as a valuable late-inning, left-handed bullpen arm, capable of throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s and featuring a slider that could be devastating against opposing hitters. In 71.0 inning last year, Diekman had a 3.80 ERA, but his FIP of 2.65 and an elevated BABIP of .363 showed he was pretty unlucky on balls in play last year.
Diekman struck out 12.68 batters per nine innings last year. And left-handed hitters had almost no chance against him, slashing .232/.273/.304 with a .257 wOBA last year.
However, many observers were displeased that Jake matched up against so many right handed hitters last year. He faced 100 left-handed batters in 2014, compared to 213 right-handers, to whom he gave up a slash line of .244/.363/.385 for a wOBA of .327.
A .244 batting average against right-handed hitters is pretty darn good, and with the Phillies not exactly fighting for a playoff spot, it certainly didn't hurt to have Diekman get experience pitching against righties.
What hurt Diekman against right-handers were the walks, with 30 bases on balls to 213 right-handed hitters. He walked 5.79 right-handed batters per nine, as opposed to 1.85 left-handers. He still struck out 11.96 right-handed batters per nine innings, not quite as good as the 14.05 against lefties, but still great for a left-hander.
If he can get the walks down against right-handers and see that BABIP number correct itself, you'll see a much better ERA and performance against righties going forward.
And Diekman made a little history last year as well.
#Phllies 100+ K, 0 GS in a season 2014 Jake Diekman 100 1983 Al Holland 100 1970 Dick Selma 153— Ace of MLB Stats (@AceballStats) October 31, 2014
Diekman became the first Phillies left-handed reliever to strike out 100 batters in a season, and just the third Phillie reliever to do it at all.
Of course, he does have his down sides, too.
I really like candle shopping.. And I don't have a problem with it!— Jake Diekman (@JakeDiekman) October 17, 2014
We'll try to move past this and get to the exit interview, which should be mostly positive, right Jake?
If I had traded you midseason, would the team have done better or worse?
I think this fan on Facebook summed it up best.
Ya you butter keep cole hamels and Jake Diekman— Phillies on Facebook (@philliesonfb) November 2, 2014
Word, Facebook user. Owned, Ruben.
All my options are open for next year. Should I trade you, release you, or keep you?
Our bullpen put up an fWAR of 4.3 last year, fourth-best in the National League. In the second half, we were tops in the NL with 3.4 fWAR and the second-best FIP in the NL (2.77).
You obviously don't want to get rid of me. I'm one of the young arms you are going to build around.
Do you think you will be part of the next great Phillies team?
It might surprise you to learn that I'll be 28 years old next year. I'll bet that's older than you thought. But if Pat Gillick's timetable is to be believed, I'll just be hitting my 30s by the time we get good again. So yeah, I think I'm gonna stick around for a while.
Overall, explain to me how your time with the Philadelphia Phillies has been the best time of your life.
This is my first crack at being a reliable bullpen arm, and I'm loving being a part of a crew fronted by our mentor, Jonathan Papelbon. I hope to be exactly like him some day.
He he he.
Plus, the fans who are still coming out to baseball games are awesome. Looking forward to getting them back in three years.
On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, how do you rate on the "it's my fault we're in this fraking mess and finished in last place" scale?
I don't think much of what happened this year was my fault, so I'll say a 2. I struggled a bit early in the year, especially against right-handers, and that cost us a game or two. But I really came on in the second half and became one of the integral parts of what is seen as the main strength of the team.
And, I'll get better against right-handers. I promise.