Tommy Hunter has certainly had some rough moments early on this season. Should the Phillies be concerned about their $18 million reliever?
The Phillies placed heavy emphasis on their bullpen this season, making it known that they would carry an eight-man bullpen this season. The team spent over $34 million combined for veteran relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. They hoped the two would be strong contributors for what was expected to be a good bullpen.
While Philadelphia’s bullpen has been tremendous this season, for the most part, Neshek and Hunter have not played a huge part. Neshek has yet to pitch this season as he works his way back from a lat strain. Hunter missed almost the entire first month of the season before debuting this year. Since then, he hasn’t exactly been great.
Hunter has only thrown 10.2 innings in 13 outings so far this year due to the injury. Out of these 13 outings, he has allowed multiple baserunners in six of them. His 4.22 ERA is only lower than Drew Hutchison and Hector Neris. Hunter’s 1.67 WHIP is the highest.
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Hunter’s fastball velocity is also quite not as high as last year. According to Brooks Baseball, it averaged 97.11 miles per hour last year. This year, it is a mile per hour slower. His sinker’s velocity hasn’t dropped as much, but it has still dropped.
While there are some causes for concern for Hunter, there are also reasons not to be too worried about him.
It has been in a limited sample size, but Hunter has the lowest walk rate of his career since 2013.
Much of his high WHIP has come due to hits. Before Tuesday’s appearance, opposing hitters have a .394 batting average on balls in play against Hunter, the highest BABIP of his career besides a three-game stint in the majors in 2008.
Hunter’s advanced pitching numbers also look much better than his ERA. He has a 3.03 fielding-independent pitching and 3.18 expected fielding-independent pitching. In addition, Hunter had the lowest skill-interactive ERA of his career at 2.83 prior to Tuesday. He also has the highest soft contact rate and the second-lowest hard contact rate of his career. Altogether, these indicate that Hunter should perform better as the season goes on.
It’s certainly concerning that Hunter has not been the highly effective reliever he was sold as during the offseason. Thankfully, there are signs that indicate that things will change in the future. Not to mention, other relievers have stepped up and filled in well this season. Hopefully, as the season continues Hunter’s performance should match the underlying numbers.