It's amazing to me that I'd be writing so much about the Phillies' pitchers. With hitters like Shane Victorino, All-World Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Jayson Werth, you'd think it would be all about the hitters. But not so. Maybe it's true that great pitching beats great hitting.
After all, the Phils had a starter (Joe Blanton) give up 2 runs in a game against the Giants, only to lose to Tim Lincecum. The Phils got great pitching, but the Giants pitched better, and the Phillies' potent offense was a non-factor for most of that series. I am still puzzled at how they could have lost to Barry Zito.
Back in April, I was among the Phillies fans moaning about the sorry state of the pitching staff. The ERA's were appallingly high and homers were leaving Citizen's Bank park at an alarming rate.
Brett Myers: 4.91 ERA
Jamie Moyer: 5.09 ERA
Prima Donna Cole Hamels: 7.27 ERA
And my assessment of Joe Blanton? "He's been pretty....awful thus far, but he did have some great moments last year. Time to get going, dude. Sooner the better." Well, you can't be right all of the time.
I was kind of ahead of the curve in some of my ramblings: "Chan Ho Park. Why? All I have to say. I got nothin' else. I'm ready to see what J.A. Happ can do in the starting rotation. Or Pedro Martinez. Anyone." Partially right - Happ's been great as a starter - easily one of the most consistent pitchers.
Park has proven to be a pretty good relief pitcher. I often feel a lot more confident in him than I have in Brad Lidge or Ryan Madson. And don't even get me started on Chad Durbin. As for Pedro - I am looking forward to his first pitch as a Phil. I hope it's against the Mets. And look at that... the Phillies visit the Mets for a 4-game series starting Friday, Aug 21. Maybe that's longer than they will wait to find a spot in the rotation for Pedro, but that would be fun to see.
A lot has changed since then. The Phillies have righted the ship, benefitted greatly from much better quality pitching and the somewhat surprising collapse of the Mets. As I write this, the Phillies have a 7-game lead over the Marlins in the NL East, a Cy Young winner on their pitching staff and the 'problem' of having more quality pitching options than they could have expected.
Sending Happ to the bullpen to make room for Martinez would be pretty lame. Then again, sending Moyer to the 'pen would be pretty lame. He may be Methuselah and somewhat ineffective, but he's a classy veteran who leads the team with 10 wins and he deserves the respect of remaining in the starting rotation. I'd rather see the Phils go with a six-man rotation than send Happ to the bullpen. What the hell? It'll give the pitchers plenty of rest between starts until the end of the season.
Amazingly, Blanton has put together a pretty solid season. I didn't expect much more than we got last year from him, but he has exceeded my expectations. In his past five starts, he's gone 4-1 (with a tough, not-his-fault 2-0 loss to the Giants and the aforementioned Lincecum), given up six runs, gone at least seven innings in each game and dropped his ERA from 4.69 to 4.02. This is especially impressive given that his ERA was 5.08 at the end of June.
And Cliff Lee? What is there to say? Two starts, and he's 2-0, racking up K's, and giving the Phils that much needed ace presence. When this season started, I figured Hamels would be the ace, and that Brett Myers, Moyer, Blanton and Park/Happ would round out the staff. Didn't even sound all that good on paper.
However, a rotation that boasts Lee, Happ (8-2, 2.74 ERA), Blanton, Hamels (7-6, but his ERA is DOWN to 4.68 since April), Moyer and Martinez is a lot more potent and sounds good however you state it. It's amazing that Hamels would be the number four pitcher on this staff, but at this time, it's simply stating reality. He's not pitching very effectively.
I'm thinking he'll snap out of it and be the machine he was in the postseason last year - but he ain't got it right now. Someone needs to tell him that he did NOT pitch too many innings last year and that sports commentators should stop trying to supply excuses for him. Come on, Cole. Let's see some of that magic you showed us last year!
Kudos to Ruben Amaro Jr.!
Statistical Resource: espn.com