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Phillies who exceeded rookie limits, Part II: Pitchers

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Taking a look at the five pitchers who exceeded the rookie limits for the Phillies in 2017.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Five of the ten Phillies who exceeded their rookie limits in 2017 were pitchers. In a situation where both the starting rotation and bullpen were revolving doors for a good part of the season, it’s not too surprising to see this result.

Exceeded Rookie Limits in 2017 - Pitchers

Player G (GS) IP ERA WHIP HR BB K
Player G (GS) IP ERA WHIP HR BB K
Nick Pivetta 26 (26) 133 6.02 1.51 25 57 140
Ben Lively 15 (15) 88.2 4.26 1.29 13 24 52
Mark Leiter Jr. 27 (11) 90.2 4.96 1.34 18 31 84
Hoby Milner 37 (0) 31.1 2.01 1.47 2 16 22
Ricardo Pinto 25 (0) 29.2 7.89 1.89 7 17 25

Looking at Nick Pivetta’s stats, it’s expected to think he was a poor starting pitcher in 2017. I like to look at circumstances and reasons as to why a player was called up, and Pivetta, frankly, was rushed solely to fill a rotation spot early in the season. Aaron Nola went on the 10-day DL on April 24, forcing the Phillies to promote a starter from triple-A. Pivetta was the guy chosen even though he didn’t appear to be major league-ready. What we learned throughout the course of the season was that he wasn’t major league-ready but also that the Phillies had practically no other option.

Pivetta’s future in the rotation is uncertain given the practicality of the Phillies signing or trading for better starting pitchers. Personally, I’d give Pivetta the first nod if a starter went down to injury. He will probably battle for the fifth spot in the rotation for 2018.

I didn’t expect to see Ben Lively get a shot in the rotation until September of this past season. Pivetta, Jake Thompson, heck, even Mark Appel were among the guys I thought would get promoted before Lively in the case of an injury in the rotation. Pivetta got the first shot, but then it was Lively who was promoted in favor of the struggling Zach Eflin. Lively impressed a lot of people, but hidden behind his decent ERA are some fairly poor advanced numbers.

A 4.26 ERA is more than acceptable for a back-end major league starter, but striking guys out - something Lively struggles with - is important in today’s game. I still think he can find limited success as a back-end starter, but those strikeout numbers must improve if he wants any shot at sticking in a rotation long-term.

Mark Leiter Jr. had a bit of an underrated season in my eyes. That fact, however, still doesn’t change my view on him as nothing more than a long man out of the bullpen and a spot starter when needed. He was called up roughly two weeks into the season after Clay Buchholz got injured and pitched rather decently out of the bullpen in his first month and a half. Leiter allowed more than two runs in just one of his first 12 appearances, all of which were out of the bullpen. Upon being sent back to Lehigh Valley on June 3, Leiter’s ERA stood at a 4.74 with the bulk of the damage coming in an appearance against the Marlins in which he allowed five runs on four hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning.

We would see Leiter become more of a long reliever as the season progressed. Two strong, lengthy outings out of the bullpen in early August bolstered Leiter’s reputation as he would go on to start in his final eight appearances of the year.

Unlike Leiter, Hoby Milner had a fairly overrated season. His numbers look fine, but you have to ask yourself how he managed a 2.01 ERA even while sporting that 1.47 WHIP. The answer is that he was used in very favorable situations. Milner was great against lefties, there is no denying that. But his numbers against right-handed hitters...oh boy. Righties hit .377/.469/.585, two home runs and five doubles off Milner in 64 plate appearances.

Milner lacks strikeout stuff - his K/9 finished at a measly 6.3. Left-handed relievers — check that, good left-handed relievers are important to have in a major league bullpen. Milner is 26 now, will be 27 when the season begins, and probably doesn’t have the body build to find that extra life in his pitches that could make him effective against all hitters, not just the lefties.

That brings us to the final pitcher: Ricardo Pinto. I do not know what to make of Pinto’s 2017 season. He started the year in Lehigh Valley’s rotation only to be converted to a full-time reliever near the end of May. He had two successful triple-A relief appearances before getting rocked by the Marlins in his MLB debut on June 4. He was sent back to the IronPigs where he logged four more good relief appearances before being recalled near the end of June.

To cut to the chase, Pinto looked good at times but he also looked horrendous at times. He had 20 relief appearances with the Phillies in which he did not allow more than two earned runs. Out of 25 appearances, that seems good. You then look at his 7.89 ERA and wonder how. In his other five appearances Pinto’s earned runs allowed were four, five, five, three, three. These ballooned his ERA way up and left a bad mark on what otherwise seemed to be a solid first season out of the bullpen.