Phillies 2020 Player Grades: Brandon Workman, David Phelps
Grading Phillies RHP Brandon Workman’s 2020 season
The Phillies acquired Brandon Workman on August 21, just two days after he earned the save in a 6-3 Red Sox victory over the Phillies. Klentak must have seen something he liked that day. Fellow reliever Heath Hembree also came over in the trade, which had them giving up Nick Pivetta an prospect Connor Seabold.
This trade might look even worse for the Phillies in a few years if Pivetta finally lives up to his potential and pitches well for the Red Sox; not to mention, Seabold developing into a reliable starting pitcher.
Workman was coming off a 2019 season in which he had a 1.88 ERA in 73 games. His fWAR that season was a whopping 2.1. The Phillies haven’t had a reliever with numbers like that since Ken Giles in 2015.
However, before 2019, Workman was a mediocre reliever at best. From 2013 to 2018, his ERA 4.37; he also got off to a mediocre start in 2020, with a 4.05 ERA in 6 2/3 innings.
Clearly, the Phillies saw Workman’s 2019 season as a breakout rather than a fluke, and manager Joe Girardi appointed him as closer almost immediately upon his arrival.
Workman did not pitch like a closer, however, and he certainly did not pitch like the top trade deadline acquisition of a team with playoff aspirations.
While a victim of some very bad luck in 2020, Workman also pitched very poorly. His home run to flyball ratio (HR/FB) this year was 30.8%, while his career HR/FB is 12.2%. This means that he gave up far more home runs this season than he deserved to, based on how well he pitched.
Workman’s atrocious 6.92 ERA and 6.96 FIP were fueled in large part by his 2.77 HR/9. However, his xFIP — which takes into account how many home runs a pitcher would have allowed with an average HR/FB ratio of 10.5% — was 4.89, which is still far too high for a closer.
I could go on and cite more statistics, but I’m pretty sure everyone reading this already knows how bad Workman was in 2020.
Many fans would give Workman an F for the 2020 season; I can’t blame them for that, however, I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Workman has been a mediocre reliever for most of his career, but he was expected to be the Phillies’ closer because he had one good season in 2019 and because the Phillies had no one else better.
Workman was bad in 2020, but if general manager Matt Klentak put together a better bullpen and the Phillies weren’t relying so heavily him, then his failures wouldn’t have been nearly as noticeable.