Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels: Where Does the Phillies' Big Three Rank?
With only one month left in the 162-game marathon that decides who makes the postseason, it's time to examine and rank the starting pitchers that each of the National League contenders summon to the hill.
For our purposes, I have evaluated and ranked The Big Three (if you will) for each of the nine teams that are over .500 coming into September.
As baseball is a game of nines, nine teams qualified—even if I would not wager big money on the Dodgers or Marlins or the ever-befuddling Cardinals these days.
Why only The Big Three in these days of five-man rotations? I'm glad you asked.
I'm thinking about this with the premise of each team making it to the postseason. Although many teams still go with a four-man rotation in the playoffs, The Big Three of any team will pitch six out of seven games of any series that goes the distance.
In ranking The Big Three(s), I considered the pitchers 2010 statistics, their track record and their playoff history, or playoff cred. I assigned each pitcher a score from 1-10, and posted a composite score for each three-man staff.
This is more art than science, and while assiduous research was done, no lab rats were injured in the process.
So, see where Halladay and Co.—or your favorite team's staff—ranks, and then let the debates begin!
9. The Rockies: Jimenez and Who?
Overview: After his June 17 start, Ubaldo Jimenez was an otherworldly 13-1 with a sick 1.15 ERA. This engendered foolish talk about him challenging Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA and even Denny McLain's 31 wins—both achieved during the high-mound 1968 season. Hey, I'd still take Ubaldo on my staff, but he has come down to earth somewhat.
1) Jimenez still flashes a gaudy 17-5 record with a 2.71 ERA and a WHIP of 1.13. He has improved in each of his last four seasons if still not a totally polished gem.
Playoff Cred: 0-2, 3.54 in 5 postseason starts.
2) Jorge De La Rosa: He missed a couple months, but has come back to post a 5-4 record, 4.26 ERA and a WHIP of 1.4. Not his best year--has not pitched in previous postseasons (not sure why).
3) Jason Hammel is 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP.
The Rockies could throw Jeff Francis or Aaron Cook in there instead, but one is injured and the other has not had a good year.
SCORE: Jimenez (8) + De La Rosa (6) + Hammel (6) = 20
8. The Reds: OK, But No Red Scare
Overview: If Aroldis Chapman (pictured) was ready to start, this may be a different story, but the Reds put a competent group out there that doesn't frighten anyone.
1) Bronson Arroyo: 14-8 with a 3.82 ERA and a strong WHIP of 1.15. One of the best campaigns for this veteran.
Playoff Cred: 0-0, 7.41 ERA in 10 appearances, 8 of them in relief
2) Johnny Cueto—12-4 with a 3.49 ERA and a WHIP of 1.25, Cueto has no postseason experience and is still a work in progress.
3) Mike Leake (8-4) has turned in a solid rookie year with a 4.23 ERA, although his 1.50 WHIP is very hospitable to hitters.
Perhaps, the Reds could throw either Edison Volquez (having a tough, injury-marred season) or Travis Wood in as No. 3, but neither really moves the needle.
SCORE: Arroyo (7.5) + Cueto (7) + Leake (6) = 20.5 points
7. The Marlins: Just Joshing?
Overview: Josh Johnson is one of the best young arms in the game but the next two Marlins starters don't do too much for me. None of the three have playoff cred.
1) Josh Johnson: 11-5, 2.28 ERA with a WHIP of 1.08 and 174/44 K/BB (strikeouts to walks). Has Cy Young-type stuff.
2) Ricky Nolasco: He's 14-9 (How does he have three more wins than Johnson?), with a 4.51 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. Good K/BB of 147/33.
3) Anibal Sanchez' stats are: 11-8, 3.14, 1.33 WHIP. Hard to hit, but a few too many walks.
SCORE: Johnson (8) + Nolasco (6.5) + Sanchez (6) = 20.5
Marlins rate the edge over the Reds as I prefer their ace (Johnson) to the Reds' (Arroyo).
6. The Dodgers: Not Koufax and Drysdale
OVERVIEW: Clayton Kershaw may be totally unhittable in a few years, but he's not there yet—not at age 22, anyway. Kuroda and Billingsley are pretty good starting pitchers,and not a whole lot more.
1) Kershaw brings an 11-8 record along with a 3.01 ERA. He has dominant stuff (1.24 WHIP but with an opponent BAA of only .221) that is not fully harnessed yet.
Playoff Cred: 0-1, 5.87 in 3 lackluster starts.
2) Chad Billingsley: 10-8, 3.73 with a 1.34 WHIP. Lots of strikeouts, lots of walks.
Playoffs: 1-2, 6.86 in 3 starts plus 3 relief appearances.
3) Hiroki Kuroda has pitched better than his 10-11 record would seem to indicate, as evidenced by his 3.39 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Playoffs? 2-1, 5.27 in 3 starts.
SCORE: Kershaw (7.5) + Billingsley (7) + Kuroda (6.5) = 21
5. The Braves: Should Be Better
Overview: Going into this season, I thought that the Braves could contend in the NL East, as their rotation was very solid from one through five. A down year by (Derek) Lowe (no pun intended) and injuries to Jair Jurrjens have hurt them just a little.
1) Tim Hudson (15-5) is quietly having a great year. Not overpowering, Hudson simply takes every turn, averages 7 innings per start, and finds a way to post a terrific 2.29 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.
Playoff Cred: 1-3, 3.97 compiled with the A's.
2) Derek Lowe: Not one of his better years, the tall sinkerballer sports an 11-12 record, 4.53 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.
Playoff Cred: 5-5, 3.33 as both a starter and reliever (1 save).
