Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Martin injury a bigger hit to bullpen, starting depth still an issue

The biggest impact of any injury to Ethan Martin -- the power righty left yesterday's game with diminished velocity and shoulder soreness and is scheduled to see a doctor -- would likely fall on the Phillies' bullpen instead of their rotation.

Martin injury a bigger hit to bullpen, starting depth still an issue

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)
(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The biggest impact of any injury to Ethan Martin -- the power righty left yesterday's game with diminished velocity and shoulder soreness and is scheduled to see a doctor -- would likely fall on the Phillies' bullpen instead of their rotation. 

Let's not forget why Martin ended up in the bullpen last year. Sure, he'd look good for a few innings, then get clobbered. But it wasn't an endurance issue. Rather, he did not have the command of his secondary stuff necessary to keep hitters off balance during his second, third, etc. times through the order. Of the 143 sliders he threw last year, 45 percent were called as balls. Same goes for his change up (49 percent called for balls) and curveball (59 percent called for balls). His fastball was called a ball 36 percent of the time. Martin is 25 years old and has five years of professional baseball under his belt. There's a pretty good chance he was going to end up in the bullpen, where he made seven appearances last season, allowing three runs and four walks with 11 strikeouts in seven innings.

As a reliever, Martin held opposing batters to a .185/.290/.333 line, which is similar to his line as a starter against batters the first time through the order (.222/.296/.333). Once hitters calibrated themselves to his fastball, they feasted, to the tune of .306/.404/.551 their second time against him, and .364/.533/.955 their third time against him. Those are HS softball numbers. But the important thing was his success in his first time facing them. That, to me, along with the blistering nature of his fastball, was an indication that he had a decent chance to be a very good sixth and/or seventh inning reliever in front of Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo.

Of the 70 starts Kyle Kendrick has made over the last three seasons, 27 have lasted fewer than six innings, and 13 have lasted fewer than five. Of the 59 starts that Roberto Hernandez has made over the last three seasons, 20 have lasted fewer than six innings, and 11 have lasted fewer than five. Those are your No. 4 and No. 5 starters at this point. 

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Would it make sense for the Phillies to explore bringing in somebdoy like Joe Saunders, who is still a free agent? Sure, if they can fit it into their payroll. Starting pitching depth is a huge issue, given the unknown that is Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, and the shoulder soreness that Jonathan Pettibone is just now working his way back from. If the season started tomorrow, and the Phillies needed a fifth starter, it would probably be David Buchanan, at least until Cole Hamels was ready to rejoin the rotation.

But, chances are, Martin's value to the club was going to come as a back-up to guys like Kendrick and Hernandez, a pitcher who could step into the game in the fifth or sixth inning or seventh inning and keep a 5-3 deficit from blowing up into a 9-3 deficit. 

At this point, the Phillies have Papelbon, Bastardo and Jake Diekman as their slim-lead-preservers, but a whole lot of unknowns after that. Adams hopes to be recovered from shoulder surgery at some point in April, but it's always hard to count on a guy coming back from shoulder surgery. Brad Lincoln will be a very important guy. After that, it's a whole lot of familiar faces: Mike Stutes, Phillippe Aumont, B.J. Rosenberg, Jeremy Horst. 

That Lincoln was the Phillies only significant bullpen addition this offseason was a mild surprise. They felt they had enough young arms capable of filling the middle roles. If Martin is lost for any portion of the season, they will have one less. 

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