9 G, 11.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 5 BB, 17 K, 3.97 ERA (4.96 FIP)
Reliever Connor Brogdon made his Phillies’ debut on Aug. 13 with the Phils trailing 6-2 in the top of the eighth inning during that dreaded three-game series vs. Baltimore. And in typical Phillies 2020 bullpen fashion, he almost immediately gave up a three-run homerun. Despite this, Joe Girardi elected to leave the rookie in for the ninth, which, of course, promptly backfired when Brogdon surrendered a two-run homerun, extending the Orioles’ lead to 11-4.
My heart broke for the rookie. Due to the unfortunate circumstances he was put in, and it being his debut, I decided to not lump Brogdon in with the rest of the bullpen. I felt he still had potential, and that the Phillies’ bullpen curse didn’t completely overtake him just yet.
Following his debut, Brogdon was then optioned and recalled to and from Lehigh Valley countless times. When the righty, sporting a 16.88 ERA, finally returned to action on Sept. 13 vs. Miami, (you know, that fateful seven-game series) I was pleasantly surprised when he miraculously got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam. From this moment forward, Brogdon was lights out. In six September appearances, Brogdon only allowed one hit, two walks, and struck out 14. His opponent’s BA was just .037, and his ERA never climbed above zero.
Brogdon relied most heavily on his four-seam fastball, peaking at around 97 mph, which often generated fly balls and had well-above-average velocity. His change-up, peaking at 84 mph, and cutter, peaking at 89 mph, both elicited a high number of swings and misses.
The 25-year-old was probably the Phillies’ most reliable bullpen arm during the month of September. In his final two appearances of the 2020 season vs. the eventual American League champion Tampa Bay Rays, Brogdon struck out the side in two relief appearances on Sept. 25 and 26. I just think that’s neat!
And something I still find myself lying awake at night thinking about is if Girardi decided to use Brogdon instead of Brandon Workman on Sept. 22 vs. the Nationals, the Phillies most likely would have made the postseason. Workman entered the game and instantly surrendered a walk-off two-run homerun (typical) to rookie Yadiel Hernández, the first and only homerun of his career so far (you can’t make this stuff up.) All I’m saying is that if Girardi went with Brogdon instead, whose numbers had been trending well and had been shut down in relief, the Phils might have held onto their lead, won the game, and maybe even made the postseason.
But I digress. Everything happens for a reason, I suppose.
August 13th, 19th, and 20th. I’ve already mentioned what happened on Aug. 13, but the 19th and 20th were just as bad for Brogdon. In 1.1 IP, he allowed one hit, two ER, two walks, one homerun, and posted a 13.50 ERA. He fit right in with the Phillies bullpen in August!
There are still a lot of questions to be answered about Connor Brogdon in 2021. Will he be the reliable, shutdown reliever we saw in September? Or the unpredictable, shaky one we saw during his first three games in August? It’s hard to say over a sample size of only nine games.
I truly believe Brogdon could be a solid arm in the bullpen in 2021, similar to how Jojo Romero could be. Both Brogdon and Romero struggled at some point during 2020, but it was their rookie seasons and they were thrown into an absolute mess of a bullpen, so I would not write them off just yet. And honestly, their struggles weren’t too bad compared to some of the other guys we saw out of the Phillies’ bullpen (*shudders in Heath Hembree*)
But I believe the Phillies’ youthful arms will not be able to meet their full potential until proven, veteran arms are brought in. The organization is doing its rookie relievers a disservice by not surrounding them with experienced and effective pitchers in the bullpen. Luckily, the hiring of Caleb Cotham as pitching coach will definitely help in this respect, but the team must build around their young relievers if they want to be successful.
Overall, 2021 will certainly be a year for Brogdon to prove himself and what he brings to the Phils’ bullpen. I am interested to see how he fares in a non-shortened season. There’s no doubt about it, the dude’s got stuff, which we saw during September, but will the late-season success he had in 2020 sustain itself in 2021?