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Why Has Reliever Tommy Hunter Been So Bad This Season?

Tommy hunter

The 2018 Phillies are one of baseball’s biggest surprises, engineering a massive turnaround that has put them atop the NL East.

The improvement can be credited in part the progression of the organizations young prospects and  their offseason additions of Carlos Santana and Jake Arrietta.

However, one player Matt Klentak added has not done anything but give fans in the Delaware Valley heart palpitations: Tommy Hunter. It was believed that former Rangers, Orioles, and Rays reliever would give the Phils a reliable set-up man.

Instead, Hunter has been one of the biggest offseason blunders in recent memory this side of Adam Eaton.

Hunter’s ERA rose to 4.80 last night when he came in relief of Nick Pivetta, and promptly allowed a home run to Jace Pederson.

Why has Hunter struggled since coming to the Phillies? One issue could be the switching of leagues. He’s almost spent his entire career in the American League, sans a brief stop with the Cubs in 2015 (which he struggled.) However, this is really more of an issue if the reverse was true: pitchers going from the National League to the American League often struggle with the Designated Hitter.

Another reason is Hunter’s hamstring injury during Spring Training. Soft-tissue injuries tend to linger and it is possible Hunter is pitching through pain. Although, the team was highly cautious with Pat Neshek while he suffered an injury, so it would be ridiculous for the team to mishandle Hunter.

However, Hunter’s issues this season go back to his issues with consistency and expectation. Hunter was very good for a Rays team last season that was mediocre last season (and did not attract many fans.) On the flip side, he was awful for a Cubs team that was pushing for a World Series in 2015.

When he signed with the Phillies, he was expected to be the team’s set-up man, judging by his price tag of $18 million over two seasons. Even though he’s been usurped of that role by pitchers such as Edubray Ramos, Victor Arano, and Seranthony Dominguez, he still struggles in key situations for the Phillies.

For some baseball people, the reliever was too inconsistent to warrant the contract the Phillies paid him this offseason. According to Jayson Stark, who was on the Mike Missanelli program this past year, one of Hunter’s former employers felt he was the biggest overpay of the offseason. 

So far, I can’t say that they are wrong.

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