Heading into this season there were plenty of questions about the Phillies '08 pitching staff.
Would Cole Hamels be able to have another stellar season like last year and can the 45 year old Jamie Moyer hold up after pitching in the league for so long?
These questions, and the one of whether or not Brett Myers would be able to go back to the starting role mid-season, were all answered with fairly good outcomes.
Cole Hamels didn't have the stellar season he had last year, but still won 14 games and only lost 10 -- due to not much run support.
Jamie Moyer was the leader in wins this year for the Phils and, although shaky at times, Brett Myers proved to be a solid starter. Also, right before the trade deadline the Phillies acquired inning eater Joe Blanton, who still has not recorded a loss as a Phillie.
All of this said, these pitchers are not the best arsenal of starting pitching in the league. However, as of late, they are proving to be quite reliable heading into and even during this postseason.
Cole Hamels, who was named the NLCS MVP, has been proving to people all over the league again and again that he can be the go-to pitcher in the playoffs (and come up with big wins as he is 3-0 this postseason).
Brett Myers has been solid the whole time. Even with a rather high ERA of 5.25, he is still 2-0 with the Phillies being able to put runs up on the board behind him.
Blanton has surprised many by being 1-0 so far, having walked only four batters and struck out eleven in his eleven innings of work in the postseason.
The only weak spot, this postseason, has been the old timer Jamie Moyer.
He was worried to be a weakness going into the playoffs because of his low velocity and virtually non-existent fast ball that travels slower than many big league change-ups.
The Phils have lost two games thus far this post season and in both of them, Moyer has been the starter.
In his first start, he was only able to last four innings in the Phillies game three loss to the Brewers. And, in his second, he shortened that by only going 1 1/3 innings.
His ERA is absolutely terrible right now at 13.5. He has given up more runs in five total innings than Blanton and Hamels have combined to give up in a total of 33 innings.
That's just the short list of problems right now for Moyer.
Surprisingly worse at Citizens Bank Park (where he was only able to win six of his sixteen starts as opposed to winning ten starts on the road), Moyer is slated to start game three of the World Series in Philly.
Now comes the final test for these Phillies pitchers, the World Series.
Awaiting them is a hot-hitting Tampa Bay Rays team, who has the young talent to turn a 5 point deficit into a lead with just a few swings of the bat.
This team has hitting talent all over the lineup and give any pitcher a challenge at all times.
These two teams have not played since spring training, so other than that they are new to each other in the '08 season. So, it will be interesting to see how the pitchers and batters will prepare for each other.
The Rays, this postseason, have been on fire batting with four players batting over .300 and two players with 10 RBI's or more.
Longoria is showing the league that he is the clear Rookie of the Year and is playing at a level far better than many players dream to play in the playoffs.
The team as a whole comes in with very little pressure. They already have done enough, in many peoples minds, as they have already won over 70 games for the first time in their teams history. Not to mention a game seven win over the Boston Red Sox.
Playing against this hot of a team will be a tough task for these Phillies starting pitchers.
For them to have a chance of winning the whole thing, each pitcher is going to have to go deep into the games. Having to bring in a reliever in the second or third inning is unacceptable and they can't afford to use five or six pitchers just for one game.
Obviously a dream game for the Phillies is to have the starter go seven innings, then Madson enter in the eighth and set it up for closer Brad Lidge to come do his job. But that's a fantasy game right there.
Cole Hamels gets the start in game one once again, and he is looking to start the Phillies off like he did in the past two series.
To do that, he will have to start off strong and keep it strong for at least six innings.
This Rays team can get off to a quick start and never look back if you don't come out at your strongest. So Hamels needs to throw his change-up to perfection and cannot leave his fastball up for these hitters to whack.
Another thing he will have to do is keep his pitch count down.
Starting off an at-bat with the hitter in the hole 0-2 and then letting him battle back to a full count can't happen. All that will do is send the hitter into defense mode and start fouling off 2 or 3 pitches per at-bat.
Cole Hamels will be fine if he makes these hitters chase his change-up and hits all the corners.
In game two, Brett Myers will take the ball. Which is a surprise move to some due to him being a much better pitcher in Citizens Bank Park than Moyer.
The move to keep him in the two spot was to mix it up with lefty, righty, lefty, righty.
Myers can be a tough pitcher to handle if he is in the zone, but if this team gets him a little shaky it could be a long inning and he could completely fall apart. The way for him to have a good game is to put a few runs on the board behind him and let him just pitch his game.
He will have to watch which batters he pitches to, and which ones he puts everything away just to try and get them to chase. Because if he lets one in or over, this team will make him pay for it.
Myers is a complete question mark for this series as he can either come out as the Brett Myers from after the all star game (and in the postseason so far), or the Myers to end the season -- having early exits in his last few starts.
Jamie Moyer obviously will be the most closely leashed pitcher of the four.
They are going to give him a chance one more time to prove himself. But if he starts slipping up early they could pull the plug on him. If the Phillies can go up 2-0 in this series game three could be the first loss, as these young hitters of the Rays could have a field day with Moyer's slow pitching.
If he wants to have a chance he needs to get hitters to chase his curveball. If he gets it going away and they chase it they could either ground out or strike out. But, if he lets it hang, they are smacking it out of the park.
The game four pitcher is right now scheduled to be Joe Blanton.
But, if the Phillies happen to go down 0-3 or 1-2 in the series, do not be surprised at all to see Hamels step on the mound in this game on three days rest.
Not one pitcher has had to go on short rest this postseason but if Myers and Moyer have tough outings Hamels will be pitching again.
Blanton is an inning eater, yes, but he gives up plenty of hits along the way and as a Phillie he has not yet paid for that. But if this team starts hitting him he could be in some major trouble and not be able to stop a hit parade.
This series will be all about strategy as the two teams are so evenly matched.
It will come down to which pitchers can stay in the longest, and which coaches know when its time to get them out.
It all will come down to the late game heroes ,and stars could be born throughout the series who have not had the national spotlight on them yet.
My personal prediction of the series is Phillies in seven with Hamels winning games one, four, and seven. And on short rest in four and seven.
He is going to pitch those games while I think Blanton will pitch game six over Moyer for a second time.
Its going to be an exciting series none-the-less and it will all come down to the starting pitching.