For the first time in many years, the Phillies' bullpen has become a reason for their success, rather than the reason for their failure. As recently as last season, the Phillies’ bullpen was patched together with encore performances of well-traveled veterans, such as Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca.
This year’s Phillies team featured a revamped bullpen that has from last year’s squad only Ryan Madson and Clay Condrey playing prominent roles. Though considered a risky venture by Pat Gillick, the signing of Brad Lidge has vaulted the Phillies to the top of the N.L. in bullpen ERA. Here is what to expect of the Phillies' bullpen in the 2008 World Series.
“Lights Out” Brad Lidge was perfect in save opportunities in 2008, converting all 41 opportunities. Although there were a couple memorable near misses, such as the Sunday night ESPN game against the Cardinals, and the N.L. East clinching game in which a remarkable Jimmy Rollins double play got Lidge out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam to clinch the division, Lidge has been a dominant force in the Phillies' bullpen that has had a trickle-down effect to the rest of the bullpen.
For the first time in many years, the Phillies have had a healthy closer who did not blow up down the stretch that enabled all relievers to stay in the roles in which they were accustomed. Expect Lidge to continue to be lights out through the World Series.
Becoming the “Bridge to Lidge” in 2008, Ryan Madson has had his most dominant season of his professional career. Having bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen his first few years in the league, Madson has worked his way up to be Lidge’s primary right-handed set-up man.
With what may be a career-ending injury to Tom Gordon, Madson has filled the role admirably, having committed just two blown saves in the late innings and even getting a save of his own in the ninth inning after Brad Lidge tired in July.
In the NLCS, Madson was clocked at 97 miles-per-hour on the radar gun, beaming with confidence while showing great movement on his pitches. Madson had demonstrated that he is the solution as the “Bridge to Lidge” and expect him to be strong throughout the World Series.
As the only left-handed reliever in the Phillies’ bullpen up until the July trade that brought Scott Eyre to the Phillies, Romero got plenty of work the first half and finished the season with 81 appearances. He has proven to have a rubber arm, and he will be counted on heavily in the seventh and eighth innings to get out tough lefties such as Carlos Peña and Carl Crawford.
Do not be surprised if you see Romero almost daily in the World Series. The only problem with Romero is an occasional walk. However, his excited and fiery demeanor will have him ready for the World Series to tackle tough lefties at the back end of the game.
When the Phillies signed Chad Durbin in the offseason, they envisioned him as a long-reliever, spot starter, and perhaps mop-up man. However, Durbin has exceeded everyone’s expectations this season with an ERA of 2.87 in a career-high 87 appearances, all out of the bullpen.
As the Phillies’ bullpen took shape after the season-ending injury to Tom Gordon, Durbin pitched in many significant situations before settling into a sixth and seventh inning role. Durbin did tire down the stretch, as he pitched very frequently, but the layoff should do him well.
If the Phillies’ starters pitch according to plan, there will be no need for Durbin. However, Durbin should be able to hold off the Rays in the middle innings should he be called upon.
Scott Eyre was designated for assignment by the Cubs after posting a 7.15 ERA in 19 games for the Chicago Cubs. Pat Gillick, after failing to land a left-handed reliever to compliment J.C. Romero, swooped in and traded for Eyre, believing that he could still help the Phillies.
And that, he did.
In 19 games for the Phillies down the stretch, Eyre was 3-0 with an ERA of 1.88. Most valuable of all, Eyre provided much needed left-handed relief to complement J.C. Romero to cover tough left-handed hitters more than once through their opponent's batting order. Eyre will partner with Chad Durbin to get the Phillies through the sixth and seventh innings to get to Romero, Madson, and Lidge.
2008 marked the first season in which Clay Condrey spent an entire season in the major leagues and pitched effectively, primarily serving as a mop-up reliever and long-reliever, while coming in for key groundballs in tricky spots.
For the year, the very-underrated Condrey was 3-4 for a 3.26 ERA. When coming into games with a big lead or while losing big, Condrey goes right after hitters, and that is when he tends to give up most of his runs.
In the World Series, expect Condrey to come in early if a starter finds himself in a mess to get out of the inning, before turning it over to long-man J.A. Happ. Condrey is also a solid extra-innings force to hold down a game should it go extra innings.
The 25-year-old Happ saw limited action for the Phillies this year as a starter and as a reliever, spending most of the year in AAA Lehigh Valley. The Phillies opted for Happ over the 40-year-old Rudy Seanez to give them the option of a long outing should a starter falter or a game go extra innings.
Happ saw action in the NLCS against the Dodgers, pitching three innings and giving up one earned run in relief of Jamie Moyer. As with Condrey, the hope is that Happ will not see much action.
The bullpen is the biggest glaring advantage over the Rays. David Price may have come in and gotten the big out against the Red Sox, but he and many of the rest in the bullpen are still relatively untested. The eight runs given up to the Red Sox to win game five show that the Rays’ bullpen is vulnerable.
The Phillies will either protect leads handed over to them by starters Hamels, Myers, Moyer, and Blanton, or they will keep it in reach, giving the Phillies the opportunity to come back.
If they wish to be champions, Rays hitters will have to find a way to get to Myers, Moyer, and Blanton, in particular, since Hamels has been dominant this postseason. If the Phillies are World Series champions, it will be directly the result of their bullpen.