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2023 Dodgers in review: Evan Phillips

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Dodgers vs Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the NLDS Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

We’ve reached our 70th and final player review of the 2023 Dodgers season, and it’s only fitting we turn to closer Evan Phillips to finish things out.

Phillips has been a steadying force at the back end of the Dodgers bullpen even since he was claimed off waivers from the Rays in August 2021. During his two-plus seasons in Los Angeles, Phillips ranks second in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings with a 1.74 ERA, and his 0.832 WHIP is best.

2023 was more of the same excellence from Phillips, as he allowed runs in consecutive outings only twice, and allowed more than one earned run in just four of his 62 appearances.

But his year wasn’t without its challenges. Phillips was one of seven Dodgers who welcomed a new child during the season, spending five days on paternity leave in April. But his son Beau was born seven weeks early, and had to spend a few weeks in ICU at the hospital after his birth. Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic wrote a great story on Father’s Day, detailing that time for Phillips:

By the time he got back on the mound, thrown into the sixth inning of a game the Dodgers were trailing, Phillips found his mind veering.

“I’d be pitching out there and thinking about him and my wife,” Phillips said. “I think the team kind of got a sense I was still locked into what was going on at home.”

The Dodgers deployed Phillips in lower-leverage situations before the club returned home. “I think (manager Dave Roberts) was aware of my headspace,” Phillips said.

That appearance in the sixth inning was in Pittsburgh on April 25, the only game he pitched in a 10-day span surrounding Beau’s birth.

Phillips had excellent credentials per usual in 2023, though he didn’t make his first All-Star team despite a sub-2.00 ERA at the time rosters were announced. Phillips had 12 saves, lower than his cohorts who were named to National League rosters. Players elected Alexis Díaz, Josh Hader, and Camilo Doval to the team. Devin Williams was a pick by the league office and was the only Brewers representative. David Bednar and Craig Kimbrel were later named as injury replacements. Those relievers at the break had the top five NL save totals, with Kimbrel eighth at 14 saves, two more than Phillips.

As an aside, at least the process gave us Bednar, the Pirates closer, giving Clayton Kershaw — the injured pitcher he replaced on the All-Star team — an ice chest full of beers as a thank you, since he received the news while Pittsburgh was at Dodger Stadium.

Perhaps as a coincidental twist of fate, on that very night, July 4, Bednar got the win by recording the final five outs of the game, while Phillips took the loss with an uncharacteristic three-run ninth inning.

Phillips the rest of the month did not allow another run, nor did he walk a batter. Through the rest of the season, Phillips had a 1.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts against only four walks in 26⅓ innings.

Opponents hit just .177/.233/.302 against Phillips this season. Right-handers had no chance against him, hitting only .131/.191/.215 against him with a 35.3-percent strikeout rate.

Phillips kept the good vibes rolling into the postseason, even though the Dodgers offered him no leads to protect. He pitched two scoreless outings in the NLDS and recorded five outs. In his three postseasons with the Dodgers, Phillips has allowed no runs in 8⅔ innings in his seven playoff games, with 15 strikeouts.

2023 particulars

Age: 28

Stats: 2.05 ERA, 3.14 x ERA, 3.16 FIP, 24 saves, 61⅓ IP, 13 BB, 66 K, 1.7 bWAR, 1.2 fWAR

Salary: $1.3 million

Game of the year

Phillips didn’t factor into the decision on June 15, but he kept the Dodgers alive in an extra-inning battle against the White Sox in Los Angeles. Phillips pitched scoreless frames in the ninth and 10th innings to keep the game tied, in his longest game of the year.

He also struck out a season-high four batters, including getting Eloy Jiménez swinging with runners on second and third base to end the 10th inning.

The Dodgers won the game in the 11th inning.

Roster status

Phillips has three years, 136 days of major league service time, and is eligible for salary arbitration for the second time. Jeff Euston at Cot’s Baseball Contracts projects a 2024 salary of $3.1 million for Phillips, while the folks at MLB Trade Rumors predict $3.4 million.