Should the Phillies shake up the bullpen? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Phillies' return to the postseason after an 11-year absence is also the first season in recent memory that the team had a bullpen that could be described as reliable. Considering Phillies relievers had the worst collective ERA in 90 years just two seasons ago, it's a quantum leap.
Along with its reliability, the team's relief corps also gives manager Rob Thomson a great deal of versatility. The bullpen has four players with experience pitching in high-leverage spots, and three who have pitched as the full-time closer for his team at some point in their career. Eight different players on the active roster have registered a save this season.
While Thomson could use different pitchers based on leverage and situations, it's important to set the roles for a bullpen as the Wild Card series against the Cardinals looms. He can go a number of ways with this stable of relievers, but I think this will be the best use of the bullpen going forward.
Closer - Jose Alvarado
He hasn't had a ton of experience as a closer - just seven saves in two seasons in a Phillies uniform - but right now, he is the most unhittable pitcher on the team, and has been one of the best relievers in the game down the stretch. After August 1st, Alvarado allowed just one run, and 12 total baserunners in 21 innings. An ERA of 0.43, with opponents amassing an OPS of .329. His platoon splits are nearly mirror images; lefties are hitting .105, righties .122 over the last two months.
8th inning - Zach Eflin/Brad Hand
Hand last pitched on September 20th, but there's a chance he will return from a sore elbow and be available for Friday's Game 1. He felt good pitching to live hitters Wednesday, and if he responds well, he's likely to be on the roster.
As for Eflin, he's been a pleasant surprise addition to the bullpen since returning from his knee injury, allowing just four hits in 7.2 innings down the stretch. He has stuff that can miss bats, as well as pitches that induce weak contact, plus the stamina to give Thomson more than one inning if needed.
7th inning - Seranthony Dominguez/David Robertson
Both Dominguez and Robertson have been effective in the closer's role for the Phillies this season. Unfortunately, they currently have something else in common: serious problems with their command. Since his IL stint in August, Dominguez has allowed eight walks (and ten hits) in seven innings of work.
Robertson, who acted as closer when Dominguez was shelved, hasn't been much better over the past month with his control. Over his last 15 appearances, he walked 13 batters in 15.1 innings, and blowing half of his save opportunities. Neither is pitching well enough right now to use too deep into games.
It's a bit of a shake-up from what we've seen from the bullpen throughout the season. But this team doesn't do anything easy. It's the playoffs. Let's get weird.