Stutes Goes to Philly (for On-Deck Series)

Posted by Mike Frohwirth

Photo courtesy

As the Phillies prepare for their final Spring Training games, they made a somewhat surprising addition to their traveling squad. Despite the fact that he was recently assigned to their minor league camp, right-handed reliever Mike Stutes was selected to accompany the squad to Philadelphia. Stutes, who is not currently on the 40-Man Roster, has no MLB experience. A questionable move, to say the least.

Is Stutes ready for MLB?

Stutes has had an outstanding Spring. In ten innings, Stutes allowed only a single run. Even better, he only walked one batter, while striking out eleven. However, Spring success is not a good predictor of MLB success. As opposing batters have varying levels of readiness and ability during the Spring, Stutes' success must be taken with a grain a salt.

Stutes' minor league stats are a much better predictor. Stutes threw 40.2 innings of AAA relief in 2010, posting a tidy 3.10 ERA. However, ERA can be very deceiving, particularly for relievers. Stutes' ERA was deflated by an unsustainably low BABIP (.242) and LOB% (82.6%). Stutes' K/9 of 9.3 was excellent, but his 5.09 BB/9 was not very good. The statistic xFIP adjusts for factors outside of a pitcher's control, such as BABIP and LOB%. Stutes' xFIP of 4.50 seems to imply that the twenty-four year old would benefit from more minor league seasoning.

Where would Stutes' role be, if he made the MLB bullpen?

Stutes has pitched in relief since 2009, so he's not a good choice as a long reliever. He'd likely figure in the sixth/seventh inning mix, in the lowest-leverage situations.

Is Stutes the best choice for this role?

David Herndon and Scott Mathieson both have more experience than Stutes. Herndon, despite never pitching at AAA, spent 2010 in MLB, and performed adequately. Mathieson has never been able to stick in MLB, despite throwing at MLB velocity. Herndon and Mathieson both appear to be ahead of Stutes, in that order. As members of the 40-Man Roster, keeping Herndon (or Mathieson) wouldn't necessitate the jettisoning of another 40-Man player to the waiver wire, or to the 60-Day DL.

How long will this bullpen opening exist?

The seventh reliever is just keeping an active roster spot warm for closer Brad Lidge, who should return in only a few weeks. Losing a player on waivers would be costly, particularly considering that the derived benefit would be a bullpen downgrade from Herndon to Stutes. These kinds of moves are not good business.

The Phillies already know all of this. So why is Stutes in Philly?

Top three reasons for Stutes' On-Deck Series inclusion, in order:

  • Stutes was merely added as an extra arm. The Phillies have workloads planned for their pitchers, in the final Spring games. If the game situation calls for additional innings to be pitched, Stutes will be used.
  • Stutes is being showcased for a potential trade. The Phillies' bench, as currently constructed, is not very strong. A potential trade partner may have available upgrades in the utility infielder and/or outfielder (preferably, centerfield) roles. As Stutes would not need to be placed on the 40-Man roster, the acquiring team could pick up a future asset, without having to risk a potential waiver loss. Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro may want to let potential trade partners see Stutes perform in an MLB park against, presumably, MLB bats.
  • In the event that another Phillies pitcher is dealt, Stutes could make the roster as a middle reliever. Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick both have trade value, particularly to rotation-poor teams. Trading one now may be the best way to maximize that trade value. If Blanton or Kendrick are traded, Danys Baez could attempt to be the long reliever, with Herndon solidifying his own roster spot, and Stutes taking over as the pre-Lidge placeholder.