Philadelphia Phillies' Fire Arms: 10 Bold Predictions for the Phillies Pitchers

Jed ZaslowContributor IJanuary 10, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies' Fire Arms: 10 Bold Predictions for the Phillies Pitchers

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    December 15, 2009: The Philadelphia Phillies acquire right-handed pitcher and AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay and Seattle prospects Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez in a blockbuster trade that sent left-handed pitcher and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and Phillies prospects Michael Taylor, Travis d'Arnaud and Kyle Drabek to Seattle and Toronto.

    July 29, 2010: The Philadelphia Phillies trade away left-handed starting pitcher and top prospect J.A. Happ, and prospects Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose to Houston for right-handed starting pitcher Roy Oswalt.  This acquisition was seen as a redemption-like move for Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. since he had traded away Cliff Lee for prospects that are yet to show any sign of brilliance.  

    With this rotation, the Phillies finished off the last 68 games of their season by going a whopping 49-19!  However, the "Big Three" were not enough to go to the World Series, as the offense was shut down by the San Francisco Giants' "Big Four."  

    The Giants went on to win the World Series and the Phillies were left with many unanswered questions, but none pertaining to the rotation.  The rotation seemed set for the 2011 season and the main focus was set on the bullpen and in right field, or at least we thought..

    December 14, 2010: The Philadelphia Phillies pull one of the biggest upsets of the decade and sign left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, who was universally expected to sign with the New York Yankees or Texas Rangers.  They signed him to a five-year $120 million contract with a sixth year option.  

    This astonishing move startled writers, fans and even players.  With this "Big Four," the expectations of Philadelphia fans for the 2011 season are higher than ever and the four aces are now expected to perform at a historic level.  

    It is almost difficult to remember that there are other pitchers on the Phillies, such as: RHP closer Brad Lidge, RHP set-up man Ryan Madson, LHP reliever J.C Romero, RHP starter Joe Blanton (who could be traded before the season begins), RHP starter Kyle Kendrick and RHP starter and rookie Vance Worley.

    The only question that still stands for Philadelphia fans about their pitchers is how they will perform this coming season?  Here are 10 predictions about the Phillies pitchers that may answer some questions: 

1. Roy Halladay Will Be the Best Pitcher on the Team..Again

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    Roy "Doc" Halladay, 33, is fresh off his first season in the National League, one in which he unanimously won the NL Cy Young Award, a feat which had only been accomplished 20 times before.  His 2010 statistics say it all, as he pitched his way to a 21-10 record while averaging only 5.24 runs of support per game, ranking 76th out of 92 pitchers in the category, 219 strikeouts, a 2.44 ERA, nine complete games and four shutouts.  

    On May 29, Doc reached perfection as he pitched the 20th perfect game in major league baseball history, striking out 11 batters in the process.  

    On October 6, Big Roy Halladay appeared in the first postseason game of his career.  All eyes were on Halladay as he took the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS against the best offensive team in the NL, the Cincinnati Reds, who led the league in all three offensive triple crown categories.  

    Roy Halladay had an almost perfect night as he pitched only the second no-hitter in postseason history, allowing only one walk to outfielder Jay Bruce in the fifth inning.  It was the ability to perform amazing feats like these that resulted in Doc unanimously winning the second Cy Young of his career.  

    It is no surprise that I would choose Halladay to be the best pitcher on the Phillies, for he was the most dominant pitcher in the majors last season, and there are no signs of him declining.  At 33 years old, Roy is still pitching 200-plus innings and striking out 200 batters with few signs of injury, and never enough to keep him out for a long period of time.  

    His age will not be a factor this year and he will still be at the pinnacle of his prime this coming season.  Expect another amazing season!  

2. Cliff Lee Wil Be the Worst of the Four Aces!

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    That's right!  The same Cliff Lee that won the AL Cy Young with the Cleveland Indians in 2008, going a phenomenal 22-3 with a 2.53 earned run average and striking out 170 batters in 223.1 innings.  

    The same Cliff Lee that led the Philadelphia Phillies to their second straight World Series and went undefeated in the playoffs and won two of his four postseason wins against the New York Yankees in the World Series.  

