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Phillies: 2022’s Pitching Answers

 
 
By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

 

For Dave Dombrowski, Philadelphia Phillies POB (president of baseball operations), acquiring a closer is atop his wish list. And if his preferred setup man re-ups, the POB will have re-signed Hector Neris plus Jose Alvarado in those roles, and he has Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod and Seranthony Dominguez. Plus a set rotation.

 

Head Fakes:

If some Phillies faithful judge 2022’s relief corps by recent summers and departed hurlers’ stats in the overall total, they might miss the improvement a ninth-inning fireman will make. Basically, Dominguez will be the third setup man for the seventh and eighth frames along with the two relievers for the fifth and sixth. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.” - Bob Lemon

With coincidences being rare, Dombrowski’s stated preference is only signing free agents without a QO (qualifying offer), but Raisel Iglesias, the top available closer, has a QO. And when a ninth-frame arm is atop your needs, this younger, more effective hurler can plug your biggest hole.                            

Based on the POB’s order, the starting staff will be Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Kyle Gibson and Zach Eflin. But even though many locals have questioned Dombrowski’s order, he has solid reasons for this current configuration due to his yearslong experience.             

Considering his 71-frame workload in 2020, Wheeler had an extraordinary season of 213 ⅓ innings: triple the previous campaign. But don't expect the same or better because it could have been a career year. However, he is the ace, will record solid numbers, and is one of the top pitchers in baseball.            

Nola has an up-and-down ERA record in the majors. To illustrate, his ERA’s from 2017 through 2021 have been 3.54 (2017), 2.37 (2018), 3.87 (2019), 3.28 (2020) and 4.63 (2021). Therefore, a 3.30 ERA is not a stretch for ‘22, and it demonstrates how locals can view a star if they always expect the best or worst.  

Suarez is a perfect example for overexpectation from the fan base because he had a 1.57 ERA for 63 frames in his last 10 starts. But if that’s your given for 200 innings, he’ll outpitch Wheeler. Unrealistic, no? So, Dombrowski and baseball lifers are anticipating some regression, plus they prefer a three-month sample size.   

Gibson was solid for the first four months with a 2.00 ERA before having a poor July. With the Phils, though, he had produced a 3.16 August ERA and completed 150 frames after 67 ⅔ innings in ‘20, but his tank was empty in September. Fortunately, the red pinstripes factor that into their athletic assessment.     

On Sept. 10, Eflin had knee surgery with 6-8 months to rehab: mid-March to early May. But the Phillies will only need a fifth starter for four outings due to April’s off days if he has a late return. In the first half, Eflin went 4-6 with a 3.88 ERA averaging six frames in 17 appearances before his injury-affected final game on July 16.                       

2021 Phillies Starters:

Innings

Wheeler

Nola

Eflin 

Gibson

Suarez

Total

213.1

180.2

105.2

177.2

65.2

Starts

32

32

18

30

12

Average

6.7

5.7

5.9

5.9

5.5

Some have the belief the Fightins need another starter due to bullpen games, and their shortcoming here will derail any playoff hopes. However, the Atlanta Braves had battled with two openers during the World Series, and --besides Atlanta-- the Los Angeles Dodgers had one in the NLCS.                              

In a GM’s eyes, Eflin is a three, but he’ll be 2-4 weeks behind the others: the mentioned-fifth reason. Meanwhile, Dombrowski expects a bounce-back from Nola due to his track record and some regression from Suarez because of his limited sample. And the POB anticipates increased endurance from Gibson.                 

2021 Phillies Starters:

(Management expects 75-80 percent)

PITCHER

GOOD

ACCEPT

BAD

TOTAL 

PCT.

Wheeler

22

7

3

29 - 3

90.6%

Nola

16

5

11

21 - 11

65.6%

Suarez

9

2

1

11 - 1

91.7%

Gibson*

6

1

5

7 - 5

58.3%

Eflin

10

4

4

14 - 4

77.8%

Numbers take inherited runners into account.       * Numbers on the Phillies only.

For all pitchers, organizations expect four good or acceptable --bend, don’t break-- performances or 75 percent during a long 162. Relief-wise, one of five moundsmen in one contest will probably struggle, and a one-run lead won’t hold. But some fans are critical of any poor outing.                      

In fact, many tend to overlook injuries and only concentrate on ERAs, misunderstood blown saves, and every poor appearance. But 2019’s red pinstripes bullpen had eight injured hurlers, and only Neris and Jose Alvarez were effective and healthy. That stated, only Neris was still standing in ‘20. In the NL, the ‘21 pen was 11th.                      

They had 32 blown saves to 29 for the San Francisco Giants: Any lead lost from the eighth inning on is in the tally: Multiples are possible per game. However, end-game blown saves resulted in a 12-13 mark: winning nearly half. Translation: It’s a misleading stat and they didn’t suffer 32 defeats.         

In Dombrowski’s order, Neris, Alvarado, Brogdon, Coonrod and Dominguez will be the five returning relievers. And Dominguez is last until he improves his command and then will be a setup man. Unfortunately, he had difficulty at Triple-A while rehabbing after Tommy John surgery.   

2021 Phillies Relievers:

(Management expects 75-80 percent)

NAME

GOOD 

SO-SO

TOT

BAD

BLOWUP

TOT

NOS

%

Neris

46

10

56

17

1

18

56 of 74

75.7%

Alvarado

32

14

46

18

0

18

46 0f 64

71.9%

Brogdon

35

9

44

12

1

13

44 of 57

77.2%

Coonrod

22

6

28

14

0

14

28 of 42

66.7%

Dominguez

1

0

1

0

0

0

1 of 1

100%

Numbers take inherited runners into account.   

In the seventh and eighth innings, Neris and Alvarado will set up for the closer picked up by the POB, and he could also be looking to add another lefty for four late-game arms counting Dominguez. Presently, southpaw Aaron Loup is his reported target.         

For the fifth and sixth frames, Brogdon and Coonrod will handle those, but they can also fill in for the seventh during times when the setup men have an extensive workload. And the final spot or two will be from a group of nine pitchers on the 40-man roster and any non-roster invitees.                         

Since Iglesias, almost 32, is the top available closer, $14 million apiece for four summers is well within the exec’s price range. However, he will have competition for the fireman’s services. And if he hasn’t already floated a misleading statement with the QO comment, what should you expect? Head fakes!

 

NEXT:

4 Difference-makers for 2022

Rsz_eflin

 

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