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This is what a good bullpen looks like

It’s been a long time, but you can trust this Phillies ‘pen.

Seattle Mariners v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

You’d be forgiven if you didn’t remember how it felt to watch a good Phillies bullpen. It’s been nine years since the Phillies had a sub 4 ERA from their relief pitching. In fact, they’ve only had four such seasons since 2010. The scars from 2020 and 2021 are still fresh, so it may be hard to trust in the Phillies’ bullpen again.

The 2023 version is better though. In fact, they could end up being one of the best ‘pens in the league when all is said and done. Over the last 11 games, the Philadelphia bullpen has allowed 3 runs in 32 innings pitched. They’ve struck out 44 and walked 5 over that span.

Leading the way is Jose Alvarado who’s arguably been the best reliever in baseball since returning from his demotion last season. Since returning from Triple A on June 12th, Alvarado’s 1.46 ERA ranks third best among all relievers with at least 50 appearances. His 45.5 K% and 1.06 FIP are both the best over that span with the same qualifier.

Alvarado has picked up right where he left off last season. He entered play on Thursday leading all relievers with 22 punchouts in 11.1 IP. He’s struck out over half the batters he’s faced with a league-best 55 K%. He’s allowed just one run and has yet to issue a walk. Alvarado seems to be in the lead for the Phillies’ closer role as he’s been given 5 of their 9 save opportunities so far and has converted 4 of them.

Seranthony Dominguez struggled to start this season, but he too has begun to regain the form he had at the end of last year. After a disastrous first handful of appearances, Dominguez has allowed one earned run over his last 7 games with 7 strikeouts and just 2 walks in 6.1 IP. Dominguez struggled with his command out of the gate, but he hasn’t walked a batter in his last three appearances.

Newcomer Gregory Soto has settled in as well. Since a nightmare outing on Opening Day in Texas, Soto has allowed 2 runs, only one of which was earned, over 11.2 innings. He’s allowed two hits and struck out 15 while walking 6. The Phillies have him throwing his slider much more, up to 48% from 22% last season. The results have been evident, as opponents entered Thursday hitting .111 off of the slider with a whiff percentage of 64%. Soto’s settling into the high-leverage role the Phillies envisioned him in when they acquired the lefty in a trade with the Tigers.

Craig Kimbrel, Dave Dombrowski’s other offseason acquisition, is currently riding an eight-game scoreless streak. He’s allowed 3 hits over that span with one walk and 13 strikeouts. Kimbrel has converted two saves in that time period and now sits at 397 for his career, moving him into a tie with Kenley Jansen for the most by an active player and 7th all time. He got the save in Thursday’s 1-0 win over the Mariners, where his fastball topped out at 97 MPH, much higher than his season average of 94.9 and more on par with 2022’s average of 95.8.

All of the above give manager Rob Thomson quality options to mix and match with his bullpen, as he executed to perfection in both wins against the Mariners. In those two wins against Seattle, the Philadelphia bullpen threw 8.2 scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts. On Wednesday they helped a rotation that’s struggling to find quality innings and gave the offense a chance to mount a comeback. On Thursday, they helped hold a 1-0 lead. The Phillies bullpen is perhaps the biggest strength of the team right now.