As pitchers and catchers amp it up in Florida, I’m pondering long and hard as to the grade I’d give the Phillies pitching staff. Every good team has a strong pitching staff. I like the rotation even the shakiness at 5-spot. There are lots of questions about the end of our rotation but plenty of potential answers. I’d love our pitching prospects if our bullpen didn’t wasn’t such a huge question mark.
The top of the rotation looks solid. In fact aside from the questions at the five spot the starters seem pretty set. Considering JA Happ, a ROY runner-up, is your four-man the Phil’s must be pleased. The five spot is a question. Is it Jaime Moyer, Kyle Kendrick, or a dark horse who will take that permanent role? Is it possible Pedro Martinez might be on speed dial? Could one of these young farm system studs be the answer? Those are the questions; here is the answer. Regardless of the our starting rotation, to give it a solid base, we need to strengthen the pen.
The Phillies lost easily their best reliever in Chan Ho Park, who I’ll talk in a little more detail about later. Scott Ayre is somewhere between Route 66 and Highway 61, I imagine with a set of longhorns on the front of his RV. Park was their best reliever but Mr. Ayre was without a doubt our most important. Being the sole reliable lefty his performance was always immensely important.
So where are the Phillies now? Resting our hopes on the return of the mercurial J.C. Romero and young unproven arms like Yohan Flande, Sergio Escalona, and Mike Zagurski. If concern or doubt isn’t creeping into your mind, I want a sip of your Kool-Aid.
As far as right-handed relievers go the Phillies seem set. Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, Lidge, and Madson provide plenty of depth as well as firewalls. But in baseball the left-handed reliever is as important as shut down corner in football, the three-point specialist in basketball, or an NHL goon. The season is around the corner, but the pitching market remains surprisingly deep. I won’t go into every available free agent pitcher, but I’ll name a player who is should be on the short list of as the best LH reliever pitcher.
SEE: Joe Beimel– A 6’3, 33 year-old lefty who’s spent the last 3 seasons as the lefty specialist in Los Angeles before being traded to Washington and Colorado
SEE: Joe’s stats over the past 3 years– 3.48 Era, 1.5 strikeouts for every walk and a very impressive 1.336WHIP.
Beimel has been a Philly killer. Consider Chase Utley, easily the most professional hitter in the lineup is a career .167 hitter in 15 plate appearances against Beimel. Most important he hasn’t made more than $2 million dollars in a season. With opening day less than 40 days away, he can’t hold out hopes of getting his ideal contract.
The Phillies aren’t a team with a lot of glaring needs but losing Scotta Ayre will prove to be a bigger snag in the quest for a third straight NL crown than most think. Beimel may not be THE man but the Phillies can’t do much worse in suring up their pen.
– Chan Ho Park: Is anyone as disappointed in the way Park’s offseason ended as I am? He wanted to be a starter. Offered $3.25 million by the Phillies to be a reliever, Park turned it down. Three months later he signed with the Yankees for $1.2 million, to be a reliever. My mind still can’t wrap itself around this one.
– Salvation in Theory: Much was made of Cole Hamels sudden and drastic fall from dominance. He was clearly a different pitcher in 2009 compared to his MVP effort in ’08. We hope with hard work and dedication he’ll back to form for 2010; however, writer Tom Verducci says it may have less to do with his work ethic and more to do with science. “The Verducci Effect” sites a drastic drop in performance for pitchers who increase their innings pitched by 30 innings from one year to the next. In this case we’d examine Cole’s ’07 year (183.1IP) and ’08 (227.1) as well as the 27 postseason innings he threw. Check this out (http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/02/verducci_effect.php). Perhaps this can explain 2009 and help us rest a little easier in 2010.