Matt Gelb here, still taking you through the January doldrums...
Now it's time to dissect. Besides Manuel's hint at something resembling a plan to develop Cole Hamels' curveball by having him throw it early and often in spring training, I think the most illuminating comments came about the team's two new bullpen acquisitions -- Danys Baez and Jose Contreras. And many of you e-mailers this morning agree with me.
Of course, Contreras is not officially signed yet (he still needs to pass a physical), Manuel sort of let the cat out of the bag on that one. Here is part of Manuel's answer when asked if he is concerned about the bullpen:
"[Brad] Lidge and [J.C.] Romero will play a huge part in our bullpen," Manuel said. "We definitely have to get them back and 100 percent. But we picked up two guys and both of these guys I know, Baez and Contreras. We've got two guys, if they're sore, stiff or they have a headache, they'll pitch. And I know they'll pitch. Both of these guys are mentally tough guys. If these two guys tell me they're hurt, they're hurt. And that makes me feel good. I know both of them could pitch two innings. And they'll take the ball every time I want to give it to them. I know Baez will not turn the ball down. I was very happy when we got both of these guys."
Was Manuel taking a thinly veiled shot at Chan Ho Park?
That's what a few of you readers e-mailed this morning. When Manuel was finished lauding Baez and Contreras, I couldn't help but think the same thing. Park is still unsigned and indications are he's looking for a chance to become a starter again somewhere. Did he fully embrace being a middle reliever last season? He certainly succeeded at it for the majority of the time, but Manuel's comments could open the door to questioning Park's willingness to accept what comes with the role.
So let's go to the numbers.
Last season, Park was converted from a starter to reliever in late May. He pitched out of the bullpen exclusively in 2008 for Los Angeles. And in two years with 87 relief appearances, Park pitched on back-to-back days just 10 times.
There are a few factors here: Park spent half of 2008 as a long reliever, thus appearances on back-to-back days wouldn't make sense. And he did need some time in 2009 to transition into a middle reliever.
In 38 relief appearances with the Phillies, Park pitched on consecutive days five times. Let's compare to the entire bullpen in 2009:
Park (38 games): 5 games (13.1%) on 0 days rest, 7.2 IN, 2.35 ERA, 4/0 K/BB
Scott Eyre (42 games): 7 games (16.7%) on 0 days rest, 3.1 IN, 0.00 ERA, 1/2 K/BB
Clay Condrey (45 games): 14 games (31.1%) on 0 days rest, 11 IN, 3.27 ERA, 9/2 K/BB
Chad Durbin (59 games): 10 games (16.9%) on 0 days rest, 11 IN, 4.91 ERA, 6/4 K/BB
J.C. Romero (21 games): 5 games (23.8%) on 0 days rest, 2.2 IN, 3.38 ERA, 1/4 K/BB
Ryan Madson (79 games): 29 games (36.7%) on 0 days rest, 28.1 IN, 2.86 ERA, 32/2 K/BB
Brad Lidge (67 games): 21 games (31.3%) on 0 days rest, 17.1 IN, 9.87 ERA, 18/9 K/BB
An aside: Madson's numbers on consecutive days are stunning. Condrey's aren't half bad, either.
Out of the regulars, Park pitched the smallest percentage of games on consecutive days. A warning: Usage statistics are hard to quantify. A lot depends on situations, the manager's preference and roles. But if Manuel's comments and prior tendencies are any sign, he wants a middle reliever who he can rely on every day -- even if he doesn't use him every day. Trust is a huge factor. And what manager doesn't want that?
Manuel was high in his praise of Baez and Contreras being available every day. Let's look at their usage trends from 2009:
Baez (59 games): 5 games (8.5%) on 0 days rest, 5.1 IN, 3.38 ERA, 2/0 K/BB
Contreras (5 games): 2 games (40%) on 0 days rest, 2 IN, 0.00 ERA, 1/2 K/BB
First, with respect to Contreras, he has rarely been a full-time reliever, the role the Phillies are likely to ask him to fill in 2010. He has pitched in 191 career games -- but just 16 as a reliever. And most of those have been as a long man, not in middle relief. So, for now, we'll have to take Manuel's assertion that Contreras will be available every day so long as he is healthy with a grain of salt. Contreras has never had to do it on a regular basis.
Now, to Baez. He missed the entire 2008 season with an elbow injury. That could explain the low percentage of outings on consecutive days. Here are his career figures:
Baez (427 games): 97 games (22.7%) on 0 days rest, 98.1 IN, 3.84 ERA, 73/33 K/BB
That percentage is closer to what Manuel is envisioning. During Baez's introductory news conference earlier this month, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said there was little concern about Baez's durability and the team felt he could pitch on back-to-back days with more than one inning at times.
So while Manuel is excited about the durability of his two new relievers, the numbers suggest to temper those expectations. But given Baez will now be two years removed from the injury and Contreras can focus on being a middle reliever full time, the trends could change.