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.