Philadelphia Phillies: Will the Starting Staff Cover Up All the Bullpen Issues?
Spring training has just begun and not only Phillies fans, but all baseball fans, can't wait for the season to start.
Entering this year, one of the biggest headlines and most talked-about topics in all of sports has been the Phillies' Fab Four, Big Four, R2C2—you get the point here.
The Phillies starting rotation is clearly the best in baseball. Some people believe they will go down as one of the greatest of all time—Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
I'm pretty confident with that lineup.
These four pitchers all had ERAs under 3.18. Also, don't underestimate Hamels' and Oswalt's records (Oswalt was .500 and Hamels was a game over). They received zero run support throughout the season when they were pitching as well as anyone in the league.
However, after all of this hype on them, let's not forget about Joe Blanton.
With all of the talk around the big four, Blanton may just have a silent, but very good season this year. As a fifth starter behind the guys mentioned earlier, he will be pretty comfortable.
But not the entire offseason had been talk about the starting pitching staff. There were also some cons.
How many saves will Brad Lidge record this season?
The biggest issue entering this season was the bullpen. Now, I'm not one who criticizes the pen, because it isn't as bad as fans make it out to be.
Last season, the Phillies bullpen logged a league low in innings pitched with 421. That number will only decrease with the addition of Cliff Lee.
This stud rotation will limit the time for some of the subpar relief pitchers that the Phillies have.
This also means that they consistently will be able to use the same relievers.
For example, the starting pitchers will most likely go deep into every game. Therefore, we won't have someone like Jose Contreras being called out every day in the sixth or seventh inning. We will be able save him for the postseason and keep his starts spread out.
Now, I'm not saying the bullpen will receive zero action, but they will have a smaller role than usual, which is somewhat of a good thing considering some of the problems.
But let's hold the phone for second. What do I really mean by "problems?"
Well, they aren't particularly problems, but instead it's just the talent within the bullpen. Aside from Ryan Madson, Contreras (call him old, but he is still nasty) and Brad Lidge, no one else has great talent.
Chad Durbin intrigues me—I still don't know if I love or hate him. He's nothing great, but then again he's not bad. There are times where he comes through and times where he doesn't. He's pretty on and off (don't get me started on Danys Baez).
[Ed. note: Durbin has reportedly signed with the Indians.]
But on a side note real quick on Brad Lidge, I think he will definitely rebound this season. He just needs to make better decisions on the types of pitches he throws.
Basically, if the Phillies' hitting comes around and the starting rotation remains healthy, the bullpen will have a limited role and Phillies fans should have high hopes for this upcoming season.
But let's just remember we play the games for a reason. I, for one, am a huge Phillies fan and believe that they have the best team on paper in the league, but the best team on paper doesn't always win.
Nevertheless, anything less than a World Series victory should be considered a failure for the Phillies at this point.
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