The Philadelphia Phillies signed Cliff Lee in a deal that shocked all of baseball this offseason, creating one of the best foursome of pitchers that the game has ever seen.
The rotation contains the 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels as its No. 4 starter, because he is put somewhat into the shadow by Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cliff Lee. Hamels is certainly no chopped liver, but the four of them have completely overshadowed the fifth starter.
The Phillies have three in-house options to be the fifth starter, those being Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley. Obviously, if all three of those players remain within the organization, Blanton is the definite selection for the spot of the fifth starter.
If Blanton were to assume the role of the fifth starter, he would easily be the best No. 5 starter in baseball for 2011. The Phillies have been looking at the possibility of dealing Blanton for this coming seeing as a way to free up some salary room that was taken by Lee, as Blanton is owed $17M over the next two seasons.
As a Phillies fan, I have always had my worries when I knew that Blanton was taking the mound for the night. He is a solid middle of the rotation caliber pitcher. On an average night he will allow four runs in about six innings of work.
The Phillies were a team in 2010 who won a lot of games by a run or two, which often left Blanton in situations where he was not getting enough run support to win the games. The occasional lack of run support was seen a lot this past year, which is largely why Halladay had ten losses and Hamels had eleven losses.
The difference that Blanton has with these two latter pitchers is that he had a much higher ERA. Hamels’ ERA was 3.06 and Halladay’s ERA was 2.44, whereas Blanton’s ERA was 4.82. Blanton did require a lot of support from the bullpen this season, which is why his record was 9-6 in 28 games started.
Dealing Blanton from the roster would free up a lot of salary room for the coming years, even if the Phillies did eat a lot of his salary in order to trade him. I think that that is certainly the biggest benefit of trading Blanton, plus it would allow the Phillies to pick up a few prospects in return.
Blanton is the oldest of the three potential fifth starters for the Phillies but is still only 30 years old. It is not going to be a fair assessment to compare Worley to either of these other two pitchers since he only had two starts in the majors in 2010, but those two starts do give an inkling as to how Worley can pitch. That being said, Blanton did have the highest WHIP and ERA of these three pitchers in 2010.
Regarding the ERAs and WHIPs of Blanton, Kendrick and Worley, their numbers were 4.82 and 1.42, 4.73 and 1.37, and 1.38 and 0.92, respectively. Regarding the strikeouts and walks of theses three pitchers, their numbers were 134 and 43, 84 and 49, and 12 and 4, respectively. This was pitched in 175.2, 180.2, and 13 innings.
That gives Blanton an average of 0.765 strikeouts and 0.245 walks per inning. That also gives Kendrick an average of 0.466 strikeouts and 0.272 walks per inning and Worley 0.923 strikeouts and 0.308 walks per inning.
Given these numbers, Worley has the best strikeouts per inning of the three, although it occurred in less than ten percent of the innings that the other two pitchers pitched. If that number proved to be true, Worley is a strikeout wizard, because even Halladay’s number would show that he had 0.875 strikeouts per inning.
I find it highly unlikely that Worley, who is 23 years old, would give Halladay a run for the money in strikeouts, but there is something to be said that he has nearly one strikeout per inning.
Kendrick has very few strikeouts for a starter, but that is not his pitching style. Kendrick had three more starts than Blanton and allowed one less run through the course of the whole season. Blanton and Kendrick allowed about the same number of walks this season.
The one thing that I noticed this season that seems to be Kendrick’s weakness is a lack of self-confidence. I think that he could be a strong pitcher if he could that self-confidence and stopped allowing himself to get frazzled when he is stressed on the mound.
Kendrick is 26 years old and would be very comparable to the production that Blanton would offer if he stayed a Phillie for 2011. I think that Kendrick is the best option for the Phillies fifth starter for 2011 and that Blanton should be dealt in order to help free up salary money for the next offseason.
Dealing Blanton would free up money for those who will need their contracts renewed or extended in the 2011 offseason, most important of which is Hamels.
Kendrick will provide numbers very similar to what Blanton would provide. Strictly speaking of the 2010 statistics, Blanton allowed 104 runs on 206 hits and 27 home runs, whereas Kendrick allowed 103 runs on 199 hits and 26 home runs.
There are only two major difference between Blanton and Kendrick, which are that Blanton will provide about 50 more strikeouts and costs about 10 times as much as Kendrick. Kendrick is the way to go for the fifth starter, but keep your eye on Worley, who may give Kendrick a run for the money.