The Philadelphia Phillies continue to lead the NL East and sit at an impressive 49-30. It seems highly unlikely that this team will finish the season without at least 100 wins.
The Boston Red Sox are set to come to town for the most anticipated series of the season thus far. Philly Nation is ready to unleash their dominant pitching against one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
It is no secret that this Phillies team was built around their starting pitching, and all they have done is carry this team to the best record in MLB.
The Phillies are the smart pick to bring home another World Series down Broad Street because of their dominant pitching staff, but how big of a deal is the Roy Oswalt situation? He was the Phillies best pitcher down the stretch last season (7-1) and is fifth among all active pitchers in winning percentage.
Joe Blanton is in the midst of his second stint on the DL with a "cranky elbow" on his pitching arm. While he has looked solid at times this season, his early-season woes and inconsistencies have continued in 2011.
Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee could potentially be the top three vote-getters for the NL Cy Young Award with the way they are pitching, but Roy Oswalt could be on the way out, and Joe Blanton hasn't finished his dinner yet.
Who should be the Phillies fifth starter? Here are five options for the Phillies and the fifth starter dilemma.
It's pretty amazing how enamored Philadelphia has become with Vance Worley in such a short amount of time. Worley has started six games for the Phillies and is 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA.
The 23-year-old right-hander looks to be the real deal, as he has good movement on his fastball and two solid secondary pitches.
In 35 IP thus far, Worley has only allowed 11 earned runs and is averaging over 93 pitches per start.
Maybe most impressive, the opposition is only hitting .246 against the "Vanimal."
I'd be surprised if anyone had a problem with a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton and Worley.
I wouldn't be surprised if Vance Worley is the Phillies fourth starter by the time the postseason rolls around.
As much as Philadelphia doesn't want to hear it, Kyle Kendrick is a suitable fifth starter in MLB. Kendrick is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA thus far in 2011.
It is interesting to note however that Kyle Kendrick's numbers have been really solid out of the bullpen for the Phillies. With runners in scoring position, the opposition is only hitting .233 against Kendrick, and hitters are only hitting .241 total against him when he comes out of the 'pen.
Kendrick's role with the Phillies of the bullpen seems relegated to long-man/mop-up duty, but he can certainly win half of his starts if called upon.
In this SABR-stat world we live in, it may not matter, but Kyle Kendrick did have a lower ERA than Joe Blanton in 2010.
I'm just saying.
If the Philadelphia Phillies look to their MiLB talent for a fifth starter, they may find that the well is pretty dry. They already have the top pitcher from the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs with them in Vance Worley, and no other starting pitcher has an ERA under 4.50 for the Triple-A ballclub.
It would have been nice if the Phillies still had veteran Brian Gordon (5-0, 1.14 ERA with Lehigh Valley) as an option, but he was picked up by the New York Yankees.
Phillies fans will remember Andrew Carpenter from the past two seasons where he made a few spot starts, and they didn't go too well. However, Carpenter has made a seemingly successful transition to the bullpen for the Iron Pigs as he is 5-0 with a 1.58 ERA in 2011.
With the recent flurry of call-ups and transactions made by the Iron Pigs, Drew Carpenter had to make a spot start and continued his stellar 2011 campaign. If the Iron Pigs can continue to have Carpenter stretched out, he has the control over his pitches that Phillies management desires.
Drew Carpenter is a real stretch, but I did mention that the barren is pretty dry in the minors with starting pitching. All of the Phillies top starting pitching talent is still a long ways from the big leagues, as most are still in A-ball.
Remember Tim Redding? Yes, the bum from the Washington Nationals....
The Philadelphia Phillies made an under-the-radar (because no one cares) signing a few weeks ago that may pay dividends in the near future.
The Phillies signed the veteran Tim Redding to a minor league deal and assigned him to AAA Lehigh Valley. Redding passed a physical with the Phillies on June 20th and immediately was put into the Iron Pigs starting rotation as that night's starter.
If you're wondering what Redding has been doing up to this point, he opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 15, and he signed with the Phil's.
I seriously hope the starting pitching doesn't suffer any more injuries, or we could be looking at the veteran Tim Redding as the fifth starter of a team with world title aspirations.
Now do you believe me that the barren is dry in the minors?
Arguably the best option for the Philadelphia Phillies on their search for a fifth starter may be that it simply does not matter.
Baseball purists will argue that their will always be injuries and a competent fifth starter has a place on every team, but No. 5 starters are a dime a dozen in MLB.
The Phillies have Worley and Kendrick (and even Blanton) who are more than capable of winning at least half of their starts, and is a fifth starter expected to do more than that?
Halladay, Lee and Hamels may be even better than advertised to this point, and it seems hard to fathom a team beating that three-headed monster in a playoff series.
H2O was certainly spectacular in 2010, but Hall-Lee-Ham (it's tough to come up with a nickname with Oswalt out isn't it?) pose a new challenge.
Doc Halladay is simply the best pitcher in baseball, Cliff Lee has shown that no one is better when the postseason rolls around and King Cole Hamels is a World Series MVP.
What are the options for the Phightin's and their fifth starter? Does it really matter?