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The Phillies’ new bullpen looks like a strength

With the reported additions of Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, this group looks like they might be one of the top groups in the league

Philadelphia Phillies v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

On Tuesday evening, the rumor mill churned up some more juicy tidbits that eventually manifested themselves into agreements. After the great Heyman-Olney source-off of 2017 where for a minute it looked like Addison Reed was Philly bound, the Phillies came away agreeing to a two year deal with free agent Tommy Hunter. This came one day after agreeing to reunite themselves with avian enthusiast Pat Neshek.

All of a sudden, what could have been a worry heading into the 2018 season is starting to look like a real strength of the team.

Take a look at how each of these pitchers fared in the categories that truly matter to relievers:

The potential 2018 bullpen

Relievers IP FIP WPA K% BB% HR/FB
Relievers IP FIP WPA K% BB% HR/FB
Hector Neris 74.2 3.71 2.4 26.9% 8.1% 7.8%
Luis Garcia 71.1 3.12 0 20.3% 8.8% 3.8%
Adam Morgan 54.2 4.22 0.1 27.5% 7.9% 14.3%
Edubray Ramos 57.2 2.92 -0.6 29.3% 10.9% 4.8%
Pat Neshek 62.1 1.86 2.3 29.4% 2.6% 3.6%
Tommy Hunter 58.2 3.07 1.7 28.1% 6.1% 9.1%
Hoby Milner 31.1 4.5 0.4 15.8% 11.5% 4.5%

I added Hoby Milner in the list because he’s another left handed option for the team, even though I fully expect them to add someone else, either through free agency or the Rule 5 draft to compete with him.

This is a pretty solid group overall. Even though some of the numbers shown are not all that impressive (especially in the case of Morgan and Ramos), these are full season numbers that include the struggles that many of these guys had. Morgan, of course, began the season as a mop up guy that had a few appearances where he compiled a 6.23 ERA before being sent down to Lehigh Valley, which skews his numbers a great deal. When he returned, he was much better. Ramos, the same thing. Poor guy had five appearances in June where he recorded only four outs and gave up nine earned runs. That’s a 60.75 ERA for those keeping track. No wonder his stats look so bad.

Even if they aren’t the most eye popping stats, what I glean from that table is the fact that these pitchers are a) able to strike men out with regularity, b) keep the ball in the ballpark. Sure, you may not want to use Milner against someone with a lot of power, but the rest of the staff shows an ability to get hitters out without having to rely on the defense, a trait teams look for in a reliever in today’s game.

Deploying this kind of bullpen can significantly shorten games, something that new manager Gabe Kapler must be excited about. Of course, this is nothing new to him. He is coming from an organization that routinely would not allow its starting pitchers to face a lineup a third time (unless they have a certain pitcher that is superhuman). With the two newest acquistions, it seems that Kapler and Klentak have identified this is as the best way to win ball games with a team that is short on reliable rotation options outside of Aaron Nola.

Of course, if you want to play devil’s advocate, nothing about these relievers is all that reassuring. There are a lot of question marks with each pitcher. For example:

  • Can Adam Morgan do what he did in his last twenty-ish appearances again?
  • Is this verson of Luis Garcia the 3.12 FIP version, or the 4.43 FIP version from 2013-16?
  • Can Tommy Hunter do it again after never doing it before?
  • Can Hoby Milner keep the smoke and mirrors up long enough before the lack of velocity sends his ERA/FIP north?
  • What do we make of Edubray Ramos?
  • Is Neris a “closer” closer, or just the best option we have?
  • Can Neshek do it again?

No one wants to ask these questions, especially as we bask in the feeling of joy over the Phillies spending actual free agent dollars, but they have to be answered. Upper management must be asking the same questions though. Otherwise they would not have committed that much money AND those many years to two free agent options.

Using these pitchers can help shorten games, as we said, and limit the innings on a number of young arms. Of course, it is on Kapler to make sure he is not overworking his relievers either. You don’t want to run out the same three guys every night. It’s a challenge that I’m sure came up in interviews when Klentak laid out his plan for the upcoming season. He must have liked what he heard from Kapler since he ended up hiring him. Either way, they now have the talent to deploy as they see fit. As the season draws closer (thank GOD!), it’s nice to know that there is a certain level of security in the back end of the pitching staff that hasn’t been there in a while.