The Phillies’ bullpen over the past two seasons is setting new records, but not the good kind. According to Todd Zolecki, the Phillies last year had a bullpen ERA of 7.06, which was the second-highest bullpen ERA since the stat was first recorded in 1912-1913. The number one spot for the highest bullpen ERA belongs to the 1930 Phillies. So, the Phillies are in sole possession of the two worst bullpen ERAs in the history of baseball.
According to Mike Lynch, the Phillies bullpen this season has blown more saves through 81 games than any other team in baseball since 1901 with 22. This bullpen at one point blew 8 saves in 9 games! Hector Neris has blown six saves this season while Connor Brogdon and Sam Coonrod have blown three saves each, while Jose Alvarado (who was named the Phillies’ closer last week) has blown two saves.
The Phillies’ bullpen is an absolute disaster as they have an ERA nearing 5. Ten Phillies relievers have at least one save opportunity this season (Neris, Alvarado, Ranger Suarez, Archie Bradley, Coonrod, Brogdon, Brandon Kintzler, Enyel De Los Santos, Neftali Feliz, and David Hale), so there truly is no consistent closer. At the time of this writing, the Phillies have 19 saves in 40 save opportunities this season! When watching games live, you hear Phillies fans at home boo relievers if they give up a walk or run because the fans are fed up with this abysmal, embarrassing bullpen. At their July 4th game, there was a security guard by the Phillies bullpen to prevent fans from heckling relievers.
Ranger Suarez is the Phillies’ most consistent reliever as he sports an ERA of 0.88 and an ERA+ of 453, but he has been thrown into a long-relief role and more recently 8th inning or later situations; he cannot do everything as he will get worn out. The Phillies offseason acquisition of Archie Bradley to be the setup man has only left him spending extended time on the IL, playing multiple relief roles, and an ERA in the mid 4s with an ERA+ of 89. The Phillies acquired former 2010 AL ROY Neftali Feliz only for him to give up four runs in one inning and eventually be DFA’d. Jose Alvarado is also a new face in the Phillies bullpen this season. He throws 100 MPH fastball but has such awful command of it that it is quite ineffective. He has 27 walks in 31 innings pitched which leads Phillies relievers.
The biggest victim of the bullpen’s incompetence is the starting pitching, especially Zack Wheeler. Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Zach Eflin have all had their fair share of ups and downs this season, but a large chunk of their quality starts are completely unraveled by the bullpen collapsing. Wheeler is having a Cy Young type of season as he leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts while also sporting an ERA of 2.05 with an ERA+ of 192. According to Matt Gelb, he leads the league in “scoreless starts of at least seven innings this season” with five.
Wheeler often has to pitch late into games with high pitch counts because the bullpen cannot be trusted to hold a lead. His arm cannot afford to pitch 90-plus pitches every start for an entire season. This is why the Phillies are in make-or-break mode because their playoffs chances are incredibly slim with this bullpen. Dave Dombrowski as the Phillies’ President of Baseball Operations has to be a buyer for serious bullpen help at the trade deadline. Dombrowski has a history of gutting farm systems and burdening payrolls in order to win a championship, which at least worked for the Boston Red Sox in 2018 (not so much for the Detroit Tigers). The Phillies would probably be one of the best teams in the league if they had even an average bullpen. There are obviously other problems that explain the Phillies’ current situation at fourth in the division, like the godawful defense and struggle with runners in scoring position, but the bullpen is the most glaring problem. It has been almost humorously awful for a long time and fans are fed up with it.