To take you all back to 2022, Bailey Falter put together the best pitching stretch of his young career.
From July 29 to September 30, Falter made nine starts and put together a 3.06 ERA in 50 innings pitched, albeit against mostly soft competition.
However, it was still enough to feel good about him in a fifth/sixth starter role for the following season. When top prospect Andrew Painter was sidelined because of an elbow injury in Spring Training, Falter didn’t seem like the worst fallback option.
Then 2023 happened...
2023 Phillies Stats: 8G, 7S, 40.1 innings, 5.13 ERA, 84 ERA+, 4.72 FIP, a lot of hits, not a lot of wins, a demotion to AAA, a trade to Pittsburgh
Falter began the season on a promising note. Against the Texas Rangers on Sunday Night Baseball, he showcased a new game plan to get hitters off his fastball.
Of the 72 pitches he threw, 61 of them were either four-seam or curveballs, but he threw them for nearly an even split. 32 of them were four-seam fastballs and 29 were curves.
He gave them 5.1 innings and only allowed two runs, you’ll take in any start he makes.
His start against the Reds was just as interesting, he threw 13 changeups in another attempt to get hitters off his fastball. It worked again for him with five innings of one-run ball.
Through his first five starts, Falter sat with a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings of work. He bounced back from a Jake Burger three-run homer in Chicago for seven innings.
Falter looked like a competent number-five starter in the rotation who could soak up innings. He had the occasional stinker but gave them a chance to win most nights.
The following three outings ended his Phillies season. You can have the occasional tough performance but it just can’t become a trend, especially when you haven’t built up any past pedigree.
In Houston, he didn’t make it five innings and allowed four runs. It’s a tough ballpark to pitch in and he was up against a great offense. Move on.
His next start against Boston got even worse. He gave up five in the fourth inning before Rob Thomson came out of the dugout. He heard a rain of boos from Phillies fans on National Television.
After that, the Phillies had one last experiment. They would give him eight days between starts and use an opener.
Using an opener seemed like a good idea to get him eased into the game quicker but the only issue is that eventually, the bad starting pitcher still has to pitch. He gave up six against the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies had enough.
He was optioned down to AAA as the Phillies experimented with bullpen games before landing on Cristopher Sánchez as the fifth starter.
He was then traded at the deadline for Rodolfo Castro, a move that somehow made the Phillies worse. (It was a good trade at the time)
Falter just doesn’t have the secondary pitches to be a starting pitcher. His curveball got crushed by opposing hitters with a .493 slugging percentage. His slider is fine against lefties but teams can just stack righties against him and his changeup is just not refined.
Falter got a fresh start in Pittsburgh but things didn’t get much better for him. He pitched to an ERA well over five, including eight runs against the Reds in his final start of the season.
There’s still some potential in him if he or a club can unlock it. He generates plenty of extension off the mound that can make his four-seam fastball tough to hit the first time up, especially if he’s throwing it hard.
His fastball velocity has trended down over the last three years as a starting pitcher. It might be better for him to move into the bullpen and try to specialize in one or two pitches rather than three or four.
His four-seam fastball does have enough to generate real-life if he can throw it harder. This clip from two years ago is one that gets Buster Posey down-looking.
It’s possible Pittsburgh will make the same mistake the Phillies made and keep him in the rotation. The only person who genuinely cares is me.