4 games in, the bullpen looks like a possible strength

The Phillies have started the season 4-0 for only the fourth time in team history. No game was more exciting than the come from behind 5-3 victory in the series opener against the Mets.

The Phillies offense was stymied through 6 innings by Mets’ ace Jacob deGrom. deGrom gave up only three hits in struck out seven. However, in a curious move (to say the least), Mets’ manager Luis Rojas lifted him after only 77 pitches. The Phillies erupted in the 8th inning for five runs, including an RBI single by JT Realmuto.

Jose Alvarado came in for the save in the ninth. He look a little shaky, giving up a run on three hits, but was able to secure the 5-3 victory for the Phils. It was an incredible turn of events for a game that seemed to be the Mets through the first seven innings.

Matt Moore was only able to pitch through 3.1 innings. All in all, he didn’t pitch terribly, breezing through the first two innings of the game, totaling four strikeouts. However, the command was not there, as he issued four free passes on the day. Two of the batters he walked in the fourth innings came around to score, leading Joe Girardi to lift him from the game.

From there, the trio of Brandon Kintzler, Sam Coonrod, and Connor Brogdon pitched a combined 4.2 scoreless innings. They limited the Mets offense to only three hits, while striking out five. The three kept the Phillies in the game long enough for the offense to wake up (or maybe deGrom is just really good). Kintzler and Coonrod were especially impressive, with Kintzler inducing a huge double play to end the threat in the 4th inning.

In fact, the run that Alvarado gave up in the ninth yesterday was the first run the bullpen gave up all season. In 13 innings, the bullpen has given up seven hits, with 4 BBs against 18 Ks. It is incredibly early, but the differences are glaring between the 2020 bullpen and this year’s. Just by the vision test, there is quite a bit more juice in the 2021 bullpen.

Led by Alvarado and his 101 mph fastball, the average velocity in the bullpen is much harder. Outside of Kintzler and David Hale, every single pitcher in the bullpen throws at least in the mid-90’s. After years of rolling out the same archetype of pitcher throwing 92-93 mph, the Phillies finally have caught up with the rest of the league in terms of velocity.

Not only are they throwing harder, but they are commanding the stuff better too. Again, it’s early, but the bullpen only issuing four walks is a great development for this team. The Phillies’ pitching staff issued 229 free passes last season, good for 8th most in the MLB. Cutting down on that number will only help the staff lower their ERA from last season.

The Phillies are going to need all hands on deck if they want any chance at winning the division. The NL East is the best, most competitive division in baseball. The race to the playoffs is only going to get harder as time passes.

While the results will not always be as good as they have been through four games, it is nonetheless encouraging to see. As long as the bullpen can pitch to a better ERA than 7.06, they will already be an improvement from last year.

I think how much of an improvement they could be might shock some people.

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