With all of the Phillies’ rotation woes this season, a decision had to be made about the backend. While they acquired Kyle Gibson on Friday, they sent one of their rotation pieces back to Texas in Spencer Howard. So, really, there was still a hole in the backend of the rotation.
In a rather unorthodox move, Girardi settled on Suarez, his closer, to take a spot in the rotation. Ian Kennedy, who was also acquired from Texas, is slotting right into the closer’s role. A decision to stretch out your closer for the rotation in August is one that smells of desperation. Not only desperation, but stupidity.
Suarez has been absolutely dominant for the Phillies out of the bullpen. In 40.1 innings, he has pitched to a 1.12 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. While he doesn’t have the power arm, his ability to throw strikes has been a godsend. Inside or outside the zone, Suarez has controlled both sides of the plate. That command of the zone is definitely something that can transfer to the rotation.
What won’t, necessarily, is the jump in stuff Suarez has seen in short spurts.
Back in 2018, when Suarez made his debut in the rotation, he struggled. He posted a 5.40 ERA in three starts and averaged 91.8 mph on his fastball. This year in the bullpen, Suarez has averaged 93 mph on his heater, while typically sitting in the 94-95 mph range. Like most starters turned relievers, his stuff played up in the bullpen and was leading to success. Naturally, the Phillies and their manager have to mess with a good thing.
It is very on brand for the Phillies to take the best pitcher in their bullpen away so they can have more of the same in the rotation. The team has cycled through countless backend starters this season, and Suarez will just add to that number. Not only that, but it will take some time for him to build up the arm strength to go deep in games. Knowing that, you are just adding more work to a bullpen that has been putrid this season.
Bailey Falter would have been prime candidate to take the rotation spot had he not caught COVID-19. Now, until he is back, Jose Alvarado is the only lefty in the Phillies bullpen. The bullpen make up isn’t what concerns me the most about this decision, though.
To me, the most concerning part of this whole decision was that it was solely Joe Girardi’s to make.
“Joe needs to sit down and look at how his ‘pen looks with Kennedy here and the other guys we have and decide the best way to go,” Dombrowski said on Friday after the deals were made.
That is quite a lot of faith for a guy who has pushed wrong button after wrong button this year. Whether it was putting Odubel in the leadoff, where he had just a .162 OBP, or his bullpen management on a nightly basis, Girardi hasn’t been good this year. Having him be the only one making this decision does not increase the fans’ confidence in the team. Much of the fans’ current confidence level is due to Girardi’s shortcomings this season.
I get it. Girardi is making $5 million a year, a salary that allows him autonomy in how he runs the team. However, one would think that the leash would get shorter with his continued blunders at the helm. I mean, part of why Spencer Howard could never find success here was due to Girardi not having a specific plan on how to use him. Shuttling him back and forth between the rotation and long relief did not help him get his feet wet and arguably stunted his development.
Sounds almost as if history is repeating itself with Suarez.
I hope that Ranger is able to carry over the success he had in the bullpen to the rotation, but I am not confident. The team needs to take risks to break a 10 year playoff drought. However, those risks have to be group decisions.
Robert Atkins stated, “Don’t fix what’s not broken.”
Leave it to the Phillies and their manager to do exactly that.