A key silver lining as Phillies' season was going up in flames


The 2020 Phillies had a historically bad bullpen, the kind we'll revisit for a few decades whenever a bullpen struggles close to this degree.

"Hey, remember those two months in 2020 when the Phillies blew a lead every night?"

With all that went wrong, they at least found a building block in Connor Brogdon, a 6-6 right-handed reliever who has dominated major-league hitters all month.

This is Brogdon's line over the last two weeks:

  • 8⅔ innings
  • 1 hit
  • 0 runs
  • 2 walks
  • 14 strikeouts

He's struck out the side in both games of the Rays series. His fastball has sat 97-98 mph after averaging 95 in his first taste of the bigs, two rocky outings in August.

Tellingly, Phillies manager Joe Girardi has turned to Brogdon in crucial situations on back-to-back nights with the season on the line. Brogdon pitched the seventh inning of a tie game Friday and the ninth inning of a game the Phillies trailed by one run Saturday. He was one of their only trustworthy relievers down the stretch, maybe their only.

In the two games at Tropicana Field, the Rays swung at 15 pitches from Brogdon and whiffed at 10. Three of his strikeouts came on changeups, three on four-seam fastballs. There was a 10 to 12 mph difference in the velocity of those two pitches in Tampa, a meaningful number for the disruption of a hitter's timing.

Brogdon will factor into this bullpen's future in a big way. He could open next season in the mix for work in the seventh or eighth inning.

There are no locks to return in this bullpen beyond the inexpensive, young, team-controlled relievers like Brogdon and JoJo Romero. Hector Neris could be back at $7 million if the Phillies pick up his option. David Phelps could be back at $4.5 million if the Phils pick up his option. Jose Alvarez will be a free agent. Adam Morgan and Vince Velasquez are set to go through the arbitration process for the final time.

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