Mets vs. Phillies: Who Has the Better Starting Rotation?

Andrew WhartonCorrespondent IApril 8, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets pitches against the Florida Marlins on September 27, 2008 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Due to many recent arguments and comments posted on blogs such as Matt Cerrone's Metsblog and Jason Weitzel's Beerleaguer, I find it necessary to examine these two teams in each category (pitching staff, lineup, and bench).

Please note that I am a Mets fan, but I will do my best to keep it strictly unbiased in order to settle this debate once and for all.

So without further ado, let's take a look at how these rotations match up on paper.


Johan Santana vs. Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels is without a doubt one of the best young pitchers in the game today, and his performance last October was nothing short of spectacular.

Hamels also has a slight disadvantage of pitching in that band box known as Citizen's Bank Park, but has also seen his share of struggles in pitcher-friendly parks such as Shea Stadium and AT&T park.

If he keeps developing, however, he will blossom into one of the leagues premier pitchers.

On the other side, Johan Santana is the winningest pitcher in baseball since 2003, and since his first full season in 2004 he has pitched at least 219 innings five consecutive seasons. Since 2004, only once has Santana posted an ERA over 2.87 (2007) and sruck out less than 9.2 per nine innings (2008). He has also won two Cy Young awards.

Hamels is definitely on his way to becoming a Santana-like pitcher if he continues this trend, but give the kid a couple more seasons before you start putting him in the same category as Johan.

2009 will be a test for Hamels, as he pitched more than 183 innings for the first time last season. Mets fans will worry about Pelfrey, Phillies fans need to worry a bit about Hamels.

2009 will also be a test for Santana since he has his first season in the National League under his belt. Last season he dealt with unfamiliar hitters, but it was clear that towards the end of the year he absolutely dominated. There's no excuse this season: he knows the NL East and its hitters.

2008 Comparison

Santana: 34 GS, 16-7, 2.53 ERA, 3 CG, 2 SHO, 234.1 IP, 206 K, 1.148 WHIP
Hamels: 33 GS, 14-10, 3.09 ERA, 2 CG, 2 SHO, 227.1 IP, 196 K, 1.136 WHIP

Decision: Santana. He's arguably the best pitcher in the game right now, and is off to a pretty good start in 2009 as well. He is also the leader in the Mets' clubhouse this season in the absence of Pedro Martinez.

Mike Pelfrey vs. Brett Myers

Mike Pelfrey has always been highly regarded in the Mets' organization since he was drafted 9th overall in 2005. On July 8, 2006, "Big Pelf" made his debut for the big club, just 5 months after being signed in January. Talk about being on the fast track.

Pelfrey has definitely seen his share of growing pains since being in the big leagues, but one thing that is forgotten, or in many cases unknown, is the fact that he pitched only 96.1 innings in the minors in 2006.

Between St. Lucie, Binghamton, and Norfolk, Pelfrey posted a 2.43 ERA in those 96.1 innings, while striking out 109. Take one look at those numbers and you know the talent is there. For a guy who never pitched until his freshman year in college, that's pretty good.

However, despite his improved numbers in 2008 (his first full season in the majors), there is room for concern among Mets fans. For the first time in his career, Pelfrey threw over 200 innings, so how he responds to that sort of workload could be indicative of what kind of pitcher he really is.

If he can stay healthy, the 25 year-old slinger will probably continue to improve. If he isn't healthy, the Mets rotation may be in trouble.

On the other side of the debate is a pitcher who has also been highly regarded in his organization, Brett Myers. Drafted 12th overall in 1999 draft at 18 years of age, Myers has been projected as having "ace stuff" his entire career.

After a couple of seasons in the big leagues, Myers seemed to put everything together in 2005, boasting a career-low 3.72 ERA in career-high 215.1 innings.

However, in the last three seasons, Myers has seen his ups and downs, looking like an absolute stud one start and then getting crushed in his next. To me, he seems like the Phillies' version of Oliver Perez, and it just seems a matter of time (all the time) that he will put it all together and be the brilliant pitcher he is capable of being.

If I had to choose one of these guys to be in my staff, I think I'd go with Pelfrey. Of course, Mets fans will all say that, and Phillies fans will likely go with Myers. Just goes to show you the type of faith the two teams have in these guys.

2008 Comparison

Pelfrey: 32 GS, 13-11, 3.72 ERA, 2 CG, 200.2 IP, 110 K, 1.360 WHIP
Myers: 30 GS, 10-13, 4.55 ERA, 2 CG, 1 SHO, 190.0 IP, 163 K, 1.379 WHIP

Decision: Pelfrey. I think his age barely puts him ahead of Myers at this point. If you asked unbiased fans of other clubs, I think Pelfrey would win somewhere along the lines of 55 percent of the vote, so it's very close.

Oliver Perez vs. Jamie Moyer

Looking at Jamie Moyer's career log in the major leagues is like looking at O.J. Simpson's criminal record—it just never ends. Moyer, now 45 years old, has been in the big leagues since 1986. Oliver Perez was four years old when Moyer made his debut.

