The 2017 Philadelphia Phillies ended the season with a pretty ugly record of 66-96. It might not look good on the surface, but for those of us that stuck it out all year with this team, we know that the Phillies staying under 100 losses was somewhat of a success.
The first half of the campaign saw almost everything go wrong; the Phils had a 29-58 record prior to the All-Star break. If they kept at this pace after the midsummer classic, they would have ended up with well over 100 losses. Things changed in the second half for this team, though, as they saw young players such as Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, and more make a name for themselves once they were given the call to the big leagues. Aaron Altherr established himself and Odubel Herrera proved that his extension was a good idea.
With a second half record of 37-38, this team played around .500 ball for the latter half of the season, which if you were sitting there at the end of the first half thinking that this was possible, you might have seemed crazy.
A lot has been made about the success of the offense throughout the second half of the season and the potential that they have shown, but an area where the Phils were vastly improved during their second half of games was in the bullpen.
The group of young arms consisting of Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner, Edubray Ramos, and Mark Leiter Jr. kept the Phillies in most games during their decent second half run and were a big reason why they were able to end the season on a relatively good note.
Closer Hector Neris was the biggest beneficiary of this group’s success, as he did more than enough to solidify himself as a legit closer in this league. From June 28th to the end of the season, Neris was a perfect 20/20 in save opportunities and had a 1.37 ERA in those save situations.
Luis Garcia, who has been up and down the Phillies system for several years now, finally lived up to his potential, as he shut down the opposition for the better part of his season, but especially down the stretch in the last couple months. Through his final 46 games, he had a 2.03 ERA, including a 1.61 ERA in the final 23 games of that stretch. He showed that he’s more than just a radar gun, as he finally translated that power arm into success.
Hoby Milner, who luckily was given back to the Phillies after being taken by the Indians in this past year’s Rule 5 Draft, was an instant hit for the Phillies after he made his MLB debut on June 24th. His 2.01 ERA this season was the lowest by a Phillies reliever (min. 30 IP) since 2012. The Phillies might have found that lefty specialist that they have long sought after for several years now.
Edubray Ramos’ season was a tale of two halves, as he was subsequently demoted to AAA Lehigh Valley for a period of time after his miserable first half . After his return from the Iron Pigs in August, though, he showed that he was able to work out his kinks down on the farm and turned it into a very good end to his season. He had a 0.93 ERA in his final 16 appearances of the year, and he ended up with 11.71 K/9 for the season, the 7th-highest ever by a Phillies reliever. If he can put a full season together, he can solidify himself as a bullpen piece for this team for the long haul.
Mark Leiter Jr. ended up starting more games towards the end of the season, but with young arms like Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez likely returning to the rotation next season, he will likely find himself as the long man in this bullpen in 2018. This is by no means a demotion, though, as he enjoyed a lot of success out of the ‘pen for the 2017 Phils. He had multiple long outings out of the bullpen in which he racked up strikeouts at an alarming rate. On August 5th, he came out of the bullpen against the Rockies to go 4.1 IP while surrendering no runs, just 2 hits, and striking out an outstanding 9 batters in that outing. His next appearance was 5 days later, also out of the bullpen, against the Mets on August 10th. He went 5 innings in that game surrendering just 1 run and 4 hits, while striking out 7 batters. He had 5 outings during the season out of the ‘pen in which he went 3 or more innings. He has done more than enough to earn himself the long relief role in 2018.
I saved the best for last, as I have notoriously been a hater of this guy for a very, very long time. I must say, though, good old Adam Morgan had himself a very good last few months. Over his final 21 appearances in which Morgan was seen in numerous roles out of the ‘pen such as long man, set-up man, and lefty specialist, Morgan enjoyed a 1.69 ERA in his final 21 appearances of the season. His transformation was something no one saw coming, especially this writer. Let’s hope that this is a permanent turnaround because it was a very pleasant surprise.
With the combination of a promising young offense to go along with a bullpen on the rise, the addition of solid starting pitching will make this team legit. If the ‘pen can carry their late season success over to the beginning of 2018 and beyond, this team could look a lot more like what they showed in the second half of last season as opposed to their putrid first half.
I’d say going from a 66-96 team in 2017 to a record right around .500 in 2018 is not very far out of reach. Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully they’re better than .500, but let’s not bite off more than we can chew here, guys. Lets get ourselves a manager first and then we will start pumping up our predictions. Trust the process.
All stats via @phillies on Instagram
Photo: Alex Tsai via Flickr