Is there any team in MLB right now more frustrating than the Philadelphia Phillies?
There are teams that are just plain bad, and there are good teams that occasionally, somehow lose to those teams, but few teams are as perplexingly mediocre as the Phillies.
Actually, their record is mediocre, but their bullpen is abysmal. Like, historically so.
This isn’t even the first time I’m writing about this, but here we are again, because they’ve gotten worse.
Zack Wheeler was absolutely dealing again tonight, as has become the norm this season. His ERA is now 2.05. He leads MLB pitchers in scoreless starts of 7+ innings, and has thrown more innings than any pitcher. He will likely be named to the 2021 All-Star Game on Sunday.
When Joe Girardi pulled him with two outs in the eighth inning, he heard resounding boos at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies fans knew what comes next.
At this point, this bullpen is legitimately insulting to the caliber of season Wheeler is having. Friday night was their eighth blown save in their last nine games. They now have 22 blown saves this season, putting them just three away from the franchise record. No other MLB team has more than 16 blown saves.
The Phillies have Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Wheeler, Aaron Nola, to name a few of their talents. This isn’t a pathetic team by any means. With a moderately functional, effective bullpen, they would have at least a few more wins than they currently do, be above .500, breathing down the Mets’ necks, and be contending.
The Phillies ultimately, miraculously pulled off another walk-off win, thanks to a 401-ft RBI double by Brad Miller, his first career walk-off. But that doesn’t change anything except their record, which is now 38-41. The lineup shouldn’t have to find a way to walk it off every game just to keep the season afloat. They are now 16-13 in one-run games.
Girardi said postgame that José Alvarado will remain in the closer role for now. This comes after he demoted Hector Neris from the role last week due to his struggles in June. Of course, this is not 100% on the pitchers; Girardi’s bullpen management has been heavily and understandably criticized.
With the Phillies’ halfway point in the season this weekend, Dombrowski will have to decide soon if it’s worth it to upgrade the bullpen before the trade deadline. On the one hand, these “relievers” – I put the word in quotation marks because they do not inspire any kind of relief – are wasting one of the best seasons by a Phillies starter in a long time. On the other hand, given the level of embarrassment these bullpen arms have caused, it’s unlikely Dombrowski would be able to move any of them.