The bullpen as a whole has been, how shall we say, not good. Luis Garcia (24.2), Neris (24.1), Drew Hutchison (21.1), Tommy Hunter (17.2), and Yacksel Rios (17) have all been given significant opportunities. All have largely failed. Each carries an ERA above the 4.00 level of mediocrity, with four of them over or approaching the 5.00 mark.
A little more than a month ago the team promoted a lights-out reliever from the minor leagues to help right the ship. Seranthony Dominguez was dominant in stints at AA and AAA over the first six weeks. He had allowed just eight hits over 16.2 innings with a 21/3 K:BB ratio.
Dominguez quickly proved to be the Phillies best reliever. Opponents were unable to score on the 23-year old right-hander over his first dozen appearances.
To this point over his first 15 appearances, Dominguez has produced a 1.42 ERA and a 0.421 WHIP. He has surrendered just seven hits over 19 innings with a 22/1 K:BB ratio in the big leagues.
Dominguez is clearly the Phillies best option to close. But manager Gabe Kapler, a big “new age” baseball thinker, doesn’t see it that way. Kapler revealed his thought process during an interview on Sportsradio WIP on Wednesday morning.
Gabe Kapler on Seranthony Dominguez: “I just don’t think an elite reliever is best deployed in any specific inning…the most important moment of a game may be bases loaded with 2 outs in the 7th inning.” #Phillies
The problem with Kapler’s line of thinking is simple when you think about it. Sure, there are going to be times when a critical point is reached in the 6th, 7th, or 8th innings. No arguing there.
However, you can say the exact same thing about the 3rd or 4th inning. The game is a high-scoring 6-6 affair in the 4th and your starter is getting knocked around. The opposition has the bases loaded and one out. Do you bring in your best reliever then to get out of the jam?
The fact is that you need your very best reliever available as the “closer”, that hammer to nail the door shut on a game once the rest of your team has battled through eight tough innings to earn a lead.
Once you burn a Seranthony Dominguez in the earlier innings, now what do you do when the 9th rolls around and you need someone to close it out? Ahh, I know, you trust another one of your “lesser” relief pitchers who you weren’t willing to trust earlier. Brilliant!
Part of the Phillies dilemma, as I see it: they don’t want to trust the kids who are actually getting the job done over veterans who are getting paid more money and have more experience.
Kapler should be using 25-year old Edubray Ramos and 23-year old Victor Arano in the 7th and 8th innings to set up the 23-year old Dominguez for the 9th inning.
Ramos has a ridiculous 0.75 ERA mark and a low 1.167 WHIP. He has allowed just 18 hits over 24 innings with a 27/10 K:BB ratio. Arano has fashioned a 2.11 ERA and 1.031 WHIP mark, allowing just 17 hits over his 21.1 innings. He has a fine 23/5 K:BB ratio thus far.
Let the team battle through the first half-dozen innings as a whole. Use the veteran relievers to get through any tough situations that might pop up when the starters falter or tire. Then turn to the lights-out kids to hold down any leads you take into the late innings.
Despite what some try to say, baseball does not need to be reinvented constantly. What a baseball team that really wants to win needs is for the people running the ship to believe what their eyes are seeing. It request them to understand the formula that has been proven effective over decades of experience.
Seranthony Dominguez should be the Philadelphia Phillies closer right now, and hopefully for years to come. It is then up to the manager and the rest of club management to find the pieces and place them properly to get through tough innings that come up prior to the 9th rolling around.