Having fallen out of favor in San Francisco, the Phillies traded for reliever Sam Coonrod in January 2021. The team had a dearth of hard throwers in 2020, and acquiring Coonrod, whose fastball sometime exceeded 100 miles per hour, was part of an attempt to rectify that.
42 games, 42.1 innings pitches, 2-2 W-L, 4.04 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Coonrod’s velocity came as advertised. His fastball averaged 98.8 MPH, and it regularly topped 100. That allowed him to rack up a lot of strikeouts, while also decreasing his walks from the year before. A pitcher who strikes out a lot of batters and limits walks sounds like he’d be good. And for the most part, he was an adequate option in middle relief. There was just one problem...
For a guy who could strike out batters, Coonrod was extremely bad at stranding inherited runners. He inherited 15 runners in 2021, and ten of them scored. Coonrod’s overall numbers with runners on base weren’t awful, only when those runners were put there by someone else.
Sam Coonrod has allowed five of six inherited runners to score this season. He enters with the bases loaded and no outs.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) May 20, 2021
Coonrod was also much less effective with two outs, when opponents had an OPS of .864 against him.
Part of the problem may have been due to Coonrod allowing more ground balls than in previous seasons. Normally, that’s a good thing, but the Phillies didn’t have the best infield defense, and that might have led to some of Coonrod’s issues.
Coonrod also missed a chunk of time in the middle of the season with an injury. The injury didn’t seem to affect his stuff much, but it may be telling that his best month was April when opponents batted just .167 against him.
There’s no denying Coonrod has good stuff, and most of his underlying numbers were strong. It’s possible that the inherited runners and two out issues were a fluke. It’s also possible that the defense improves behind him, and more of those ground balls turn into outs. If that happens, he could become a legitimate late-inning option. But even if he doesn’t make that step, he should still be a useful middle reliever.
Final grade: B-
Coonrod certainly wasn’t a disaster, but given his stuff and potential, his 2021 season was ultimately a bit of a disappointment.