Monday, October 21, 2013

Phillies 2013 Review: Starting Pitching

Last year, for the first time in a few years the Phillies starting pitching was not very good. In ERA the Phillies starting pitching ranked 25th in the MLB. This was primarily due to the lack of depth they had. Besides Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, no starting pitcher from the Phillies posted an ERA lower than 4.04.

Kyle Kendrick pitched tremendously in the first half of the season. In 18 starts, Kendrick pitched at least six innings in 15 of them. Kendrick's name even came up as a potential All-Star but he did not make the team. From months July through September Kendrick struggled with consistency. Kendrick began getting hit around by the opposition more regularly and late in the season word came out that Kendrick has been dealing with a shoulder injury. Mid way through September Kendrick was placed on the DL and did not pitch for the remained of the 2013 season. Kendrick's final 2013 stats were 10-13 with a 4.70 ERA with 182 innings pitched.

To me, a pitchers record means absolutely nothing. A pitcher can pitch 8 innings and give up one run and get the loss. Several times a year we see Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee go deep into the game, surrender one or two runs and get the loss. On the other hand, we can see Tyler Cloyd pitch 5 innings give up 7 runs and get the win. Now that would require the Phillies to score more than 7 runs and let's be honest that is not happening very often.

Cliff Lee had a very good 2013 season. Lee made his fourth All-Star game and in September he posted a 54/1 strikeout to walk ratio. Let's take a moment to let that soak in.......54/1 strikeout to walk ratio, unbelievable! With 222 innings pitched Cliff Lee ended up with a 2.87 ERA and more importantly a 5.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) which was eighth best in the MLB for pitchers. For those who do not know what WAR is I will do my best to explain it. Here is the best definition that I found for WAR: "is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic." It also says, "You should always use more than one metric at a time when evaluating players, but WAR is pretty darn all-inclusive and provides a handy reference point. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This is courtesy of, which is the best site for students to learn about the sabermetric community of baseball.

Yet again, Cole Hamels had a very interesting year. If there is ever a game when a quirky play happens or something out of the ordinary happens, then Cole Hamels must be pitching. As a major victim of broken bat base hits, infield hits or bad defense Hamels struggled for part of the 2013 season. Hamels was deemed the 2013 Opening Day starter but he did not pitch like an Opening Day starter. With posting an ERA of 3.60 and a 4.2 WAR it seems that Cole Hamels may not be the ace that Phillies fans once thought he might be. Although Hamels is a terrific pitcher he may at best be a number two starter in a major league rotation. Cole Hamels turns 30 this December and he is no longer considered "young." Hamels still has many years of being productive left but I must raise the question whether he has the potential to be a number one starter or if what we saw in 2013 and years past is what he really is, which is a number two starter. 

The rest of the Phillies rotation was atrocious to put it nicely. Jonathan Pettibone pitched solid when he first came up from the minors in the beginning of 2013, but his "stuff" isn't exactly something that gets fans excited. Personally, I do not see him being anything more than a number four starter who can eat up innings and keep them in the game. Besides Pettibone, the remainder of the bottom of the rotation belonged in the minor leagues. John Lannan, Tyler Cloyd, and Roy Halladay pitched like pitchers who have never pitched before. First, John Lannan had some games where he would give his team a shot to win the game and in all reality the Phillies signed Lannan to be their number five starter and when Lannan was healthy he did a moderately good job at doing so. Health became an issue for Lannan and he will not return to the Phillies in 2014 because he would like to go to a club and compete for a spot in a rotation and the Phillies were not able to give him a chance. Next, Tyler Cloyd pitched absolutely terrible for the Phillies, at the end of the season Cloyd was given multiple chances to start and show that he is not terrible and he proved everyone right when he failed time and time again and pitched terrible. For whatever reason, the Cleveland Indians claimed him off off waivers after the season ended. The Indians must be miracle workers because I cannot believe there is a team that thinks they can turn him into a major league pitcher. Finally, the hopes for Roy Halladay to return to his old self in 2013 were shut down when he started 2013 extremely poorly which were capped off with a long trip to the disabled list. Halladay worked extremely hard to come back and pitched for the Phillies at the tail end of 2013 but he pitched so poorly it became hard to watch. To see a guy like Halladay who has a tireless work ethic, and has pitched so well in the MLB for so many years is tough because you know he wants to pitch again and thinks he can but when he pitches like the way he did in 2013 the question is still up in the air whether he can still return to some form of Roy Halladay. 

During this off-season the Phillies need to add at least one reliable arm to add to the pitching rotation with Lee and Hamels at the top. Kyle Kendrick is returning and if healthy he should be a viable option and a couple months ago the Phillies signed Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who is projected to be at best a number three starter but most likely a number four pitcher in the rotation. Injuries will occur like every season and hopefully the Phillies can sign a couple of potential veteran arms that will pitch in Lehigh Valley and if needed can do a serviceable job with the big club. Also, keep in mind that Jesse Biddle is getting close to the big leagues and I would not be surprised if we saw him with the Phillies at some point in 2014.

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