    The same Cliff Lee that Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. traded away to the Seattle Mariners for three, so far, mediocre prospects to replenish the farm system instead of keeping him and having arguably the best 1-2 punch in baseball in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  

    The same Cliff Lee that the Philadelphia Phillies stunningly signed after the Yankees had offered him more years and more money.  This Cliff Lee will have a worse season than Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  

    Now, this prediction may seem very bold, but if one looks deep into the statistics the prediction does not seem so far-fetched.   

    Cliff Lee is a very talented pitcher with more control than most hurlers, walking only 18 batters last season, but can he really perform better than a 3.00 ERA with 170-185 strikeouts?  Don't get me wrong, Cliff Lee is an ace-caliber pitcher, but if one takes a look at his season in Cleveland and compares it to his half season in Philly and his half seasons on the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners, the true Cliff Lee is revealed.

    In Cleveland, Cliff Lee had 22 wins and only three losses while he had a 2.54 earned run average and struck out 170 batters.  His strikeout numbers in the 2011 season will be relatively similar to his strikeout numbers in 2008.  

    It seems, however, that his earned run average was assisted by a very good pitchers' ballpark in Progressive Field.  According to espn.com, from 2005-2009 using a Park Factor system, Progressive Field ranks fifth-lowest in home runs allowed, seventh-lowest in runs allowed, and 10th-lowest in hits allowed, proving that Progressive Field is a very good pitchers' ballpark.  

    When he was traded from the Cleveland Indians to Philadelphia after the first half of the 2009 season, which was the encore season to his Cy Young performance, he had already started off the season with a 7-9 record, due to abysmal run support, and a 3.14 earned run average.  

    When he played in Philadelphia, he still did not receive much run support as he finished the season averaging 5.28 runs of support per game between Philadelphia and Cleveland and ranking 72nd in the category out of the 78 pitchers. 

    He finished the season going 7-4 with the Phillies, however, also finishing with a 3.39 earned run average due to the dimensions and features of Citizens Bank Park, which according to espn.com and using the Park Factor system from 2005-2009, ranked eighth-highest in runs allowed, eighth-highest in hits allowed, and fourth-highest in home runs allowed.

    When the Phillies traded Cliff away to Seattle in the offseason, he started off the season going 8-3 with a 2.34 earned run average, however, he did so in another pitchers' ballpark.  Going back to espn.com's Park Factor system, from 2005-2009, Seattle's ballpark, Safeco Field, has ranked second-lowest in runs allowed, sixth-lowest in hits allowed, and ninth-lowest in home runs allowed.  

    When he was traded to the Texas Rangers, who play in Rangers Ballpark, which according to espn.com ranks seventh-highest in runs allowed, sixth-highest in hits allowed, and seventh-highest in home runs allowed, he finished his season going 4-6 with a 3.98 earned run average.  

    Cliff Lee will be returning to a hitter's ballpark this coming season; we have already acquired a sample of what Cliff Lee can do in such a park, and we should not expect any more from him, as history proves to us.  

3. Cole Hamels Will Lead the Four Aces in Strikeouts and Will Remain Dominant

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    Cole Hamels, 27, is one of my favorite pitchers to watch.  His arsenal can be electrifying at times, and at other times it runs out of artillery.  Last season, Cole started off the season with a 7-7 record with 107 strikeouts and a 3.78 ERA.  Post All-Star break, he had a 5-4 record with 104 strikeouts and a 2.23 ERA.  

    Now, to me, Cole Hamels' record means nothing.  Just as the record of the reigning Cy Young winner, Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, was meaningless due to his lack of run support, so was Cole Hamels' record.  

    Hamels ranked 73rd out of 92 in run support, averaging only 5.35 runs a game.  Hamels, like Felix Hernandez, was also arguably one of the best starters post All-Star break this past season.  His velocity was at its highest and he was pitching his fastball inside to right-handed batters, which they do not appreciate. 

    Hamels, ultimately, rediscovered his 2008 World Series MVP self after the All-Star break.

    In the 2010 season, Cole Hamels achieved his first 200-plus strikeout season.  Being the young pitcher he is, decline will not be a factor this coming season.  He will be equally as dominant as he was last season.  

