The 2009 edition of the Phillies’ pitching staff should be associated with a few popular television shows like Full House and Survivor.
The first show speaks for itself as the rotation is becoming a logjam of high quality pitchers. Top to bottom, five starters (anyway it’s setup) have the potential to dominate a game. Along with the rotation, there is the bullpen that is salvaging late inning heroics and showcasing talent left to right, amid the frustration of inconsistency.
The latter show may be where the problem lies within it all.
Someone has to get voted off the island.
For the rotation, let’s review the five pitchers as of August 12. The first and most popular is Cole Hamels, coming off a legendary 2008 post-season. Yet, as of 2009, his brilliance has fizzled and his role as ace has been questioned lately. Cole currently has a 7-7 record with a 4.77 ERA. He’s under control with just 28 walks in 128 innings, but his 20 home runs allowed and 144 hits are warning signs.
Then there’s the newly acquired Cliff Lee, who’s coming off his own legendary 2008 (regular) season though with a Cy Young trophy attached to it. His two starts as a Phillies have proved worth and indicate promise.
Thirdly, there’s Joe Blanton. After a slow April, his ERA has trickled down from 5.17 on June 12 to 4.02 on August 12.
The outlook on young J.A. Happ is bright, as an 8-2 record and stable statistics are leading him to a possible NL Rookie of the Year Award.
The fifth and final spot belongs to the venerable Pedro Martinez. The 37-year-old might be lightning in a bottle. This is what the rotation needs, compared to the 46-year-old Jamie Moyer who unfortunately has proven that his time is just about done. Jamie lost his spot due to horrendous starts, inefficient innings, and lackluster hope that anything will improve.
Martinez is a necessary experiment that may pay off.
For the bullpen, rumors have swirled faster than twister on who’s in and who’s out. From the top, Brad Lidge’s closer role is secure. For now.
He recently blew his Major League leading seventh save versus the Cubs, yet it’s too much of a burden to persecute him. Rumblings have Brett Myers (in his quest to make a late comeback from a hip injury) to replace Lidge. Even reports of Scott Mathieson returning in the future of closer role from his second Tommy John surgery give Lidge reason to work harder.
As long as Ryan Madson remains the bridge, then our closer should feel more comfortable with just finishing off the game since his perfect 2008 is long gone. He’s not Billy Wagner or Tom Gordon. For now.
Lessons can be learned from 2009. Who knew that there could be more pitchers means more opportunities? Look at how the young and spry prospects like Andrew Carpenter and Antonio Bastardo were utilized.
The once forgotten Rodrigo Lopez was in a wasteland for pitchers (known as Coors Field) but achieved an ounce of optimism by pitching well in July for the Phillies. Although the three pitchers mentioned above are on the outs, the Phillies have an arsenal ready to strike if the worst happens similar to Brett Myers.
Give Ruben Amaro Jr. credit for piecing together a fine mess.