Phelps Returning to 2016 Form

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Bullpen depth was the focus of the Miami Marlins this off-season. However, some of the regulars from last season have faced some early struggles.

The Miami Marlins felt that they had a good building block to create a deep bullpen to help shorten games leading into the 2017 season. The pen returning from last season was closer A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, Nick Wittgren, Jose Urena, David Phelps, and Dustin McGowan.

With the numbers that all of these relievers put up last season, it was thought that adding in veteran relief in Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler would result in an elite bullpen. The bullpen of the Fish has been good, but not nearly elite.

While starters have not been going deep into games, it has required the bullpen to work extra hard. The slow start for the starting rotation has also put the bullpen in a few tight situations with inherited runners.  Phelps has been possibly the most disappointing out of the group.

What is wrong with Phelps?

Phelps, now entering his sixth season in the big leagues, has started this season off a bit rough. Starting the season with 11 innings pitched, Phelps has already given up nine earned runs and three deep balls. In comparison, last season Phelps gave up six homers all year.

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So what is different about Phelps this year? Short answer, nothing. Phelps came back ready to pitch and in excellent physical condition. Control has not been an issue as Phelps has only given up two walks.

To further illustrate that Phelps is still in control let’s look at a few stats. For the purposes of control we will compare last season’s K/9 and BB/9. Last season Phelps gave up 3.9 BB/9 and 11.8 K/9. This season, so far, Phelps is throwing 1.6 BB/9 and 10.6 K/9. So the control is still there.

Phelps’ aggravation became apparent in a recent article by Tim Healey of the Sun Sentinel. Phelps said:

"“It’s getting to the point where it’s embarrassing.”"

While Phelps’ control is still there, he has had trouble leaving the ball over the plate. This has been the key to his increased amount of long balls.

We finally got a glimpse of the Phelps from last year in the final game of the series against the Padres. Phelps pitched a perfect inning retiring all three batters he faced and striking out one. This coming after an outing where he gave up four earned runs over the course of one inning.

Next: Going Deeper in Games

I will continue to remain optimistic, it is still early in the season. Eventually the ship will right itself and we should begin to see Phelps return to last season’s form.