    If it were not for his rough start last season, Cole would have finished the season with an ERA under three.  I believe Cole Hamels has the ability to be a dominant pitcher all season and finish off with an ERA under three and strikeout more batters than he did last season.  

    He will have more strikeouts than any ace on the Phillies.  Oswalt has only had two seasons with over 200 strikeouts and those seasons are far behind him, Cliff Lee never has struck out 200 batters in a season, and Halladay may have over 200, but Halladay only averages 7.86 strikeouts every nine innings and Hamels averages 9.10.  

    Cole Hamels also pitched 208 innings while Halladay pitched 250.  With Cole Hamels' averages, if he pitched as many innings as Halladay, he would have struck out over 253 batters!  Cole Hamels is a much better strikeout pitcher—expect to see him pitch more innings and expect to hear the umpire yell "strike three!" a lot this season.

4. Roy Oswalt Will Lead the Four Aces in ERA and Will Remain Dominant

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    Roy Oswalt, 33, has been nearly unhittable since he came to the Phillies at the July trade deadline. However, before he debuted in an already above-average rotation, he was victimized with some of the worst run support in the league supplied by the Houston Astros.  He ranked 89th in run support out of 92 pitchers averaging a measly 4.12 runs a game.  

    This resulted in a terrible record of 6-12, although he still held a solid 3.42 ERA.

    He came to Philadelphia on July 29, and just a day after his arrival, he pitched his first game against the Washington Nationals.  He had arrived to a new club with new players and new coaches, and had to pitch a major league baseball game the very next day—that's tough on any pitcher.  In his debut, he pitched six innings, allowing five runs (four earned).  

    Oswalt finished his season with the Phillies with an unbelievable 1.74 ERA and a 7-1 record, his only loss being his debut against Washington.  Without this hasty start against the Nationals, however, his ERA drops to 1.42!  

    Needless to say if he can follow through his 2010 performance, which I believe he will, he will lead the team in ERA by a lot, and maybe even the league.  A full season with Roy Oswalt will be quite a pleasure!

5. Roy Halladay Will Be the Only Pitcher on the Phillies With at Least 20 Wins

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    I know there has been a lot of talk about the Phillies rotation being one of the best in history, but they have not played a single game yet.  When I hear comparisons of the Phillies rotation to the Baltimore Orioles' 1971 rotation of Mike Cuellar (20-9 3.08 ERA), Pat Dobson (20-8 2.90 ERA), Jim Palmer (20-9 2.68 ERA) and Dave McNally (21-5 2.89 ERA), I cannot help but realize that all four of those pitchers achieved 20-win seasons.  

    That is not going to happen this coming season with the four Phillies aces.  Their ERAs might be very similar to those of the Orioles' hurlers, but the Phillies offense is not productive enough to supply each pitcher with 20 wins, other than Roy Halladay.

    Last season, Roy Halladay went 21-10 with some of the worst run support in baseball.  Roy Halladay is the only pitcher on the team, or in baseball, that can get over 20 wins in a hitter-friendly ballpark with terrible run support.  

    However, keep your eyes open for Roy Oswalt. He may not be a 20-win pitcher next season, but he is definitely capable of coming close or even achieving the goal, however I stand with my prediction.  

    Halladay will be the only Phillies pitcher with 20-plus wins.

6. Roy Halladay Will Win the NL Cy Young Award...Again

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    Roy Halladay is a workhorse!  Last season, he won the Cy Young Award for the second time in his career.  He pitched over 250 innings, nine complete games and four shutouts. In his past five seasons, he has pitched at least 200 innings and he has no reason to slow down.  

    I have not a single concern about Roy Halladay this coming season and I expect him to be no worse then he was in 2010.  

    The pitchers in the NL will be very difficult to top.  Pitchers like Tim Lincecum, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Matt Cain and even Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee dominate hitters like it's routine.

    However, nothing about the way Roy Halladay pitches is routine.  Every game he steps on the mound there is a chance that he will pitch a shutout; there is always that feeling you get when he steps on the mound that you just know he is going to pitch a victory.