Last season, for the first time since 2003, Moyer posted an ERA under 4.28. He also won the most games since that same season, when he won 21 for Seattle. Anyone who thought this guy was done was probably proven wrong, because if you look in the dictionary under the word "longevity," Jamie Moyer's picture will be right there.

Despite last season's success, the show must come to an end at some point. Whether or not that point is 2009 is still yet to be known, but the chances of him having another season like 2008 this year aren't very good.

Here's the problem: Moyer throws a batting practice fastball. His off-speed stuff is usually good if he locates his fastball perfectly, and I do mean perfectly. One mistake and he's asking for a new ball from the umpire.

On the other hand, if you look in the dictionary under "inconsistent," a picture of Oliver Perez will be there. I swear this guy should be a spokesman for Rogaine, because half the time he pitches he makes you want to pull your hair out.

When Perez is on, he's on. In fact, some may argue that he has some of the nastiest stuff in the game. His problem lies with his control, as well as that giant rock that rests on his shoulders. For those not too "up" on the lingo, he's a head-case.

With that being said, at only 27 years of age, Oliver Perez still has a ton of potential. With the help of new pitching coach Dan Warthen (who should be credited with Perez's second-half success last year) and left-handed ace Johan Santana (who carries Ollie in his back pocket), perhaps this kid can be straightened out after all.

2008 Comparison

Perez: 34 GS, 10-7, 4.22 ERA, 194.0 IP, 180 K, 1.402 WHIP
Moyer: 33 GS, 16-7, 3.71 ERA, 196.1 IP, 123 K, 1.329 WHIP

Decision: Perez. The numbers all say Moyer, but I think this is where the road stops for Jamie. Moyer is a good pitcher and I respect him more than anyone on that Phillies team, but I just can't take him over a 27 year-old kid with electric stuff.

John Maine vs. Joe Blanton

Coming out of offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his throwing shoulder, John Maine faces some tough questions. 2008 was not a good year for him, but if he can be strong again in 2009 I think many fans will be willing to write that off due to the extreme discomfort he pitched with since April.

What killed Maine was simple: his pitch count and walk rate. In 2008, Maine's BB/9 ratio went from 3.3 and 3.5 in 2006-7 to 4.3. His K/9 also dropped from 8.5 to 7.8, and most of this was due to his inability to finish guys off. High pitch counts never equal success.

As a pitcher, I am well aware of the fact that discomfort in your throwing motion leads to many problems, such as a drop in velocity, lack of control, and a decrease in movement in your pitches.

All of these will lead to a high pitch count and inability to strike guys out, so if Maine is healthy in 2009, it isn't unreasonable to think he can post his 2007 numbers again.

Joe Blanton, on the other hand, is a consistently average pitcher. He usually doesn't get beat up too bad, but he usually doesn't dazzle, either. However, he was a very good pickup for the Phillies in 2008 to eat up some innings and win a couple of ball games.

Blanton's problem is this: he doesn't have an "out" pitch. Instead, he relies mainly (no pun intended) on control and his defense to get the job done for him. In other words, you know what to expect from Big Joe each game, and he usually doesn't stray too far from the norm.

2008 Comparison

Blanton: 33 GS, 9-12, 4.69 ERA, 197.2 IP, 111 K, 1.401 WHIP
Maine: 25 GS, 10-8, 4.18 ERA, 140.0 IP, 122 K, 1.350 WHIP

Decision: Toss-up. If Maine is healthy, he's the better pitcher. If not, he and Blanton will post very similar numbers in 2009. It is all speculation based on Maine's should though, so I just can't give the edge to the 15-game winner from 2007.

Livan Hernandez vs. Chan Ho Park

Moving from one Hernandez brother to the other, the Mets turn to 34-year old Livan Hernandez to eat some innings as the fifth starter in their rotation.

Three wins away from 150 career victories, Hernandez has posted a 4.37 ERA in 13 major league seasons. Known more for his ability to throw a ton of innings, Hernandez may just turn out to be the perfect candidate for a fifth starter.

Here's something I didn't realize: Chan Ho Park is actually older than Livan Hernandez. Of course, who really knows how old Livan is, right? Either way, Park saw decent success last season primarily as a reliever with the Dodgers, but has always been a high-walk, high-strikeout guy.

If I were the Phillies, I think I'd rather have JA Happ in that spot of the rotation come May.

2008 Comparison

Park: 54 G, 5 GS, 4-4, 3.40 ERA, 95.1 IP, 79 K, 1.396 WHIP
Hernandez: 31 GS, 13-11, 6.05 ERA, 2 CG, 180.0 IP, 67 K, 1.442 WHIP

Decision: Toss-up. Once again, the numbers say Park, but those numbers were as a reliever in 2008. I've seen how bad Park can actually be first hand, and his bad days are much worse than Livan's bad days.

His good days, however, are much better than Hernadez's good days, so maybe a slight edge to Park. Pick which old guy you want.

So there you have it. Both teams have a decent (not "great") pitching staff, with the slight edge to New York thanks to Santana and Perez. In the end, however, we all know the bullpens are going to decide who wins this division, since we already know both teams can score runs.

Pitching staffs are tricky to predict because injuries can put a wrinkle in everything, but on paper this looks to be another hard-fought season between these two newly-christened rivals.