Last week I blogged about the Phillies lineup and my concerns, so here I am with the second and final installment of the spring training look at my hometown team. Today we look over the pitching staff and while some of this will be really easy, it isn't the cakewalk that most people are in the belief.
I know, I know. Teams all over MLB would like to have Roy "Doc" Halladay or Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels or even Johnathan Papelbon and we're immensely lucky to have them all on the same team. But what about those four and five spots in the rotation? Who is going to get us to our new $50 million dollar closer?
Lets start with the good first. I mean, we Phillies fans do have much to be happy about in terms of the pitching anyways.
The anchor and the man who truly paces the rest of the pitching staff. Doc has legitimized the Phillies pitching from the second he arrived here in the off-season of 2009. His relentless competitive attitude has inspired everyone from fellow ace Cole Hamels to the marginally talented Kyle Kendrick. He makes people around him want to be better and leads them quietly by example.
Each year the man is a candidate for 20 wins and the Cy Young award and that was even so when he was on perennial AL East cellar-dweller the Toronto Blue Jays. Barring injury (something that hasn't occurred since 2005) Halladay will go out there every five days and give the Phillies their best chance to win a game.
The staff Zen master in terms of keeping the pressure of the world at bay. Whereas Halladay is infinitely competitive, Lee calmly heads out to the pitching mound seeming like he is about to pitch a backyard baseball game. This isn't said to be a slight in any way, shape or form. These are two aces who couldn't be more far apart in terms of how they approach a game, that's all.
Yeah, me may have momentarily pissed off the city of Philadelphia last post season by coughing up a four run lead in the playoffs, but I'm still in the belief that Cliff can get it done when it counts most. Another candidate for 20 wins and the Cy Young, Lee will follow Doc's lead and go out there every fifth day. He has averaged just over 30 starts each of the last three seasons and has avoided any major injury.
Hamels is an interesting one because we're still awaiting a career season out of the 28-year old.His last two seasons have been really nice but the team just doesn't seem to get the wins for Hamels. As a result, he has yet to win more than 15 games in a season and the only time he reached that number was back in 2007. Playing in a "contract year" makes me believe that somehow, someway, Cole will put it all together and have luck on his side to finally reach (and exceed) the 15 win plateau. Maybe he'll even be in the running for the second straight year for the Cy Young.
All I want is for my favorite Phillies pitcher to find a way to agree on a long-term deal because it isn't nearly as simple as fans want to believe. You see the status of their offense. Having THREE pitchers making $20 million a year or more just doesn't leave all that much free cash to get hitters.
Yes, I'm placing him ahead of the rest of the pack and will continue to do so until either someone else unseats him or the "Vanimal" gets hit with the sophomore jinx.
The 24-year old third round draft pick came out of nowhere last season to grab 11 wins (against just 3 losses) and nearly stuck out a batter per inning on the season. Critics and commentators city and country-wide keep ragging on the kid for not having amazing stuff and that batters will eventually catch up to him and that may be so. But until they do, there is no reason to hold a kid back by making him out to be a one-season wonder.
Worley has great composure and never seems to get rattled on the mound. He has a great group of teammates to learn from on this staff and managed a cult-like fan following in his full-season debut. Double-digit wins are in order again...and I'll go out on a limb and say that Vance'll have a higher K-count than 2011 too.
I'll keep this one short and sweet because I haven't been into Blanton from day 1.
All I keep hearing is that Joe is an "innings eater" and I just fail to believe that we don't have someone in the system that can do exactly what Blanton does at about a tenth of his ridiculous $10.5 million dollars he'll make in 2012.
Don't forget that this "innings eater" coughs up runs like nobody's business on this staff, never having an ERA under 4.05 in his Phillies career. You're telling me a pitcher who gives up that many runs and never even got a complete game over the past 4 seasons is not only worthy of being in the rotation, but no one can supplant him?
I realize the Phillies are somewhat stuck with Blanton, but this is just a player we don't need and payroll that'd really help elsewhere. I can't wait until he is gone this season (he'll be a free agent at the end of the baseball year) and Phillies brass can use that cash more productively. Hell, give me Kyle Kendrick as the little engine that could in the fifth spot of the rotation. Give me anyone but "Fat Joe" Blanton.
We've got some worries here. Currently, Mike Stutes is injured, as is 100-year old Cuban Jose Contreras. 2011 Phillie phenom Antonio Bastardo hasn't looked great this spring and his velocity is slightly down. It is early yet so as long as Bastardo is still pitching, I've got faith he'll round into form. With a name like his in Philly, you just can't help but want to love the guy.
The signing of retread Chad Qualls and the holding over of Rule 5 pickup David Herndon will be the bullpen equals to Joe Blanton but I'll personally dislike them less than I do Joe. Herndon doesn't display anything that excites me as someone coming from the pen. He'll likely alternate with Qualls for those middling innings to either mop up on rare days we're blown out, or the 40+K strong at CBP will cross their fingers and hope they can hold down a lead for Papelbon.
Speaking of our new closer...
I need to finally get my head around Jonathan Papelbon being in Phillies pinstripes. I don't dislike the guy; his stats show him as much better than we could have had with Ryan Madson (especially at this point). But...he was a Red Sox player. I just can't get hyped to root for someone who played on the BoSox for his whole of his seven previous seasons. Oh, I know I'll come around because everything points to Papelbon being a real hammer at the end of the game.
What I'd love to see in the bullpen is that we end up keeping a youngster or two. We don't know who'll make the team as of this moment and young guns like Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont are still on the roster. Inexperienced? Oh absolutely but you know who else was last season? How about Atlanta Braves fireballers Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters?
You just never know with young pitchers. You could have the next two studs of your relief corps already on the roster...or they could end up imploding and at worst, they're sent down anyway and the Phils gets stuck looking through all the players cut from the spring training rosters. If they keep piling on the injuries, that may happen anyway.
I'd still rather have this staff more than any other staff here in the National League. Sorry there Davy Johnson...your Washington Nationals top three pitchers probably couldn't even hold Doc or Lee's jocks. Perhaps someday though. Just not in 2012.