Over at Crashburn Alley, Bill Baer wrote about Ryne Sandberg’s strange and detrimental bullpen usage. This is a topic I have been very passionate about, and rather than rewrite the great things that Bill wrote, I am going to expand this to roster construction. I don’t necessarily think that the bullpen is constructed poorly, but the suboptimal usage of the bullpen leaves the construction in question.
At its core, the bullpen has been Ken Giles, Jonathan Papelbon, Luis Garcia, Jake Diekman, and Jeanmar Gomez. They then added in Dustin McGowan and broke camp with Cesar Jimenez instead of a 5th starter. They were arrayed to start the year as:
7th: Diekman/De Fratus
R Middle: Garcia
Mop up: McGowan
Long Man: Gomez
The lack of a second lefty would matter for a team with playoff aspirations, but the Phillies aren’t in a position where carrying a guy with marginal situations is always the best. The rest of this bullpen construction would seem to be a plug and play form of management.
This is what the bullpen has looked like so far (or at very least in the past week). Yes, Diekman has been bad and De Fratus has not been sharp, but it is also extremely small sample sizes.
1 inning leading game: Gomez
1-2 Inning Mopup: McGowan
Mop Up: Diekman/De Fratus
To this point Jeanmar Gomez has only thrown 2 innings once, and that was in a game the Phillies were trailing by a run, and has gone for more than an inning only one other time. Luis Garcia has not thrown multiple innings this year. Dustin McGowan has thrown multiple innings 4 times this year (including an emergency start) and it appears is a mop up reliever. Meanwhile Diekman has been used in a leverage situation once this season and has pitched across multiple innings in 3 games so far and was allowed to throw 52 pitches in his last appearance. De Fratus has been in a similar position and has yet to pitch in a win (the Phillies aren’t good but have won 8 games). Now some of this has been that Garcia has emerged has a legitimate relief option.
The problem to all of this is the usage of McGowan and Gomez and how that effects De Fratus and Diekman. Sandberg has been unwilling to use either McGowan or Gomez as a long man which has forced more innings on Diekman and De Fratus (and innings that are needed in blowouts). You can’t operate a team with as bad a set of starters as the Phillies have without a long man, and if Sandberg won’t use his long men then the front office needs to force their usage by giving him another one (Severino Gonzalez?) or telling their manager how to manage.
As Bill pointed out, the usage rates are way off for this bullpen and the problem is that the manager refuses to the use the bullpen that was constructed for him.