Boy oh boy were the last six games ridiculous or what? The Phillies found themselves in the wrong side of the brooms against the Orioles this past week as they were swept by Baltimore. The 5-9 record they spotted at the end of the series was the low point of the young season thus far. Then before ya knew it…. bam, and 8-9 record after sweeping the Mets and putting themselves right back in the thick of the playoff picture. Of course, optimism must be tempered when the Phils bullpen has the worst ERA in Major League Baseball. It’s not exactly close either. Even after a strong 3 game set against the Mets, the Phillies (8.77) are still more than 2 runs worse then the 29th ranked Giants (6.52).
There have been some other unfortunate issues in the last week. Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn find themselves shelved on the IL. Scott Kingery still can’t seem to figure out his offensive struggles to this year, though his chances will continue playing centerfield until Haseley and Quinn return. With those misfortunes also has come a few silver linings. Rhys Hoskins has hit .308 with 3 doubles in his last seven games, finally showing some signs of life. Andrew McCutchen looked vintage Cutch Sunday with a massive two run shot, and Jean Segura isn’t just hitting better, he’s hustling everywhere! We also can’t forget that Bryce Harper is putting together an MVP caliber season to this point with very little recognition. This lineup centered around the face of the franchise right fielder is going to hit and produce on a moderately consistent level. But if the Phillies wanna finds themselves playing postseason baseball, it’s going to have to ride the arms of the rotation.
For a season where the bullpen is cringe worthy, the Phillies rotation has continuously put this team in a position to win almost every night. Take out the starts from number five starters Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard, the front four of this rotation has pitched to the tune of 3.35 ERA over 13 starts. Aaron Nola has lead the way back to back double digit strikeout outings, couple that with an ERA just barely over 2 and a WHIP of .667 and he has shown that the ace of 2018 is back. Zack Wheeler hasn’t completely dominated the completion but has a sub 3 ERA and has shown hitters have trouble making consistent solid contact against his repertoire. Then come the 3 and 4 starters in the rotation. Most fans expected Jake Arrieta to basically just get through his third year with the Phils and pack his bags, so far he’s been exactly what this team needed, a solid number 3 starter. Zach Eflin in two starts has 15 strikeouts and just two walks. Not bad for a number 4 in a rotation. In a shortened year this team is going to have to ride there strengths and hope there weaknesses don’t get exploited. Less games started should equal more innings pitched per start. Joe Girardi is going to have to make some tough decisions, but this one is simple, leave these guys pitch deeper into games.
This isn’t the starting rotation of 2011 and the five aces (if Joe Blanton is included) riddled with Cy Young awards and World Series MVP’s, but having four capable starters in a rotation is not the norm. Expectations of those four need to be higher now. They not only need to produce consistently, they will need to be pushed harder than in any other normal year. Fewer games started should very much mean more innings pitched per start. Slightly higher pitch counts shouldn’t only be considered, they should be demanded. The sprint of 2020 is proving how important each and every game is, so holding back can no longer be an option. Simply put… let them pitch.