Phillies bullpen continues to stay optimistic, despite their not so smooth start to the season

Phillies bullpen continues to stay optimistic, despite their not so smooth start to the season originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Well, then. Here’s a question that hasn’t been heard much in these parts over the last century-and-a-quarter: What do you get at the trade deadline for a team that already seems to have pretty much everything it needs?

Granted, said deadline is still two-and-a-half months away. But, hey, it’s never too early to start composing a wish list for your favorite local ballclub.

An extended slump here, a pivotal injury there, it’s a whole new ballgame. But, at the moment, the smoke signals from the fan base seem nearly unanimous. If only the Phillies could add another dependable bullpen arm or two, the puzzle would be pretty near complete.

It’s not difficult to see why the relievers might be singled out. Going into play Wednesday night against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, the pen’s earned run average was a less-than-inspiring 4.30. That ranked 19th in baseball.


Considering that the starting pitching had the second-best era (2.65) and the offense was second in both runs scored (222) and OPS (.755), yeah, by comparison those relief numbers stick out like a catcher’s sore thumb after being hit by a foul tip.

Upon further review, though, there’s evidence to suggest that the Phillies relievers have been far more effective than the primary numbers indicate.

First impressions can be durable, and it’s hard to forget that the Phils bullpen was torched for 14 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings in the first two games of the season against the Braves.

But the composite ERA has dropped steadily ever since. In fact, as of Wednesday afternoon it was the lowest it’s been all season. The number for the eight currently active relievers (Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm, Orion Kerkering, Jose Alvarado, Jose Ruiz, Seranthony Dominguez, Gregory Soto, Spencer Turnbull) is even better: 3.38.


Since giving up six runs against the Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 24, the relievers had been charged with 13 earned runs in 54 2/3 innings over 18 games. That’s a 2.14 ERA.


Rob Thomson has five relievers he appears to feel comfortable with in high leverage situations. Three of them were in the top 34 of all relievers in baseball with at least 10 innings pitched going into play Wednesday: Hoffman (1.00), Strahm (1.10) and Kerkering (1.54). Alvarado gave up five runs on Opening Day. . .and has posted a 1.06 ERA ever since. The fifth is Turnbull, recently parked in the bullpen while waiting for the need for a sixth starter to arise again.

That’s a full hand for any manager.

“We try to make the decisions as hard as possible for him,” Hoffman said with a smile. “Hopefully he has a nice plethora of arms to choose from at any given time.

“I don’t know what the league average is or anything but I think we’ve been good more than we’ve been bad. We strive to be good every night. It doesn’t always pan out that way but the guys we have and the work we have from person to person in the bullpen, I think that will show over the course of the season.

“We just try to get a little bit better every day. And hopefully at the end of the day we look up and we’re in a good spot.”

The Phillies can also hope that the best is still ahead for Dominguez and Soto, both of whom have been more productive in the past than they’ve been so far this season.

This is baseball, which means everything can change overnight. Certainly, the Phillies will be on the lookout for any opportunity to improve the roster. But, at the moment, anybody who thinks adding to the bullpen is a 5-alarm priority should probably take a deep breath.