|Philadelphia Phillies – No. 63|
January 21, 1987 |
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|May 15, 2012 for the Philadelphia Phillies|
(through July 8, 2014)
|Earned run average||3.61|
Jacob Tanner Diekman (born January 21, 1987) is an American professional baseball pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies. He throws left-handed, and is a lefty specialist in the Phillies bullpen. Diekman grew up in Wymore, Nebraska, where he attended a high school too small for a baseball team, so he instead focused on golf, playing baseball in the summer for an American Legion team. He played two seasons of baseball in college – one at Doane College the other at Cloud County Community College – before attending a junior college baseball showcase, at which he was offered a scholarship to play Division I baseball. However, in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft, the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the 30th round, and he ultimately signed.
With the Phillies, Diekman began as a starting pitcher and progressed through a few levels of the Phillies' farm system in his first two years as a starter before adjusting his mechanics, and lowering his arm slot to throw sidearm out of the bullpen as a relief pitcher. He flourished with the adjustment, moving through the remaining levels of the Phillies' farm system and, in 2012, making his major league debut. Over the next two seasons, he split time between the major league Phillies and their Triple-A (AAA) affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, though while he was with the major league team, was considered one of the "lone bright spots" in both 2012 and 2013. Diekman throws a fastball in the mid-90s (mph), a slider, and an occasional changeup; his fastball is the fastest of any left-handed pitcher in the major leagues.
Diekman's parents have been key parts of his life, especially his mother, who died soon before the Phillies drafted him, and from whom he now draws inspiration.
Born to parents Paul and Billie Diekman in 1987, Diekman, who has one brother, attended Southern High School in Wymore, Nebraska, which was too small to field a baseball team, so Diekman played golf in high school. Eventually, he joined an American Legion baseball team comprised of players from Wymore and several surrounding towns, which Diekman called "the best experience of my life ... so much fun". Concurrently, he worked full-time at a lawn mower factory to earn money to pursue post-secondary education. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Doane College, where he pitched for one season. Subsequently, he transferred to Cloud County Community College in Kansas, where he pitched during his sophomore season before attending a showcase at which, with a fastball well over 90 miles per hour (140 km/h), he drew much interest, including an offer for a full scholarship to be a Nebraska Cornhusker, which he would have accepted had the Phillies not drafted him in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft's 30th round.
Diekman was drafted by the Phillies in the 30th round of the 2007 MLB Draft. Between 2007 and 2010, he pitched in the lower levels of the Phillies' Minor League system initially as a starter, and subsequently as a reliever. Although he initially saw success in 2007, posting a 2.72 ERA in 10 starts with GCL Phillies and Williamsport Crosscutters, he struggled mightily in 2008, posting an ERA of 5.09 in 27 starts, split between Williamsport and the Lakewood Blue Claws. At the conclusion of both 2008 and 2009, he pitched in the Florida Instructional League to continue honing his skills on the mound. He converted from a starting pitcher to a reliever in 2009, along with several other Phillies pitching prospects. Around that time, he also, at the suggestion of the same minor league pitching coaches who converted him to relief, lowered his release point to his current low angle. Success did not manifest itself immediately, as he still posted a 4.04 ERA in 2009, his first season in relief, but in 2010, he cut his ERA to 2.91 while splitting time between Lakewood and the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies High-A affiliate. At the end of the 2010 season, he played for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. He spent the 2011 season with the Double-A Reading Phillies, accruing a 0–1 record and a 3.05 ERA and 3 saves in 53 games. Thereafter, the Phillies added him to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
After receiving praise from Phillies' pitching coach Rich Dubee for his performance in spring training, Diekman opened the 2012 season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. With Lehigh Valley, he posted a 1–0 record and a 0.59 ERA with 5 saves in 13 games in the season's first month. He was added to the Phillies' 25-man Major League roster on May 11, and four days later recorded a win against the Houston Astros in his MLB debut. He finished the year an established lefty specialist, and had a 3.95 ERA, though walked 6.6 batters per 9 innings, and was erratic in his control. Entering 2013, Diekman was expected to be a key part of the Phillies bullpen after his success in 2012, however he did not break camp with the big league club, beginning the season in Triple-A (AAA). In AAA, he struggled, which delayed his arrival to the major league team until June. While with the big league club, he continued his dominance of left-handed hitters, however was not as good against right-handed hitters (a 150 point differential in opponent batting average and over 300 point differential in On-base plus slugging (OPS)). Diekman improved his control, which made him a presumptive member of the 2014 bullpen, as he was one of 2013's lone bright spots for the otherwise dismal Phillies' bullpen.
