Now how many of you remember the Phillies bullpen of last year? It wasn't exactly "shut down, lights out, or dominate". I doubt many of you remember that bullpen either, whether it's by choice or by physical loss of memory. Because I know, I sat out in right field many Sundays last year thinking, "Could this bullpen get any worse?" But the late season acquisition of J.C. Romero and movement of Brett Myers to the closer role played a crucial role last season. And ultimately wound up being a deciding factor in the Phil’s NL EAST title.
Now this season, the bullpen has done a complete 180, and has become one of the Phillies bright spots. It was during the stretch in which the Phillies bats had fallen dead silent that the bullpen had stepped up the role and job by keeping the game very, very, close. With the usual cast of return character this season, the Phillies made some significant increases to their bullpen by signing free agent Chad "New Deal" Durbin, and trading for closer Brad "Lights Out" Lidge, as well as trading mid-season in august for journeyman lefty reliever Scott Eyre. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key Phillies relievers...
Chad"New Deal" Durbin, Middle-Long Reliever, RHP: Chad Durbin, who has affectionately been known as "New Deal" by the fans, is one of the best 6th-7th inning relievers out there. Durbin is most of the most clutch pitchers the Phillies have besides Brad Lidge. Chad Durbin has had no problem pitching for more than 1 inning, which he has proved his versatility out in the 'pen. Durbin if not used in a few games tends to get his pitches up in the strike zone, in which the pitches usually wind up being extra base hits, walks, or home runs. Durbin with a low to mid 90's fastball, isn't going to over dominate the best hitters in the league, but he gets the outs when the Phil's need them the most. Just watch out if you overuse him... tends to lose velocity, movement, and accuracy. Has transitioned very well from spot-starter/ starter to middle reliever.
Ryan "Mad Dog" Madson, Middle Reliever, RHP: Ryan Madson, known as "Mad Dog", both by the fans and Ryan Howard (who Madson calls "Big Dog"). Ryan Madson is best when it comes to the 7th inning pitching. Madson a six year veteran, all with the Phillies, who was a former starting pitcher, has one of the most explosive fastballs on the Phillies. He can easily hit the mid-90’s on the gun. He has developed a decent change, but he tends to leave it out over the plate. Not only does he have speed on his fastball, his has some nasty movement sometimes too nasty, much like Brad Lidge's. This season Madson seems to have developed a third and fourth pitch, which is a bonus, considering they (Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee) were going to move him back in to the starting rotation after Brett Myers collapsed after opening day. He has developed a curve with some decent 12-6 movement on it, often hangs it. He has developed of sorts, a cut-fastball... which after watching him throw it during several games is just dreadful (if you are the hitter to face), but sometimes his new cutter lacks the movement it needs to effectively work. If underused, he tends to be like the rest of the key bullpen pitchers: wild. If overused, he tends to lose velocity and hangs pitches more often. Is a key part in the Durbin, Madson, Romero, Lidge backend of the bullpen (6-7-8-9 innings). Key strength: will throw breaking ball at any time in the count. Key weakness: not aggressive enough. Pounds the strike zone
J.C. "Set-Up Man" Romero, Set-Up Man, LHP:Mr. Romero a journey man lefty, who was the set-up man for several teams before coming over to the Phillies in 2007. Romero, who was the set-up man to K-Rod, Joe Nathan, Keith Foulk, and Jonathan Papelbon, is now the set-up to Brad Lidge. Romero, who is a workhorse leads the league, among relievers in games appeared in. That is a strength of Romero’s, being a workhorse. Romero who has a slider that bites, but sometimes the slider both doesn’t bite enough, and becomes very hittable or bites too much and winds up being a ball. Romero has decent velocity, and can ramp up the fastball when needed. One glaring weakness of J.C.’s is that if he isn’t used for a while (meaning he is underused), he becomes wild and can’t locate his pitches. Tends to walk his share of hitters, but strikes out his share as well. One the most energetic and clutch relief pitchers the Phillies have.
Brad “Lights Out” Lidge, Closer, RHP: Brad Lidge, closer-extraordinaire for the Phillies. Lidge was the former set-up man to Billy Wagner out in Houston. After Wagner was traded to Philadelphia, Lidge became the full-time closer for the Astros. Lidge, who has one of the most devastating sliders in the league, isn’t afraid to throw that slider at any time in the count. To compliment his devastating slider, Lidge has a fastball that can hit the mid to upper 90’s on the gun. Tends to be a bit wild at times and does walk his share of hitters. Loses velocity if overused. Loses accuracy if underused. Key word: clutch. Lidge when it comes down to it is the most clutch pitchers in the back-end of the Phillies bullpen. Lidge closes the down, and turns the lights out when Phillies need a save the most. This is evidence this year, being that Lidge is perfect in save opportunities. As with most power pitchers, Lidge’s third and fourth pitches (a change and curve respectively) are very hittable, that’s why we only see him throw the fastball and his slider.
What to expect: here is what to expect out of the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen in the postseason. Expect that if the starters don’t make it out of the sixth, that the bullpen will be called in to action. The Phillies bullpen is one of (if not) the best bullpens in the Majors, so expect them to keep the game close, and slam the door shut when the time comes. But we should be very, very cautious, because these four pitchers have been in a lot of games.
*this is the opinion of the writer. If you have a differing opinion fill free to comment on this, on bleacherreport.com