From footnote to stalwart: what a difference twelve months make.
In 2021, Evan John Phillips was the answer to a trivia question as one of the last additions to the bullpen. There is no joking anymore — everyone knows who the stalwart of the Dodgers bullpen in 2022 was, especially after Daniel Hudson went down for the year. One would be forgiven if Phillips leaned into the “Say my name (I’m Heisenberg)” meme on team dress-up day.
He did not; he dressed up as Waldo — ruining a perfectly good segue.
Evan Phillips started the season with the major league club and never looked back.
His first appearance of the year in Colorado was arguably his worst where he gave up a two-run homer to Elias Diaz. His ERA was 18.00 in the purest example of a small sample size. Phillips’ ERA dropped like a stone for the rest of the year, not giving up another run until the Tigers dropped a three-spot on him to break a streak of seven scoreless outings.
After that April 30 game, Phillips gave up three earned runs for the rest of the year covering 55 outings. The last run he gave up in 2022 was on September 4 when he gave up a run against the Padres in Los Angeles. And yet, when the Dodgers needed him most, he was watching from the bullpen, but that act is a decision that is covered in another series.
Phillips was so ridiculous in the best possible way in 2022, he had himself a hidden perfect game. On August 6th, Phillips walked Juan Soto and then gave up a single to Manny Machado. For the rest of the month, Phillips faced 29 batters and got them all out until Jurickson Profar broke up the streak on September 4.
In many ways, it is almost impossible to overstate just how reliable and productive Phillips was in 2022. He gave only 33 hits all year in 63 innings of work. He only gave up two home runs all year, the last of which was on May 26 in Phoenix. Per Baseball Savant, Phillips relied mostly on his slider (44.2 percent) followed by his cutter (26.9 percent) in 2022.
You would think for a man that led the team with 64 appearances, I would be inundated with photographs and videos of Young Master Phillips. Oddly enough, for the 18 Dodgers games where I was present, he only pitched in five of them, one of which I did not see because it was the “Garrett Cleavinger wears a rain delay game in the freezing rain of Minneapolis” in April. However, I did get to see Phillips pitch three times in his run of absolute dominance in August.
In fact, much like his costume choice of Waldo, I kept finding Phillips with my camera when he was not on the mound. But there is one personal anecdote about Phillips that is worth sharing: the “indestructibility” of his knee.
On August 15, in Milwaukee, after the lovely Mookie Betts moment that was caught on film but two days before David Vassegh had his infamous encounter with Bernie’s Slide, I was watching the game with my mother. In the bottom of the eighth, against Christian Yelich on an 0-2 count, Yelich hit a comebacker off of Phillips’ knee that deflected to Freddie Freeman, who beat Yelich to first for the out.
For about a minute, there was unease for every Dodger fan in attendance and those watching at home, as the trainers and Dave Roberts checked on Phillips. He was fine; if anything, he looked annoyed at the attention. That incident was as close as any Brewer got to reaching base against Phillips in that series.
Evan Phillips said the chopper got him in the inside of his left knee. Feels okay right now after receiving treatment and didn’t seem worried about it.— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) August 16, 2022
Phillips continued to bring his reliability in the Dodgers’ truncated postseason, throwing 3⅓ innings of shutout ball, with his only baserunners allowed (one hit, one walk) in the Game 1 victory. Phillips struck out five of the next seven batters that he would face to end his season.
Phillips made himself into a bullpen star over this season — even Justin Turner agreed.
The only question remaining for Phillips is whether he can continue this run of excellence into next season and beyond. If so, Phillips will likely become a household name inside baseball, if not beyond.
Stats: 7-3, 2 saves, 1.14 ERA, 64 G, 63 IP, 15 BB, 77 K, 0.762 WHIP, 2.8 bWAR, 2.2 fWAR
Game of the year
If we are being technical, Phillips’ “perfect game” in August, encompassing nine appearances, would easily win the honor. This feat was only eclipsed by the 42 batters in a row that Clayton Kershaw bested while I was in attendance. But as only I would consider that valid, let us instead go with August 30 against the Mets, where Jake Reed had his first career save, enabled by Phillips retiring his 27th, 28th, and 29th batters in a row on 11 pitches.
Phillips has two years, 136 days of major league service time, and is eligible for arbitration for the first time, projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $1.4 million in 2023. Phillips is out of options.