What’s wrong with Phillies' Seranthony Domínguez?

It looks like the Phillies reliever has hit rock bottom, but what's the problem, and what do the Phillies do about it?
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Seranthony Domínguez
Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Seranthony Domínguez / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies have a major problem on their hands. Seranthony Domínguez has seemingly hit rock bottom, as inconsistency and confidence have played a role in a dreadful start to the season. In 12 appearances, Domínguez has a 9.58 ERA and a WHIP of 1.742 in 10 1/3 innings pitched.

Recently pulled from pitching in high-leverage situations, how long of a leash will the Phillies give Domínguez to figure out his problems is anyone's guess.

What can you do with a major league veteran with five years of service time who is scuffling this badly?

You can't send Domínguez to the minor leagues to figure things out because he's out of options. Designating him for assignment is always a possibility, but the Phillies would be on the hook for the remainder of his $7.25 million contract that doesn't expire until next season, and he's only 29 years old. This is the mess the Phillies front office is currently dealing with.

They could place him on the IL with a phantom injury and hope that pitching against some lesser competition builds back his confidence on the mound. Or the Phillies could do what the Houston Astros did recently when they asked for and received consent to option struggling first baseman José Abreu to the minor leagues to figure things out.

Is it likely? No. Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

What’s wrong with Seranthony Domínguez?

Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that Domínguez is battling to find success again with his slider, a secondary pitch to his four-seam fastball that has previously gotten hitters out. So far, the slider has produced a higher-than-expected .235 batting average and .824 slugging percentage.

For comparison's sake, in 2023, opposing hitters only managed a .173 batting average and a .429 slugging percentage. Couple that with a sinker that hasn't been an effective pitch for Domínguez since the 2022 season, and you start to get to the root of the problem.

All the Phillies can do at the moment is relegate the once dominant power arm to mop-up duty in games that get out of hand. If Domínguez's latest failure on Monday night against the Los Angeles Angels wasn't a "scared straight" moment for manager Rob Thomson, the Phillies have far bigger problems to contend with.

Domínguez is too talented to simply DFA, but it's well past the time that the Phillies stay away from him in tight games and explore other options to try to get his confidence and secondary pitches back to where they need to be.

To make matters worse, many of Domínguez's other pitching metrics are heading in the wrong direction this season as well. Opposing hitters have managed a 14.7 percent barrel rate against him in 2024 — nearly double the 8.1 percent barrel rate he allowed in 2022 and 2023.

Domínguez's hard-hit rate (35.3 percent) has increased as a result. It's higher than the 31.1 percent he recorded in 2023 and on pace to be the second-worst of his career, following the 45.5 hard-hit rate he allowed in 2022. Combine this with an expected ERA currently projected at 5.18, and a picture develops of a pitcher absolutely cratering before our eyes.

As we enter the first week of May, there's a large enough sample size to suggest it's a mistake to trust Seranthony Domínguez in tight spots with a game on the line. Calling his name on the bullpen phone neither benefits the team nor the player at this point.

Domínguez's problems seem to be half mechanical and half psychological. These two factors make it look like a more concerning problem than just relegating him to meaningless innings in the back of the bullpen.