Last year, the Phillies bullpen was a disaster. This year, Ruben Amaro is intent on not making the same mistake twice.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports the Phils have brought back one of the lynchpins of the 2008 bullpen that was instrumental in the Phillies winning their second world championship, signing Chad Durbin to a one-year, $1.1 million contract, with $350,000 in possible incentives. There is also a team option for a second year.
Durbin had a solid year for Atlanta last year, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 76 appearances. Zolecki noted Durbin had a 2.33 ERA from April 18 through the end of the regular season, and carried a 0.83 ERA in 28 appearances against the National League East.
Durbin’s chief negative is that he does not strike many people out, instead relying on a high ground ball percentage to record his most of his outs. According to Fangraphs, 47.7% of his outs came via the ground ball last year and he struck out just 19% of the hitters he faced. For his career, those numbers are 41.9% and 15.4%.
Durbin’s propensity for ground balls could be interesting with weak defensive corner infielders Michael Young and Ryan Howard. And by interesting, I mean, potentially disastrous.
Not only that, Durbin’s pattern has been to follow one solid year with one that is, well, pretty much garbage right after it.
From 2007-2012, his ERA was 4.72, 2.87, 4.39, 3.80, 5.53, and 3.10. I’ve been on cruise ships with less movement.
Because Durbin relies on ground balls to get his outs, he is more susceptible to back luck and chance. It also doesn’t help that he’s averaged 3.9 BB/9 over his career.
It also calls into question just how much experience the young, dynamic arms that already exist on the roster will actually get in the Majors this season. Amaro was stocked with cheap arms with dynamic stuff, but has instead decided to roll the dice on another veteran arm with worse pure stuff, but more veteran “moxie.”
Still, the signing of Durbin makes some sense. He’s one of the few bullpen arms that has experience throwing multiple innings, and has experience in the later innings and in the playoffs, something that could be useful with a ‘pen stocked with youngsters. He’ll join Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams and Antonio Bastardo as a late-inning option, likely leaving three jobs available for some combination of Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg and Mike Stutes.
And, if nothing else, bringing Durbin back is a fun bit of nostalgia, harkening back to a more golden age.
Now, if only we could somehow get Brad Lidge a deal…