Sep 13, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcherJonathan Papelbon
(58) pitches in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
4. Philadelphia Phillies
As I mentioned before, the Phillies had the highest ERA of any NL East bullpen last season (3.64), but they were sixth in the NL in bullpen FIP (3.44). While that number is the second lowest in the division, it still shows the depth that the NL East has at this position in baseball.
When you look at the closer, Jonathan Papelbon, he had his best season since 2011 in terms of FIP (2.53). The 34-year-old closer had 39 saves in 43 chances and posted a 2.04 ERA in 2014. While his strikeouts per nine are down from 11.8 in 2012 to 8.5 a season ago, he is one of those relievers that can stay healthy, appearing in at least 60 games in each of the last eight seasons.
With Papelbon owed $26 million over the last two seasons of his contract, could Ruben Amaro Jr. deal him to make room for the future Philadelphia closer?
While Ken Giles is only 24 years old, the seventh round pick in the 2011 Draft had a 1.18 ERA in 44 appearances last year. In the last three months of the season, Giles recorded a ERA of below one in two of those months (July and September). He is projected by Fangraphs in 2015 to have the highest WAR of any Phillies’ reliever this season (1.0).
In the seventh inning, you have Jake Diekman. While Diekman was 5-5 with a 3.80 ERA in 73 games last year, he got some pretty good comments from Nats’ outfielder Bryce Harper last September, who called the Phillies’ bullpen “unbelievable”:
"“You’ve got Diekman, who’s 98 to 100 (mph) from the left side. You’ve got Giles, who is 100 also from the right side with a dirty slider. And then you’ve got Pappy, who has been out there for a long time. He’s a guy that has closed games for a long time and knows how to pitch. That’s fairly tough. When you have a guy that comes in the fifth inning like (Justin) De Fratus throwing 98 mph, you don’t see that. It’s pretty crazy to see.” (h/t CSN Philly)"
If Philadelphia keeps Papelbon for the 2015 season, this is a pen that also will improve from its high ERA last season. If Giles and Diekman can continue to develop, it’s a solid combination of hard-throwing arms, similar to what the Mets have. The key is are the Phillies ready to make Giles the closer at age 24? We will find out.
Next: Number Three?