The Phillies had a 4.60 bullpen ERA last season, sixth-worst in the major leagues. Philadelphia relievers’ 2.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked 19th in the majors in 2021. And the Phillies’ bullpen corps served up 89 homers last year, tied for seventh-most in baseball.
The solution to this? Apparently the Phillies believe it’s Jeurys Familia, the 32-year-old former Mets closer who had a major league-leading 51 saves in 2016, and in the last three seasons… has a combined 4.62 ERA, 1.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 19 home runs allowed in 146 innings, while posting a 1.555 WHIP.
Perhaps Philadelphia was taken in by the nine appearances Familia made against the Phillies last year, as he held them to a .688 OPS (7-for-27, 2 doubles, no homers) with five strikeouts and four walks. You would think that in 2021, teams would be able to avoid being swayed by a pitcher’s performance against them, and view his full body of work against the league, but here we are.
Will it work? Well, in 1996, Phillies reliever Toby Borland pitched in 69 games, with a 4.07 ERA, nine homers allowed, and 43 walks in 90.2 innings. Mets batters, though, went only 6-for-31 against Borland, with two walks and no home runs in seven games. On November 27, the Mets traded first baseman Rico Brogna to their division rivals for journeyman reliever Ricardo Jordan, and Borland, who had posted a 7-3 record out of the Philadelphia bullpen, reminiscent of Familia going 9-4 last year.
Borland pitched 13 games for the 1997 Mets, issuing 14 walks in 13.1 innings, with 11 hits and nine earned runs allowed. With Borland sitting on a 6.08 ERA, New York traded him to the Red Sox for Ricky Trlicek, who was even worse and made only nine more appearances in his major league career.
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Familia has a far better resume than Borland, but his best work is a long time ago, regardless of what the Phillies saw last year. And at least this Phillies team is managed by Joe Girardi, whose reputation for managing bullpens…
Okay, maybe some fan bases would’ve been happier if the lockout continued.
Oddly enough, not the Mets, who on Saturday traded minor league pitchers J.T. Ginn and Adam Oller to Oakland for righty starter Chris Bassitt, an All-Star last season and a top-10 finisher in each of the last two American League Cy Young votes.
Bassitt had the lowest ERA (3.15) and FIP (3.34) of anyone in a good Oakland rotation last year, giving up only 15 homers in 157.1 innings. He becomes the No. 3 starter in a rotation led by Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. That’s excellent consolation for Yusei Kikuchi and his 4.97 ERA in three seasons with Seattle opting to go to the Blue Jays as a free agent.
And in relief, the Mets now have a secret weapon: Familia in Philadelphia. And 15 years after trading Brogna for Jordan and Borland, they’ve also got a darn good first baseman that they’re holding onto in Pete Alonso.
There are still enough free agents and trades available for the Mets to bork it up, but for now, it’s the Phillies who have assumed the NL East’s mantle of WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? from their fans.