The Phillies have the top pitching rotation in baseball on paper. Before the season there were many myths concerning the Phillies pitching because of their four aces. The staff has lived up to expectations so far, giving the Phillies the best record in baseball.
The Phillies toughest challenges will be against the Atlanta Braves, and the Florida Marlins, which have combined to give them half of their losses. The Phils are depending on their starting pitchers to carry them through the season, and the start of the season has some very promising signs for the team.
Here are 6 myths about the starting pitching that have already been exposed.
In 2010, Cole Hamels was dominant during the middle of the season, but his 12-11 record does not support his efforts. During a stretch of three starts, Hamels received just one run of support. During that stretch he also allowed just one earned run on the mound. This year that dubious honor goes to Cliff Lee.
Granted, Cliff Lee has the highest ERA of any of the core four starters. However, in his four losses, the Phillies are averaging just 1.25 runs scored per game. In his two wins, the team averages 6.5 runs a game. This makes for a huge difference when on the mound.
Lee has "struggled", and I use struggled very loosely, as of late, and the Phillies have not helped him out much on offense.
Coming into the season, Joe Blanton was at the center of many trade talks. When it was announced that Blanton would continue to be the fifth starter, the myths that he would outperform one of the four aces began to emerge.
Blanton, however, has performed the worst out of the five starting pitchers thus far. His 5.50 ERA lands him around 60th best in the MLB. His 1.57 WHIP is not much better than his ERA. His best start came on April 18 in a loss against the Milwaukee Brewers. In this start he threw seven innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out four. Blanton has just two quality starts in six games started, good enough for 73rd best in the majors.
The argument can be made for Vance Worley over Blanton. Whether or not he should be the fifth starter is a debate for another time and place. In his two starts in place of Blanton, he allowed just one run, had a 0.75 ERA, and fanned 12 batters along the way. If Worley were to become the fifth starter, then the argument could be made that he is outperforming one of the four starters. But until that time, the four aces have outperformed the fifth starter.
After winning the Cy Young award last season, there were myths that Roy Halladay wiould not perform as well during the 2011 season.
Halladay's early performances have shown that he can perform as well as he did last season. Halladay has a decision in every start except for Opening Day against the Mets. He has a quality start in every start except for April 19 against the Brewers, when he gave up six earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. His 5-3 record is not reflective of the way he has pitched. He has a loss in his last two starts, but he has only allowed four earned runs in those two starts. He has gotten just three runs of support in the past two starts.
His 2.12 ERA is fifth best in the majors, and his five wins are good for second in the majors. His 73 strikeouts leads the majors and his 1.00 WHIP is good enough for 12th best in the majors.
If Halladay's performance in his first nine starts is any preview of things to come, Halladay is setting himself up to not only be the best pitcher on the Phillies, but also make a run at defending his Cy Young award.
This myth is hard to expose this early in the season, but all signs are looking good so far. Oswalt had a short stint on the DL and a leave of absence due to tornadoes and a sore lower back. He is back now and looks to have suffered no real setbacks.
There have been no reports of any of the core four having any nagging injuries such as soreness, strains, stiffness, etc. These small injuries often lead to bigger injuries which lead to time on the DL. All signs look good for now for the health of the starting pitchers.
After a very impressive season in 2010, Halladay was projected to win over 20 games for the Phillies again in 2011. With five wins in nine starts so far in 2011, Halladay is on pace to win somewhere between 20-22 games this year.
Roy Oswalt has three wins in just five starts. At this pace, he is on track to win between 22-24 games on the year. The only concern with Oswalt is his health. He had a brief stint on the DL already in 2011 because of soreness in his lower back. If he can stay healthy, he has a very realistic chance to crack the 20-win mark in 2011.
Cole Hamels is also very close right now as well. Hamels has won four of his eight starts, giving him a projected win total between 18-20 in 2011.
Cliff Lee has struggled early in the season, but has always been dominant during the second half of the season. While he has won just two of his nine starts, he has not pitched terribly during that stretch. He has had control issues as of late. On Monday night against the Cardinals, he walked a career high six batters. If he can get his control down and stay aggressive to hitters, he always has the possibility to win over 20 as well.
These projected stats are just rough estimates based on win percentage, but Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels all have very realistic shots at winning over 20 games for the Phillies in 2011.
The core four took a lot of heat, much like the Miami Heat did this offseason. But numbers do not lie to this point. The Phillies are 21-10 when one of the top four guys starts the game. With this win percentage, the Phillies are on pace to win 98 games when one of the top four start a game.
Five of those 10 losses have come when Cliff Lee has started a game, however, and fans should expect that to turn around as the season progresses. Lee has only lost 10 games twice in his career. The argument can be made that Lee has been getting squeezed around the plate lately, causing him to leave pitches over the plate, but an All-Star pitching like Lee should not have that problem. Lee will bounce back like he always does.
So far the core four have definitely lived up to the hype and will continue to throughout the season.