This week was tough so I am giving it to the entire starting rotation. Going into Friday’s series opener the Phillies starters had given up a total of 9 earned runs over 45 innings. That is good for a 1.80 ERA. The only starter that “struggled” was Moyer. Moyer surrendered 5 earned runs over a total of 12 innings pitched. Halladay was the only other starter to have two starts so far this week. He was lit up for 2 earned runs over 17 innings pitched. Kendrick, seemingly identifying his impending doom if he had another rough outing, pitched a gem in Houston going 8 strong and giving up no runs. Hopefully Hamels will have another solid outing in Arizona tonight and Blanton the same in his rehab assignment.
Outside of Roy Halladay, the Phillies rotation has been less than stellar. If not for the Red Zone Offense that Manager Charlie Manuel has been playing and the outstanding work the bullpen has been far more than expected. Between Cole Hamels, JA Happ, Kyle Kendrick, and Jamie Moyer, the four starters have averaged 4.2 IP per start. Granted Happ still has an ERA of zilch, he is averaging only 5 innings per start. Kyle Kendrick, who is filling in for injured starter Joe Blanton, has been absolutely ROCKED in two starts. I know it is only the second week of the season, but if this trend continues much longer, not only will the Philliies starting rotation become more and more nerve racking, but the bullpen will become highly taxed and may not be able to last the rest of the season intact and healthy.
Philadelphia is surrounded by fives. Philadelphia is the 5th largest market in America. Soon to be former Eagle Quarterback Donovan McNabb wore number five. So did Phillies “legend” Pat “the Bat” Burrell. Today I am writing about the only number five of concern. The fifth spot in the Phillies rotation. The season starts in roughly a week, but in all acutality, the Phillies can get away with a four man rotation until April 24th barring any injuries or weather issues. Currently, there are only two in house options: Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.
Both are having spectacular springs. Kendrick, who has been picking newly added ace Roy Halladay’s brain, is pitching to the tune of a 1.37 ERA in five (yes 5) games and four starts. He is currently second on the team in innings pitched behind Hamels at 19.2 innings pitched. While Kendrick’s ERA is very nice for spring training, his numbers in general are not as impressive. His Strikeout to Walk Ratio is 7 to 4. Groundout to Fly Ball Ratio is just over 1. He leads the team with SB allowed with 3. So where I think Kendrick can still develop into a quality starting pitcher, 2010 may not be his time.
Moyer, on the other hand, has a miniscule 0.77 ERA in two starts for the fightins. He also has a amazing 12 Ks. Neither of which should really estimate what Moyer could do during the regular season consider the majority of batters faced in spring training are all young kids trying to make a roster and are used to seeing 91-99 MPH heaters, not the devastating 80 MPH BBs that Moyer has in his aresnal. We all know that Moyers success hinges primarily on the umpire behind the plate. If Moyer gets that extra inch or two, he will have a good outing.
Right now the only free agent options to sign are Chad Gaudin and Noah Lowry. Both would be relatively cheap and could be signed to MiLB contracts. I imagine both wouldn’t be ready to start until the end of April, but as we already know, that is not much of a problem. Yes, there are a lot of starting pitchers available that could be signed with better resmues, i.e. Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and so on, but of those options, which would sign for as cheaply as either of those two would.
Of course RAJ (Ruben Amaro Jr.) could also trade for a fifth starter, but there are only so many pitchers that would be available for trade. Outside of bad contracts or players who are out of options and won;t make their roster, who else is available? Who out there could be better than Moyer and make it worth it for the Phillies to pay Jamie Moyer eight million dollars to pitch in relief or worse, not at all? Not much in my opinion.
So ultimately, I agree with Todd Zolecki over at The Zo Zone (http://zozone.mlblogs.com/). The Phillies have their number 5. And he wears number 50. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I would expect Jamie Moyer to be the Phillies fifth starting pitcher to open 2010. Whether he finishes 2010 there is a question for another day, but yes the ageless wonder will be our fifth starter. I wonder if Moyer’s jersey number is prophetic to how long he plans to pitch until. 50?
2010 is already shaping up for the Phillies to be the class of the National League. After losing the World Series in 2009, the Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. (RAJ) reloaded this squad with the intent of listening to co-owner John Middleton. To paraphrase, “I want my *%$!#@! trophy back.” I guess Mr. Middleton was a little upset at now repeating as World Champs. So were the rest of us, John, so were the rest of us.
