Before the lockout last offseason, the Phillies agreed to terms with free agent relief arm, Corey Knebel. He signed a one year deal with the Phillies in an effort to supply the Phillies with more stability at the back end of the bullpen.
At some points in the season he did just that but at other times he would blow the game, therefore earning the infamous nickname of Cardiac Knebel.
In the latest installment of a Good Phight 2022 report card, we are going to discuss the good side of Knebel’s career with the Phillies and of course the bad side.
2022 stats: 46 games, 44.2 IP, 3-5 W-L, 3.43 ERA, 4.46 FIP, 5.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9, 0.6 WAR
The Phillies signed Knebel knowing how dominant he can be. In 2017 with the Brewers, he was named an All-Star after making an appearance in a national league leading 76 games all while earning an ERA of 1.78 and striking out 126 batters. After that season, he would not get even close to reaching that amount of appearances and strikeouts and he also wouldn’t get close to reaching that elite ERA number.
Consequently, the Phillies wanted to take a shot on him and try to achieve a similar success that Knebel had in 2017. At some points, they did receive that version of him and sometimes we got the terrifying opposite; let’s dive into numbers shall we?
To start off the 2022 season, Knebel was our primary closer and he did very well in the early months of the season, April and March, he had a stellar ERA number of 0.96, allowed just one earned run, six hits and only three walks. Knebel featured a four-seam fastball that had an average velocity of 96 MPH and he had a killer knuckle curveball that would make the batters look silly every time they tried to time it up.
Fast forward through the middle months of the season, we will talk about those months later, he returned to the $10 million dollar man that the Phillies paid for. In July, Knebel didn’t allow a single earned run or even a run in that matter in 10.2 innings. He allowed a measly two hits and he struck out 11 batters. This success in July can only mean one thing: When Knebel is healthy, he is really effective, let me explain.
We discussed earlier about his great success in April and March but then in the middle part of April he got hurt which led to his demise in May and June. When he returned from his injury, he was a whole new pitcher in July. In spite of that, he got hurt yet again and he never returned to elite form for the Phillies. That final injury was diagnosed as a tear in his shoulder capsule. So, to recap my good: When Knebel is healthy, he is a very effective back-end arm for a baseball team.
We touched on the bad already in the good section, which is that Knebel can’t stay healthy for a full season. The last time he was healthy for a good part of the season was in 2017 when he was an All-Star. Even when the Phillies signed Knebel, everyone knew about his story which was he is a very good piece for a bullpen but you can’t rely on him to be at your disposal for a good portion of the season.
Not only was Knebel hurt for the Phillies a lot, when he was healthy he struggled with walks a lot. At the end of the year his BB/9 finished at 5.9, not ideal for a reliever. Knebel also fell behind in the count a lot, further explaining his struggle with command at some points during the season.
To touch more on Knebel falling behind in the count, he did it a lot and opposing batters took advantage of that. When Knebel fell behind he couldn’t fight back which led to him blowing a lot of games for the Phillies. When he fell behind he gave up 17 hits and he walked 28 batters and only managed to come back six times for a strikeout.
Knebel only threw two types of pitches last year, a fastball and a knuckle curveball. I’ll admit when Knebel is using his two-pitch mix he is really effective but when he wasn’t throwing those pitches to the best of his ability, he got hit around a lot. Only having two pitches can really hurt a pitcher when they aren’t able to throw at their full capacity, this was the case for Knebel this past season.
As of January 4th, Corey Knebel is still a free agent and he might be one for a while because of the injury he suffered last season. The injury that Knebel suffered landed him on the 60-day IL back in August and the recovery for the surgery tends to take a couple months plus he may need some physical therapy to get that shoulder going again.
I believe that when Knebel is fully healthy and fully recovered from this injury, he will sign with a team because he is way too effective when he is healthy to be sitting at home. Do the Phillies have a spot for him? No, but other teams in search of a pitcher that has a good fastball and curveball will no doubt come calling.
Final Grade: B-
I would have loved to give him a higher grade based on the success he had when he was fully healthy, but it just wasn’t around when the Phillies really needed him.