Connor Brogdon Could Be a Spark Plug out of Phillies Bullpen

MLB: SEP 20 Blue Jays at Phillies
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 20: Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Connor Brogdon (75) throws during the Major League Baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Toronto Blue Jays on September 20, 2020 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

When you think of reasons why the Phillies are off to such a hot start, many would point to a seemingly revitalized bullpen as one of the key factors. Following a season in which the bullpen plagued the Phillies all year long, costing them game after game, the relief efforts have been much better to begin this season. One of the primary players responsible for the quick turnaround is right-hander Connor Brogdon– who is experiencing quite the resurgence in his own right. 

Brogdon’s Phillies’ Journey

Brogdon, 26, is most famously known for his less than ideal welcome to the big leagues. Last season, in his MLB debut, Brogdon gave up a towering home run on his first-ever big-league pitch. Brogdon would go on to allow four hits, five runs, three walks, and three home runs while striking out three in just 2 2/3 innings before being optioned to an alternate site. 

It was there that Brogdon was forced to regain and rebuild his confidence. Having already undergone perhaps the worst-case scenario by getting shelled to begin his big-league career, Brogdon adopted the short-term memory mindset relievers successful relievers pride themselves on. 

After being promoted to the major league roster once again in late September, Brogdon flashed a bit of brilliance to round out the shortened 2020 season. In his final 8 ⅔ innings pitched, the young right-hander struck out 14 batters and allowed just one hit. 

Increased confidence and a revived fastball seemed to be the remedy for his quick turnaround. The same has held true so far this season. In three relief appearances thus far, Brogdon has allowed just four baserunners and has yet to allow a run. His fastball has consistently registered in the upper 90s. Along with this, the cutter he spent the offseason refining has given batters fits as well. 

Making Phillies’ History

Additionally, in a strange turn of events, Brogdon has managed to record the win in each of his appearances thus far. The impressive feat makes him the 13th pitcher to record three wins through his team’s first six games. This also makes him the first-ever Phillie to do so. 

While I doubt Brogdon is concerned with his win-loss record too much, he is likely encouraged by his ability to keep runners off base. All season long, Brogdon has been fearless in his bouts against opposing batters. Here, he is rarely offering up mistakes that turn into hits. 

Brogdon’s 2021 So Far

What been most impressive is Brogdon’s ability to command his pitches and locate them in tough spots for the hitter. We’ve seen examples of this in each outing thus far but let’s begin with his work on Opening Day

With the game in extra-innings, Brogdon was called upon to preserve the tie at the top of the tenth inning. As if the stakes weren’t already high enough, he’d have to do so with a runner on second base. Along with this, the reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman as his first batter faced. Brogdon didn’t flinch and instead relied on his changeup to force a rare weak groundout from Freeman. 

Brogdon’s Command

The next play will likely be remembered for the strong throw and outfield assist by Roman Quinn to prevent a run. However, that play wouldn’t be possible if not for the great pitch command of Brogdon. After doing a good job to get ahead in the count, Brogdon darts a 95 MPH heater on the inside corner to jam Marcell Ozuna. This forced a pop-up that ended in an out.

Despite only being in his sophomore season, Brogdon seems incredibly poised on the mound. Unlike last year, his nerves aren’t getting the best of him and he is letting it fly with ease. Watch how easily he located his fastball and painted the outside corners in his last outing against the Mets.

Whew! These are not easy pitches to make, folks. Brogdon is quickly becoming a go-to option out of the bullpen and for good reason. His fastball/changeup combination is absolutely lethal. Mix this with a developing cutter to boot, he has no shortage of options to retire batters with ease.

It’s early, but the Phillies have to be loving what they’ve seen from the hard-throwing reliever thus far. This is especially true after such a rocky start to his career. If he keeps this up, he may earn one of the more desired, latter-inning “roles” Phillies’ skipper Joe Girardi is working to establish this year.