If you didn't know already, J.A. Happ is a machine on the mound.
Going into his 17th start, (a win) tonight against the Mets, Happ continued to write the same story he that has all season: seven innings, eight hits, walked two, struck out one, and allowed one run.
Happ is 10-2 this season, with a 2.59 ERA after 135.2 innings pitched. The kid always puts his team in a position to win. Happ has thrown two complete game shutouts and recorded 97 strikeouts versus 42 walks, better than a 2:1 ratio.
As a potentially playoff-bound team for the third year in a row, the maturation of Happ and Joe Blanton in the 2009 season, as well as the acquisition of Cliff Lee, makes Cole Hamels' lackluster regular season bearable and gives the Phillies options in their playoff rotation.
Just imagine what their starting lineup will look like if Hamels is able to pitch in the 2009 playoffs the way he pitched in their 2008 World Series run.
If worst comes to worst, Charlie Manuel is going to have to decide who takes over the third pitching spot in the playoffs, but I would give Happ the nod.
Both guys eat innings and have low ERA's, but Happ seems to have a knack for keeping the runs down and getting guys out, and his ERA is more than a point lower than Blanton (3.86 versus 2.59).
Blanton averages around 6 1/3 innings per start versus Happ's 6 2/3 innings per start.
Happ also allows fewer home runs (22-13) and hits (153-102) than Blanton this season. In fairness, Blanton also has seven more starts than Happ.
Jamie Moyer and Pedro Martinez are savvy veteran pitchers who I would trust to get batters out, but that is also likely to turn into a scenario that puts stress on the middle relief.
It's likely that with the short series, and the that fact four of the starters eat innings, that Moyer and Martinez find themselves as the long inning guys.
Brett Meyers pitched well in the in the 2008 postseason, but it seems silly for the Phillies to count on him for their 2009 playoff run.
The missing piece to Phillie pitching this season has been Brad Lidge. He needs to revert back to form for the Phillies to get into the playoffs and subsequently make a run.
Without a reliable closer to go to in the ninth inning, you are at the mercy of the baseball gods.
If and when Lidge and Hamels return to their form this time a year ago, look for the Phillies as a potential repeat champion in 2009.