Although the 2021 Phillies’ bullpen was historically bad, there were a few bright spots. Connor Brogdon was one of those positives. Outside of a rough outing against the Giants early in the season, he was the most consistent bullpen arm the team had.
Naturally, he was expected to take on a larger role for the team this year. However, he hasn’t looked right in his outings this spring.
That theme continued on Wednesday.
Brogdon had a rough inning of work against the Tigers. Detroit had three hits in the inning, including back-to-back doubles. More concerning, his average fastball velocity was 92.8; he’s usually in the mid-90s. It isn’t uncommon for pitchers to build velocity gradually in spring training. That said, with the quick Spring Training, pitchers need to find their stuff quicker than other seasons.
Brogdon still hasn’t found it.
A velocity dip affects pitchers like Brogdon more than others. His out pitch is his changeup, which relies on a velocity difference to be affective. On average, his changeup was 11 mph slower than his fastball in 2021 (96.0 vs 84.6). That being said, the change will have batters out in front because it looks like a fastball coming out of the hand. Fans saw how effective that pitch combination could be last year.
Fast forward to now, Brogdon’s fastball is 3-4 mph slower. Not only does that make his fastball less effective, but it also makes his changeup less effective. Including his cutter, which isn’t very good in my opinion, Brogdon throws three pitches between 85 and 93 mph. There isn’t enough variety to throw off major league batters.
In what seems like a theme every year, the bullpen is coming into 2022 almost completely reconstructed. Brogdon, one of the few carryovers from 2021, was lining up to pitch some high leverage innings for the team. However, the way he has looked this spring, I am not sure he will even break camp with the team.
He will not be effective enough to warrant a roster spot if this velocity decrease is the new norm. Pair that with uncertainty of Jose Alvarado’s Opening Day status, and the Phillies bullpen depth is shrinking quickly (as if they had any to start with).
Replacing someone who threw close to 60 innings in 2021 this close to Spring Training is not easy. Doing it this close to Opening Day is even harder. Above all, the team is hoping that this is either just a slow start or a case of dead arm.
Regardless of the reasoning, the concern level for Brogdon is high. If he isn’t able to find his stuff, the Phillies are going to have to replace his output from last year.
I am not sure if they have the talent to do so.