With all the praise laid at the feet of a high-scoring offense and rejuvenated rotation, it was time to celebrate a Phillies bullpen that has been steady all season long.
A while back, Beerleaguer regular RickSchuBlues made a motion to forbid posters from complaining about Charlie Manuel’s bullpen use until further notice.
Today, that motion should be passed into law.
On paper, there isn’t an official in baseball who would endorse Aaron Fultz and the rest of the Phillies’ bullpen, yet over the course of this season, it’s the one area the team has been able to count on. They have been among the top National League bullpens all season in ERA, and have dropped anchor over this past month. Here are the August numbers:
For two seasons, bullpen use represents the single biggest complaint about Manuel by posters on this site. It can be traced back to games two and three of the 2005 season when Tim Worrell blew back-to-back games.
The beef continues today, alleging Manuel too often uses the wrong guy in the wrong situation, takes them out too early, or leaves them in too long. They say he’s too strict in his bullpen assignments.
Some complaints are justifiable, but after two seasons, that last part – his bullpen assignments – should be seen as nothing but a true strength. Frankly, the talent isn't all that great, yet Manuel has established a system that allows pitchers to pitch up to their capability. He knows what they can and can't do, and uses them accordingly.
Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary represent the heart and soul of the bullpen under Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. Fultz signed as a minor league free agent last season and barely made the team. He has been nothing short of rock-solid ever since. Look at Geary, a short right-hander on pace to pitch 85-plus innings. Hard to believe he was optioned twice since the start of '05. All he's done is mature into the team’s most durable middle reliever.
The latest additions are starting to make GM Pat Gillick look good. Rick White, scooped off the scrap pile after his hometown Cincinnati Reds left him out with the trash, has shut the door this month, usually in big innings. Fabio Castro, just 21, hasn't allowed a run.
Manuel and Dubee can only play with the hand they’re dealt, yet they’re stealing the pot almost every night. Don’t forget those who were traded in for better cards. Rheal Cormier left with an ERA under 2.00. Even Ryan Franklin found some purpose.
This afternoon, Franklin and Cormier are busy helping the Reds lose.