The 2008 Phillies, and even still the 2009 Phillies, were stocked up with a roster with the likes of Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Chris Coste. These players are all old now, and none would be a huge improvement, nor are any of them going to the Hall-of-Fame. They're all guys that did a certain job well, either pinch-hitting, getting late inning hitters out, and spelling a starter for a day off. Eric Bruntlett, as God-awful of a hitter as he was, served a purpose as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement. All of these guys were in some small way productive.
Who isn't productive now is the current group of guys on this bench. I'll excuse the recently called up Reid Brignac, and instead just focus on our most common bench guys in 2014 for a second:
- Wil Nieves- .261/.609, 2 XBH's, and 8 K's in 24 PA's.
- Tony Gwynn Jr.- .213/..583, 2 XBH's, and 10 K's in 57 PA's.
- Jayson Nix- .154/.445, 6 hits and 8 BB's, and 18 K's in 43 PA's.
- John Mayberry Jr.- .143/.580, 4 hits and 6 BB's, and 8 K's in 34 PA's.
- Freddy Galvis- .048/.156, reached base 5 times, and 12 K's in 46 PA's.
If I ended this piece here, it's bad enough, and I wish I could. I can't though, because the bullpen is much, much worse yet. The Phillies are 17-19, four games out of first in the NL East, and tied for fourth. That's mediocre, but it doesn't tell the story. The Phillies relievers have seven losses. Yes, seven, in 36 games. That's a little over one a week so far. If we only took back about half of those, let's say four, the Phillies would be in first place right now. Yes, worst to first. Papelbon does own one of those losses, but his 11 for 12 is perfectly fine for me, as is his 14 K's in 15.1 IP, his 1.76 ERA, and his .185 opponent batting average. The Phillies have used ten other relievers in 36 games. Their stats are staggeringly bad, to the point where I'm not going to post them all. While Adams, Diekman, and Bastardo have held up good K/9 numbers, none of them have reliably held a lead. None of them have been able to fill-in for Papelbon on off days either. In short, none of them have been a reliable reliever. In short, the only reason we're not toasting to the Phillies great start right now is that this bullpen is garbage.
Now we can sit here and talk about Ryan Howard's contract, which has turned out catastrophic until this year, and won't be worth $25 million this year either, but the reality is that Howard, the rest of the line-up, and the starting pitchers have given the team a shot at victory 24 times in 36 games, which is perfectly fine. Ruben probably could be fired just over that deal, but it's not really what should get him fired.
The bench and bullpen stunk last year. They weren't good in 2012. They were barely adequate in 2011, and were boosted by insane starting pitching. Now? They're embarrassing. Ruben Amaro gave us Brad Lincoln, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Jayson Nix as potential replacements, the "fixes" for the problems. In short, he got us even worse trash then he gave us before. John Mayberry Jr. continues to take up roster space.
Good teams have guys on their bench that can do something. Good teams have relievers that can get three outs with a three run lead. The Phillies most recent successful teams actually had those things. No one's asking for them to bring back Brad Lidge to fix things now. A decent GM can find competitive big leaguers to fill out his roster though. Ruben Amaro Jr. can't. If and when he is eventually fired, this should be the reason why.