A few days back I had the audacity to write that the Phillies were playing better. I said that with a straight face. What I meant was they were scoring a few more runs. Not in my wildest nightmares could I have pictured what went on in the late innings of this series against the Mets. The Phillies have scored 55 runs over their last 10 games. A pretty healthy clip for them, and yet they’ve gone just 4-6 over that span. They’ve blown five leads, four in the late innings, and the bullpen ERA is approaching 4-digits. Last year the Phillies didn’t lose their 5th game when scoring four or more runs until the middle of August. AUGUST! Last night was the 5th time that happened in 2012 and the 3rd time in a week. For all the grumbling about the Phillies overall level of play–this is a bullpen problem. The Phillies have gift-wrapped at least seven wins this year. If they could have locked down four of them, they’re right in the middle of the division race, though they’re still only five games out.
The game last night sent Charlie Manuel over the edge. A day after claiming he didn’t know what to say to the boys, Manuel shut the doors after the loss and let loose. Few details emerged about Charlie’s speech, but what was said isn’t really as important as how the team reacts. The clubhouse speech is one of the last bullets a MLB manager has in his arsenal. You can understand why Charlie was hesitant. If he blows his top and then they lose another few series, where does he go then? It could end up being a well-timed speech for Charlie, because the next seven games come against teams that the Phillies should be able to handle–at least on paper. They start with a set against San Diego that has some favorable pitching matchups, and then host the Astros for two before a quick trip to Chicago to play the last place Cubs. Weak opponents have been no guarantee this year, but if the team were going to go on a run, now is as good a time as any.
In the spirit of letting Charlie’s speech sink in, I’m going to ignore the Phillies on the blog for the next week. Next Friday the Red Sox roll into town in what could be an interesting series or a match-up of two woeful cellar dwellers. We’ll wait and see, try to keep the team at least at arm’s distance until then–for our own sanity. Because at their current pace I can’t be examining this team every day. They drive me crazy, the fans are driving me crazy, I’m calling a timeout.
As a parting shot, I also said in the recent post that this Phillies team wasn’t THAT bad. To call them terrible was an insult to past Phillies’ teams. Well, this bullpen is getting in the neighborhood. It has me thinking of 1988. After scratching out a 80-82 year in 1987, the Phillies fell off the cliff in ’88 and started their dismal run that ran up to the big turnaround of ’93. In that bullpen you had the reigning Cy Young award winner, Steve Bedrosian, and then things got a little rough. I give you the 1988 bullpen starring in a new reality series called, “The 2012 Phillies Bullpen.”
Steve Bedrosian as “Jonathan Papelbon”–In 1988 “Bedrock” would post a 3.75 ERA and 28 saves. In those days, they were pretty respectable numbers, especially on such a poor team. Unfortunately the Phillies just couldn’t deliver that many leads to Bedrosian, a problem that is emerging for Paps this season. He’s currently sporting a 3.00 ERA and is on pace for 46 saves, though he only has one in the last 10 games.
Bruce Ruffin as “Kyle Kendrick”–Ruffin was only 24 in 1988, but the Phillies had already bounced him from the rotation to the bullpen and back again. After going 9-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 1986, Ruffin never again found that groove. He made 40 relief appearances and 15 starts in 1988 that ended with him posting a 4.43 ERA. Kendrick is on pace for 26 relief appearances and 15 starts. Like Ruffin he can’t quite find a home in the rotation. Hopefully his 7.32 ERA can get back to Ruffin territory by the end of the season.
Todd Frohwirth as “Michael Schwimer”–Frohwirth made his MLB debut in 1987, didn’t stick and didn’t stick in a short stint in 1988 either. Sound familiar? In 12 relief appearances in 1988 Frohwirth would compile a neat 8.25 ERA. Schwimer’s ERA in his abbreviated stint? 8.53. Frohwirth never became an effective big league pitcher, we’ll have to wait and see if Schwimer faces the same fate.
Greg Harris as “Chad Qualls”–By the time he was done pitching, Greg Harris had graced 8 teams with his presence. The Phillies are Qualls’ 5th stop, and he’s got time to build on that. Harris was a little up and down, but for the most part had a serviceable career as a set-up guy and even saved 20 games for the Rangers in 1986. Qualls had 24 saves for the D-Backs in 2009. Harris had a career ERA of 3.69. Qualls is at 3.77. Harris ended up being a stabilizing force in the ’88 Phillies pen, can Qualls find his April form and do the same?
Kent Tekulve as “Jose Contreras”–This one is going to be a project for the makeup and costume departments, but “Teke” was a grizzled 41-year old veteran by 1988. Age is about all Tekulve has in common with the 40-year old Contreras, but if you take Jose’s relief appearances only he becomes pretty similar to one of the game’s most recognizable relievers. Even at 41, Tekulve managed a 3.60 ERA for the ’88 Phillies, Contreras is off to a much rougher start.
Mike Maddux as “David Herndon”–If only his name was David Greinke, or David Kershaw. Then this would be absolutely perfect. Herdon–26 yrs old. Maddux in 1988–26 yrs old. The “other” Maddux appeared in 25 games for the 1988 Phillies and compiled a respectable 3.76 ERA. Herndon hasn’t been quite that good this year so far, but this is for that general feeling of, “If Mike Maddux or David Herndon is in a game, things can’t be going that well.” I’m pretty sure that’s what I felt in 1988, although when the team goes 65-96–things rarely were going well.
Wally Ritchie as “Joe Savery”–Young, left-handed, awful.
Ok, so which bullpen do you want? I realize I couldn’t find a comp for Bastardo, but this is a little more of a toss-up than I’d like. And 1988 might even have the advantage.
*Barring some REAL news.