The Phillies enter play Friday looking to stay in the playoff hunt after losing 10 of their last 15 games.
They’re also chasing history. Or rather, history appears to be chasing them.
Philadelphia is on pace to finish the season with a 7.17 bullpen ERA, the highest MLB has seen since… the Phillies posted an 8.01 mark in 1930. Only two teams have ever finished with a bullpen ERA above 7.00, the other being the 1936 St. Louis Browns (7.01).
Of course, the Phillies are playing far fewer games in 2020 than they would in a typical season, leaving room for extreme results in small sample sizes. They’re also not alone on that dubious leaderboard: Three teams are on pace this season to finish with one of the 10 worst bullpen ERAs in MLB history.
But Philadelphia’s bullpen woes have been costing the team wins, which could once again leave the club on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Following their 10-6 loss to the Mets on Thursday that saw closer Brandon Workman blow a save by allowing four runs in the ninth, the Phillies are 24-25 on the season and sit in the eighth and final NL playoff spot with 11 games left on the schedule.
NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst and former Phillies reliever Ricky Bottalico called their inability to put together an effective bullpen “a little comical.”
“It’s a little bit ridiculous what’s going on right now,” Bottalico said on Phillies Postgame Live. “This is what you have right now. They’re not changing pitchers, there’s nowhere for them to go. There’s no more ponds to fish in for anybody this year. [General manager] Matt Klentak put this bullpen together and this is what you have. Why do you think every time [manager Joe] Girardi comes on he says, ‘Well, I have to deal with what I have.’ The Phillies are playing themselves out of a playoff spot.”
The Phillies have missed the playoffs each of the past eight seasons. They went 81-81 last year, marking their highest win total since going 81-81 in 2012. A lengthy rebuild was expected to turn the team into a contender in 2019, when they signed former NL MVP Bryce Harper and traded for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. But they are now in danger of back-to-back disappointing finishes despite high payrolls.
There is still time for the Phillies to string a few wins together and make it back to the playoffs. However, the bullpen would need to make a miraculous turnaround to avoid becoming the third team in MLB history to reach the 7.00 mark.