Friday, July 24, 2009

Bullpen Takes Another Hit - But Phils Keep Winning

The Phillies bullpen suffered a 2-for-1 special yesterday, as both J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin were placed on the 15-day DL. Both pitchers were intrical in last year's playoff run and they won't be easy to replace.

Romero has had a tough year, missing the first 50 games of the season due to a banned substance suspension, but had been a solid contributor since, with a 2.87 ER7. Losing Romero means that Scott Eyre will be the only left-handed reliever on the team. Fortunately for the Phillies, Eyre has been brilliant this season, with a 1.77 ERA. However, some of that has to be attributed to luck, as his WHIP is 1.32, compared to last year's 0.77 in his Phillies' stint.

Durbin has struggled this year, after a breakout year in 2008 (though really just a dominant first half), posting a 4.62 ERA in 48.2 innings pitched. He got shelled on Wednseday against the Cubs, surrendering 3 earned runs without getting a single out, effectively ending the Phillies' chance of coming back and earning their 11th straight win.

With Durbin out, Chan Ho Park figures to see a lot more action in middle and long relief. This would have made Phillies fas cringe earlier in the season, but it may not be a bad thing at this point. After bombing as a starter, Park has lit it up in the bullpen, posting a 2.78 ERA. He's been on fire this month, with a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings. One just has to hope he doesn't wear down from the extra innings he'll be asked to pitch. Clay Condrey also ought to get some more run. He's been improved this season, but still seems best-suited to be used sparingly or in a mop-up role.

Replacing Romero and Durbin on the roster are Tyler Walker and Andrew Carpenter. Carpenter got into last night's game, but only recorded one out (giving up a run in the process) before he was pulled for Park. He probably won't be good for much more than garbage innings. Walker, however, could be an asset. He looked good in his first stint with the Phillies, posting a 1.64 ERA in 11 innings. It's a small sample size to go on, but as a veteran reliever, at least he's a known commodity.

At least more help could be on the way, as Brett Myers is expected to return in a bullpen role in mid-August. It's hard to know what to expect from Myers, but he excelled in his relief role in 2007, so he should prove to be an asset.

Despite their ailing arms, the Phillies put together a strong win yesterday, beating the Padres 9-4. Cole Hamels had a solid start, allowing 3 runs and 7 innings and the offense looked good once again. Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz each had 3 hits and Carlos Ruiz hit his 5th home run of the season. The win was the Phillies' 15th in 17 games and they'll hope to carry that success into their next series, as they take on the Cardinals.

The brilliant play really brings into question whether or not the Phillies need to make a deal for Roy Halladay or another starter. Halladay would undoubtedly help the Phillies, as he'd give them a true ace. Much as I love Hamels, he's been very erratic this year. I certainly trust him to get the job done in the playoffs, but he has not been the dominant starter that the Phillies had hoped for (most likely due to the high volume of innings he pitched last year).

But is it really worth giving up Happ, who has been arguably the Phillies' best starter this year and is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate? The question is whether Happ is legit or whether he's the next Kyle Kendrick. However, from what I've seen I think Happ has a chance to become a very good major league starter. He's not the next Cole Hamels, but there's reason to believe he can be a good #3 starter for years to come.

Trading Happ for Halladay would be beneficial, but not nearly as beneficial as trading for Halladay would seem on paper. Yes, they'd be adding a bonafide ace, but the pitcher he'd be replacing was already giving them dominant outings. It would make much more sense to try and hang onto Happ, thus giving the Phillies a rotation that includes Hamels, Halladay, and Happ. (Would we call it the Triple H Club?)

Of course, that's not to say they couldn't try to make a deal for Halladay that doesn't involve Happ. They could instead trade Kyle Drabek. This is where things get tricky. Drabek is the Phillies' top pitching prospect and looks like he could be a great top-of-the-rotation pitcher down the road. BUT this Phillies team is built to win now...or in the next few years. If the Phillies think that Drabek will be ready to contribute in the next year or two, then they should hang onto him and see if he can help them to another title. If not, they should deal him for Halladay and get a title while the window is still open.


Jeff Raab said...

I agree with your take on what to do about Kyle Drabek. Personally, I think he can help the team as early as next year. He's been going very quickly through the system and the Phillies don't exactly have a logjam in the rotation. What the Phillies could do next year or maybe at the end of this year is start setting up the rotation that will help them for years to come: Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Drabek, and either Joe Blanton or Jamie Moyer will still be there as Jason Knapp makes his way through the minors. It's a bit of a gamble since the team is built to win now, but with an ace in Hamels, proven success with Happ, and studs in Carrasco and Drabek, it could look like the Rays rotation that got them to the series last year.

Brian Raab said...

Well that sounds alright on paper, but I think they'd need another veteran starter last year. Good as Happ's been, I'm not prepared to say he's "proven" just yet. However, I would feel pretty comfortable with Hamels, Happ, Blanton, Moyer/another rookie, and another veteran starter to make up for the (likely) loss of Myers.

Jeff Raab said...

Maybe they bring up Carrasco toward the end of the year to see how he does. If he does well, then they might feel more comfortable with Hamels, Blanton, Happ, Moyer, Carrasco, and at some point next year they put Drabek in for Moyer.

Jeff Raab said...

It's a gamble, but it's a cheap gamble.

Brian Raab said...

Maybe but barring an injury why would you bring up Carrasco in the middle of a pennant race? Frankly I'm not sure Carrasco is the real deal. He looked alright in spring training, but he's been awful this year in AAA. If the Phillies were confident in him, we probably never would've seen Antonio Bastardo or Rodrigo Lopez in Phillies uniforms this year.

I also really wonder how the Phillies are going to handle Moyer in the next 1 1/2 years. I would love for them to trade for Halladay and keep Happ, but that basically means dropping Moyer from the rotation. (Unless they tell Pedro to F off. Seems unlikely.)

Unless Moyer retires after the season, would they really have the heart to pull him from the rotation for 2010? And even if they would, should they? I know he's been mediocre this year, but at least you know what you're getting. Is there any reason to believe that in 2010 he wouldn't be about as good as this year, if not slightly better?

There's a fair amount of luck that goes into Moyer's performance as is, since he's basically relying on the umpire to have a wide strike zone and the other team to do some free swinging and get out for him, so it wouldn't be at all surprising if his ERA dropped closer to his career average next year. Plus the guy never gets hurt. He doesn't have the upside of a kid like Carrasco but he might be a better fit for a team looking to contend for another title.