It wasn’t inconceivable that at the end of the year, you could rank the Phillies Four Aces in any order. Sure, Halladay was Mr. Perfect last year and won a Cy Young, but Lee has won a Cy Young too, Cole Hamels was the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, and Oswalt has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the last decade.
In April, Manuel decided to set up the aces in his rotation as Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels. Now, with 62 games in the books and 100 to go, if we had to set the rotation in order of their performance this year, here’s how I’d do it.
1 – Halladay (13 starts)
8-3 / 2.56 ERA / 97 Strikeouts / 14 Walks / 98.1 Innings Pitched / 4 Complete Games
2 – Hamels (13 starts)
8-2 / 2.58 ERA / 91 Strikeouts / 18 Walks / 90.2 Innings Pitched / 1 Complete Game
3 – Lee (13 starts)
5-5 / 3.62 ERA / 100 Strikeouts / 20 Walks / 87 Innings Pitched / 1 Complete Game
4 – Oswalt (10 starts)
3-4 / 3.05 ERA / 33 Strikeouts / 14 Walks / 56 Innings Pitched / 0 Complete Games
If the season ended today, and the Phillies only needed three starters in the postseason, Oswalt would be an attractive option in the bullpen. He could give you innings and a different look coming in after leftys like Hamels, Lee or Bastardo. He gave up the winning run last year in an NLCS game against San Francisco out of the bullpen, but that was an emergency appearance. If he is told he’s going to be a reliever, and he prepares that way, he could be quite effective.
But, the season is only 38 percent done. A lot can still change. For now, Halladay and Hamels might be each others biggest competition for the 2011 NL Cy Young Award.
Vance Worley, affectionately referred to as The Vanimal, will take the mound for the Phillies tonight against the Cincinnati Reds. He has done a great job filing in for Charlie Manuel in limited opportunities over the last two years, but role with the team is sure to greatly expand in 2012.
If the Phillies have a healthy pitching staff heading into the second half of the year, Worley will be back at AAA Lehigh Valley, but it should be his final pit stop in Allentown before returning to The Show for good. I have to believe that Vance Worley will be in the starting rotation as of Opening Day next year.
Worley has appeared in 9 games for the Phillies in his career (4 starts) and he has compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.24 ERA. He is also getting a front-row seat watching Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels pitch almost every night. That is invaluable experience for a young pitcher trying to break into the Major Leagues.
How will Worley get a shot to be a starter next year? There are two possibilities.
First, Roy Oswalt has indicated that he may retire at the end of the 2011 season. It’s not as if Oswalt is old or unproductive, however he refuses to refute that he’s considering an early retirement. If Oswalt leaves, Worley could step in as a much cheaper alternative. You would still have Halladay, Lee and Hamels headlining the rotation.
The other scenario, if Oswalt returns, involves trading Joe Blanton. During the winter, teams looking for a reliable starter would certainly inquire about the Phillies’ oft-forgotten fifth starter. Blanton is under contract for 2012 for $8 million, and would be a steady pitcher who typically gives his team 200 innings each year. If Blanton moves on, Worley could step into the back end of the rotation.
Last night was the most important night of the season.
Not only did the Marlins get within 1.5 games while the Mets are all of the sudden back in the race at 2.5 games back, but it showed the true state of the pitching staff.
In Philadelphia, we saw Adam Eaton take the Phillies out of the game early with a dismal outing. Yet, the resilient Phillies offense brought them back to life before falling just one run short of a miracle comeback. This offense, especially in this park, is never out of a game. The starter just needs to give the lineup a chance. Eaton did not deliver.
Sixty miles away, in the Lehigh Valley, the Phillies Opening Day Starter, Brett Myers was pitching well. The only problem? It was for their AAA team.
Cole Hamels is an ace.
Moyer is a steady veteran.
Kendrick is a solid young righty who always gives the team a chance to win.
Now, all you need is two more starters. Honestly, I think Myers can be one of the answers. After the All-Star break, I think he will come ‘Back with a Vengeance’ like his orange and black South Philly brethren.
For those keeping score at home, we’re 4/5 of the way there. The Phillies need one top starter to really make a run at October glory in 2008.
It’s your last trading deadline, Pat Gillick. Make a splash (not in a little puddle).
While reports run wild with rumors of C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard, and Roy Oswalt type pitchers, it is important to remember that the Phillies are a young team with a large window of opportunity.
Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Cole Hamels are locked up with contracts or arbitration rights for the next few years. The Phillies don’t need to burn the farm for one run at postseason glory.
If the Phillies can manage to get a Kyle Lohse type pitcher as they did last year who can come in and give the team some innings and W’s it might just be good enough. Assuming the Phillies make the playoffs, it all comes down to having three quality starters.
Ace – Hamels – Check.
#2 – Myers – Fingers Crossed (he can’t be this bad all year!)
#3 – TBD (Greg Maddux?)
If Maddux brings his first ballot Hall of Fame resume to Philadelphia, he may be the best fit of any name floating in the web rumor world. Maddux has 350 career wins, valuable playoff experience, and wouldn’t require Pat Gillick to unload a truck load of plus prospects for the Padres.
On a team with very limited playoff experience, Maddux, 42, has a full season’s worth of time toeing the rubber in October. He is 11-14 with a 3.34 ERA in 194 playoff innings.
An added incentive is the Jamie Moyer factor. Cole Hamels has thrived with Moyer as his mentor. A few months picking the brain of Greg Maddux would be invaluable for young pitchers such as Kyle Kendrick, Brett Myers, and Hamels. Maddux has a no trade clause, but he might see his window of opportunity to win another ring closing and want to hop on a team with a real shot of a deep run into October.
In a weak National League and with a great offense, that might be good enough to go to the World Series where anything can happen.