A lefty specialist, Diekman throws a fastball in the mid-90s, a slider at 78–81, and an occasional changeup to right-handed hitters. His fastball is the fastest among left-handed relievers in the major leagues. Like most left-handed pitchers, particularly those who throw out of an arm angle similar to Diekman's, he is tough on left-handed hitters. In 2013, he held lefties to just a .368 OPS, though allowed a .765 OPS to right-handed hitters. Despite suggestions he remain a lefty specialist, he emerged in 2014 as a favorite middle reliever for manager Ryne Sandberg against both righties and lefties.
Diekman's maturation was characterized by two parents that were equally loving, but embodied a stark juxtaposition in terms of demeanor. His mother, Billie, was Diekman's "biggest fan", and had to order her husband, Paul, to stop pacing, and watch Diekman pitch. However, Billie died at age 57 just months before the Phillies drafted Diekman. He has sought therapy to cope with the loss, and meditates thinking about her during the Star Spangled Banner prior to each Phillies game.
"(After his mother's death) Diekman started to appreciate the little things. The game slowed down when he had fun. He invoked his mother's spirit rather than avoiding it. 'The drive and determination she had for all the projects she did, how hard she worked, the dedication she had for her job,' Diekman said. 'It really paid off. It really came to me. I thought, 'If I have a job, I want to put in the time and dedication like she did.' ' That is how Billie Diekman's legacy perseveres. It is why a young man from tiny Wymore, Neb., will cherish Sunday's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a baseball stadium..."—Excerpt from Phillies' Diekman holds memory of his mother close, by Matt Gelb, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 11, 2014
Diekman describes his father as his "best friend", and one who has helped him cope with his mother's death. Away from baseball, Diekman holds an associate's degree in business administration from Cloud County Community College, and enjoys listening to music, working out, and playing golf.
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- Clark, Bonnie, ed. (March 2014). 2014 Philadelphia Phillies Media Guide. Philadelphia, PA: The Phillies. pp. 82–83.
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- Hagen, Paul (May 11, 2012). "Diekman key cog in bullpen shakeup". phillies.com: News. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Zolecki, Todd (November 18, 2011). "Philadelphia Phillies add four players to 40-man roster". phillies.com: News. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Gelb, Matt (March 27, 2012). "Dubee in love with Diekman". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Treyhorn, Dash (February 25, 2013). "What to Expect: Jake Diekman". NBC 10 Philadelphia. NBCUniversal Media. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Cole, Henry (October 30, 2012). "2012 Phillies Exit Interview: Jake Diekman". The Good Phight. Vox Media. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Riccaboni, Ian (September 30, 2013). "Phillies Player Review: Jake Diekman". Phillies Nation. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- "Brooks Baseball · Home of the PitchFX Tool - Player Card: Jacob Diekman". Brooks Baseball. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
- "Jake Diekman >> Statistics >> Pitching". FanGraphs Baseball. FanGraphs. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Treyhorn, Dash (October 11, 2013). "Jake Diekman's impressive season". NBC10 Philadelphia. NBCUniversal Media. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Gelb, Matt (April 6, 2014). "Jake Diekman's importance in Phillies bullpen grows". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved May 11, 2014.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)