3) Tommy Hanson, in his second year, has posted solid stats (3.76 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with a lot of strikeouts) but has been rewarded with an 8-10 record.
SCORE: A total of 22, with an 8 for Hudson, and 7s for Lowe and Hanson.
(Jurrjens may yet emerge as their No. 2 or 3, and with Kris Medlen on the shelf for the season, impressive young Mike Minor could also be an option.)
4. The Giants: A Down Year For Lincecum
OVERVIEW: When your two-time defending Cy Young Award winner is not even the best Tim in the league (see Braves, Hudson), something's not quite right.
On paper, this may have been the most feared Big Three the last two or three years, but it has not worked out that way.
1) Lincecum can still flat out pitch and make MLB hitters whiff (179 K's in 170.2 innings) but his ERA (3.80) and WHIP (1.35) are way up.
A less-than-gaudy 12-9 record also adorns his 2010 resume. When he's on, however, TL's still electric.
2) Matt Cain: His W-L record never seems to do him justice. With a 3.11 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a 144/56 K/BB, one would think that his record would be better than a pedestrian 10-10. Seems to be his lot.
3) Let's face it: Barry Zito (8-10), a former Cy Young winner from across the bay, is turning in another lackluster season: a 4.07 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.
Playoff Cred: 4-3, 3.25 in 7 starts with Oakland.
SCORE: Lincecum (8) + Cain (7.5) + Zito (7..too high?) = 22.5 for the Giants.
3. The Padres Prickly PETCO Pitchers
Overview: Mat Latos is already the real deal and ace at 22, and the next two are solid.
1) Latos (13-5 record) leads the NL in WHIP (0.98) and BAA (.192) while only fourth in ERA (2.29, and just .05 higher than leader Tim Hudson).
2) At 13-9, Jon Garland is tied for Latos in wins, but without any dominating stats. A solid 3.29 ERA and 1.31 WHIP are good numbers even if 106/74 k/bb is decidedly mediocre.
Playoff Cred: Garland was 1-0, 2.25 in two starts with the 2005 World Champion White Sox. Did the White Sox really win the whole thing just five years ago?
3) Clayton Richard: Another former White Sock, Richard is 12-6, 3.50 with a WHIP of 1.37.
Playoffs? 0-0, 1.42 in 6.2 innings of middle relief
SCORE: Latos (8.5) + Garland (7.5) + Richard (7) = 23 for the Padres Big 3.
2. The Cards: Will They Get a Chance?
OVERVIEW: I'm baffled that a team with the consensus best player in the game (Albert Pujols) and a 1-2 punch of Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter can be struggling so badly.
And then you factor in surprise rookie Jaime Garcia, and...huh? But as you can see, it's not the fault of their Big Three.
1) Wainwright (17-9) has emerged as the ace, although Carpenter is 1-A. A candidate for the Cy Young as he was last year, he's second in the NL in complete games (5) and WHIP (1.02). His 2.30 ERA is good for fifth.
Playoff Cred: Impressive, though mostly as a reliever (4 saves for the champion 2006 team). Overall, 1-0, 0.51; he pitched a gem last year in a no-decision.
2) Carpenter: 14-5, 2.92, 1.17 ERA for the co-ace. He's second in the league in innings pitched—just ahead of Wainwright. Has a solid 1.17 WHIP.
Playoffs? 5-2, 2.93 in 9 starts.
3) Jaime Garcia (2.33 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise, with a 12-6 record and 1.29 WHIP.
The Big 3 of the Redbirds all find themselves in the Top 9 in NL ERA.
SCORE: Award 9's to both Wainwright and Carpenter, and a solid 7 to the young Garcia for a total of 25, which is good for second place behind the...
1. The Phils: Two Masterful Roys and a Former WS MVP
OVERVIEW: The Phillies Big 3 only have a composite 2010 record of 33-33, so how can they be No. 1? Read on, my friends.
1) Roy Halladay (a very deceiving 16-10) has been everything the Phillies could have asked for, and more. Doc currently leads the league in complete games (8), shutouts (3), innings pitched (214) and K's (190), to say nothing of that perfect game.
The Phils should ask him for some money back, as he's only second in the NL in ERA. He could, and should, have 20-plus wins already.
Buried in Toronto before this season, Halladay's never had a chance to pitch in the postseason.
2) Roy Oswalt has pitched extremely well since being traded to Philly, and nothing about his pitching stats would lead you to believe that he's 9-13 this year.
He has struck out 144 batters, only walked 56, and his ERA (3.11) and WHIP (1.07) reflect that he is still a top hurler.
Playoff Cred: Roy likes the big stage as evidenced by his 4-0 record and 3.66 postseason ERA.
3) Cole Hamels: He has bounced back admirably from a down 2009 season, with a 3.39 ERA, 174 K's (fifth in the NL) and a 1.20 WHIP.
The fact that he only has an 8-10 record is one of the bigger injustices of this baseball season.
Playoffs, you ask? A bad 2009 postseason brought his overall record to 5-3, 3.86. You may recall that he was the 2008 NLCS and WS MVP.
SCORE: Give Halladay a 9 (no playoff experience), an 8.5 to Oswalt and an 8 to Hamels for a composite Big 3 total of 25.5, good for tops in the NL!
...Do You Agree? Please Share Your Thoughts With Us
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
I used a point system and a scoreboard of sorts, but I realize that there is no perfect way to evaluate which of the NL playoff contenders will have the best starting pitching heading into the playoffs.
Let me know your thoughts.
Who do you think has the best Big Three?
Did I shaft anyone?
Was I too generous to my hometown Phillies?
Do I need a life? (Scratch that one)