The four-aced rotation, once heralded as one of the best of our generation, looks a little bit different than it did back in March and April.
One starter not included in the "Phantastic Four" has risen to prominence as one of the best pitchers on the entire team, ranking in some statistical categories alongside Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. His name is not Joe Blanton. It's Vance Worley.
Worley has struck his rookie season with a force, dominating opposing lineups and piling up 11 wins and just two losses, all while maintaining a 2.85 ERA.
The original, presumed fourth starter was, of course, former Astros' ace Roy Oswalt. But Oswalt has had his share of struggles this season, with that ever troublesome back causing some havoc earlier this year.
With his division clinching victory last night, he lowered his ERA to 3.66 and upped his record to 8-9. These numbers are solid, no doubt, especially for a fourth starter. But with Worley's sudden and unexpected breakout season, the question is being asked across the city... Who would you rather have on a postseason rotation: Oswalt or Worley?
Well, maybe the better question to ask is this: Who would you rather have come out of the bullpen?
Both questions seem to counteract each other.
Oswalt, at this point in his career, might have limited value out of the 'pen. Worley, at the age of 23, is likely to be a much more versatile and diversified pitcher, and is better suited for relief appearances.
Who would you rather have as your #4 postseason starter?
But is it worth putting a guy, who—in all respects—is having a better season, in the bullpen where his use will be minimized? Under the circumstances, absolutely.
Oswalt is not among the washed up mediocre talent that so heavily persists throughout the league on a year-to-year basis. He is just one year removed from one of the best second halves of a season from a Phillies pitcher in recent memory. His postseason starts were all spectacular, always giving the team an opportunity to win.
He's been there before. He's succeeded there before.
And to top it all off, the only hole in his extraordinary career is the lack of a championship. It's the reason he wanted out of Houston and the reason he accepted a deal to the ever-maligned City of Brotherly Love. He has that extra motive that in turn gives him an edge when October rolls around.
That's not to say that Worley doesn't have equivalent passion, or the same drive that Oswalt has. But it's a different passion, a different drive. One that does not have the pain and exertion of coming so close to winning a World Series, and coming up just short.
Experience is often underplayed. But when looking back at two Worley-prototypes of past years in Philadelphia, Kyle Kendrick and J.A. Happ, one will remember that their first postseason starts were disasters.
Both lasted just a few innings. Granted, Worley, in nearly all respects has put together a better rookie campaign than both Happ and Kendrick did. But there are several similarities and the comparison does cause some reservations when rushing to the conclusion of Worley over Oswalt.
On any other team, Worley has the talent and skill that is deserved of a spot on a postseason rotation. But not on this team. Not over Oswalt.