Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Evan Phillips has been one of the most trusted options out of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen over the past two seasons and his ascension from unknown reliever to closer makes him a key piece for manager Dave Roberts.
While Phillips owns a 2.11 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 64 strikeouts over 59.2 innings pitched this year, he’s been mired in somewhat of a rough patch during parts of September.
On September 11 against the San Diego Padres, he surrendered two home runs, and although the four runs that crossed were unearned, Phillips never looked comfortable on the mound. In five relief appearance since, Phillips has allowed opposing hitters to reach base at a .417 clip while surrendering a 47.6% hard-hit rate.
“I think with Evan, the last couple years the cutter in to lefties has been a big weapon for him,” Roberts recently said. “Able to get that ball coming in on the hands, and right now it’s backing up. Versus right, the sweeper has been really good. I just think right now he’s a tick off.
“I don’t know if it’s mechanical. I know he’s frustrated, but I still have all the confidence in him to figure it out as we go forward.”
Of his 59 appearances, 26 have been save opportunities, and Phillips has successfully converted 23 of them. He has just one blown save since the All-Star break.
The right-hander hasn’t changed any of his pitch usage, still relying on a primary mix of a sweeper, cutter, four-seam fastball and sinker. Phillips is allowing a .114 batting average on the sweeper, a pitch that has been key in getting right-handed hitters out.
Against lefties, however, is where the cut-fastball is key. But it is also where his most sizable struggles have come, because in 2023, he’s allowing a .283 batting average and a .450 slugging percentage on the cutter.
Roberts noted that the Dodgers front office is privy to the data showing Phillips has struggled to land the cutter to lefties, putting him in quite the bind.
What can the Dodgers expect from Evan Phillips in the postseason?
Looking ahead to the playoffs, Phillips figures to be the Dodgers’ top one option out of the bullpen. As he’s been all season, while not specifically tabbed the team’s closer, he leads them in save opportunities.
But what makes Phillips special to this relief core is his ability to pitch in any spot necessary, and not just in a save situation. He’s been exceptional at avoiding handing out the free pass, grading out in the 90th percentile in walk rate this season.
Although he’s made just five postseason appearances, Roberts can feel confident knowing that Phillips has a clean sheet in playoff baseball. Over 6.1 innings pitched since 2021, he’s held opponents to just two hits, without allowing a run.
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