RAJ did not hesitate lasting only a few weeks before acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball today, Roy Halladay. Fans drooled over the thought of a rotation with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels at the top. The fans were printing World Series Champs shirts weeks after the heart break of letting one slip away. Then the other shoe dropped. Cliff Lee, in a deal that prevented the two from being on the team at the same time, was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for a handful of AA prospects. The media raged. The fans in an uproar. The masses pressed the commitment of the ownership for nine million dollars for the best rotation in baseball. At the jump, I understood the complexity of the deal.
The Phillies knew that Cliff Lee wasn’t going to take a low ball offer. Lee was going to be a premier free agent after the 2010 season and he was intent on setting up his family for life with one good payday. On the other side, Roy Halladay made his money in Toronto. Now it was about winning. He saw the Phillies as a winning team and the best chance at the two things he covets most: A playoff appearance and more importantly, a World Series Championship Ring.
So with Cliff Lee not willing to give a discount, Halladay signed on and Lee was sent packing to Seattle for two quality pitchers and a speedy outfielder. Again the fans and media alike questioned the deal. None of these players are of the ilk of the players we gave up. But they did have two things going for them.
They were going to be closer to MLB ready faster than any player(s) the Phillies would acquire for Lee in draft compensation and were the players given up really going to be that missed. Drabek, yes. Taylor, yes. But of the remaining players given (Donald, Marson, Knapp, Carrasco, and D’Arnaud), I would say no. D’Arnaud and Knapp are both top 100 prospects by Baseball America but both are still 2-3 years away. Carrasco, while ready, seems to be a younger version of Oliver Perez. A guy who has a lot of talent, but has problems between the ears. Donald and Marson would have filled needs this year on the team in the same capacity as they will probably be used in Cleveland, a super sub and a back up catcher repsectively. Keep in mind though that we did acquire Ben Francisco in the deal was a contributing player in 2009.
Goodbye Feliz, Stairs, E-Brunt, and Bako. Hello Polanco, Gload, Schneider, and Castro. With Polanco, a more natural number two hitter, the Phillies gave Manuel the freedom to play with his lineup a little more and put Victorino down in the seven hole. All were definite upgrades at hitting. The Phillies learned a valuable lesson from teams that won before them. If you want to beat an AL team, you need to be built like an AL team
Fast forward to the present and the only story lines left for spring are: Will Jamie Moyer fend off Kyle Kendrick for the number 5 spot in the rotation and who will be the LHP out of the pen until JC Romero returns?
As far as the fifth spot in the rotation goes, I believe it is Moyer’s to lose. Moyer was a valuable starting pitcher for this organization in the 2008 championship season. He had a string of 14 consecutive quality starts. He was the team leader in wins even with Cole Hamels on the staff.
Kendrick looks to be the odd man out for two reasons. One, Moyer makes a base salary of eight million dollars, whereas Kendrick would be making less than ten percent of that. The second reason is simply about what to do with Moyer if he is not in the rotation.
Moyer is definitely not a suitable LHer out of the pen for a full season. If he didn’t have negative trade value, he wouldn’t have any value at all. The other option is to cut Moyer. That would bring the total for monies owed to players not on the roster to about ten million dollars. That includes money owed to Geoff Jenkins, Pedro Feliz, and Adam Eaton.
So with Kendrick having an option to the minors available, I’d prefer to see him remain a starter at AAA to keep getting steady work. If Moyer can keep Kendrick at bay, he is doing his job and there is nothing to worry about.
As far as the left handed reliever is concerned, Antonio Bastardo is the guy with the shot right now. Charlie like him so much last season, he actually got into the playoffs. The Phillies also have options internally if it seems like Bastardo is ineffective in Zagurski and Escalona. To be honest, I’d prefer that Bastardo return to AA or AAA and work on being a starter as opposed to a reliever.I’ve read and heard multiple comparisons of Bastardos and Santanas stuff. They could also acquire or sign for a lefty.
With the additions that RAJ made this offseason, I have no reason to believe, that, if healthy, the Phillies shouldn’t win 95+ games this season easily. That the Phillies four-peat as National League East Champions and the Phillies head to the World Series for the third straight season.