    Halladay was truly set apart from every other pitcher last season by his perfect game that he pitched against the Florida Marlins.  This feat helped him unanimously win his second Cy Young Award.  For Roy Halladay to win the Cy Young again in a league full of talented pitchers, he will need to achieve something great that will set him apart from every other pitcher in the league again.  

    Who knows, maybe he will...

7. Cliff Lee Will Dominate the Strike Zone...Again

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    So Cliff Lee might not be the best pitcher on the team, but that does not mean we should not expect some aspect of greatness from him, specifically regarding bases on balls.  

    In 2010, Cliff Lee pitched 212.1 innings, allowing only 18 batters to reach base by walking them.  If that is not control, then I do not know what is.  

    Cliff Lee has more pitch control than any other pitcher in baseball.  He absolutely dominated the strike zone in 2010.  

    Even if he were to lose five mph in velocity in the 2011 season, he will still have pinpoint location and hit the strike zone just as well, but since we will not be expecting decline from Cliff Lee because of his age, we should still expect similar control from the 2008 Cy Young winner.

8. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge Will Be Lights Out!

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    For the past three years, Ryan Madson has been regarded as a pretty solid set-up man by Phillies fans.  In 2010, Madson was still pretty solid.  Disregarding his five saves in 10 opportunities, Ryan Madson had a solid 2.55 ERA in 55 game appearances, a very good ERA for a relief pitcher, but not quite lights-out.  

    Post All-Star break, Madson's ERA dropped from 6.55 before the break all the way to 1.54, making him almost unhittable.

    In 2008, Phillies closer Brad Lidge shocked baseball with a perfect save season, recording 41 saves in 41 save opportunities.  In 2009, Lidge struggled the entire season, blowing a major league-leading 11 saves.  

    In 2010, Lidge struggled the first half of the season with a 4.60 ERA pre-All-Star break.  Post All-Star break, however, Lidge had an ERA of 2.10, which is very close to lights-out.  In the last three months of the baseball season (August, September, October), Lidge recorded 17 saves in 18 opportunities and had a 0.77 ERA!  

    Both Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge finished the season with pretty good numbers due to their stellar performances in the second halves of their seasons.  Also, both of them are reaching possibly the last year in their contracts (Lidge has a club option), which usually motivates players to perform at their best in order to obtain a healthy contract.  

    They will be just as unhittable next season.  

9. The Phillies Will Struggle to Find Their Permanent 5th Starter

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    This specific prediction all depends on whether right-handed starting pitcher Joe Blanton stays in Philadelphia or is traded away to free up some cap space.  Let's look at both scenarios:

    If Big Joe Blanton stays:

    He will probably be the Phillies' fifth starter whether he performs well in spring training or not.  If he struggles though, don't be surprised if Phillies manager Charlie Manuel experiments with some young pitchers to fill the fifth starter role.

     

    If Big Joe Blanton goes:

    Pitchers will audition for this role in spring training, and the spot will probably go back to Kyle Kendrick, being that he had it before and it would be disrespectful not to give him a chance to show what he can do. If he succeeds in performing to Charlie Manuel's expectations, then we've got ourselves a solid, balanced rotation from one to five.

    If he fails, the spot will go to rookie pitcher Vance Worley, and although in his five appearances (two of them starts) he went 1-1 with a low 1.38 ERA holding runners to a .178 batting average, he will probably not maintain that for more than four to five starts at most.

    The latter scenario makes the most sense and if Worley does fail, then expect to see the Phillies struggle for a fifth starter.

10. The Stat Line

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    Well, you heard all of the predictions, here is the last one—the numbers:

    Roy Halladay: 23-9, 2.57 ERA, 212 Ks

    Roy Oswalt: 18-8, 2.32 ERA, 186 Ks

    Cole Hamels: 16-11, 2.88 ERA, 228 Ks

    Cliff Lee: 16-9, 3.08 ERA, 186 K's, 25 BBs


    Hope you enjoyed!  Let me know what you think.

     

    ESPN links:

    Run Support-http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/pitching/_/type/expanded-2/order/false

    Ballpark Statistics-http://sports.espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/flb/story?page=mlbdk2k10ballparks