Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four Quesions for the Phillies Pitching Rotation

With the 2009 Grapefruit League officially underway, Philadelphia Phillies fans have a few things to watch for in their rotation. Only Phillies Ace, Cole Hamels, doesn't raise any questions, who after winning the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP, should have his best year yet. But what does the rest of the rotation have to offer?

1. Will Brett Myers finally play consistent ball?

The 2008 season was an interesting ride for Brett Myers. After closing out games for a year, he was thrown back into the rotation after the Phillies acquired Brad Lidge from Houston. As the number one starter on opening day, Phillies fans expected Meyers to make the transition from closer to ace quickly. They couldn’t be more wrong. Myers had a 5.84 ERA before finally being sent down to AAA mid-year to regain his composure.

The AAA time worked wonders for Meyers, who pitched unbelievably once he was brought back up. Meyers had a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts in July and a 1.65 ERA in 6 starts in August, but fell back to the 5.00 range in 5 games in September.

Back to the original question: Will this finally be the year that Meyers pitches consistently? I think it may be. Meyers looked good in the playoffs, and it motivated him to lose 30 pounds in the offseason. In the best shape of his life, and feeling rather confident, expect big things from Meyers this year.

2. When will Jamie Moyer start pitching like he's 46 years old?

Jamie Moyer had more wins than any other Phillies pitcher last year. Take a second if you need to read that again. The 46 year old hurler managed to win more games than young star, Cole Hamels. Moyer's fastball is only in the 70's, but he mixes pitches well and knows how to paint the corners of a strike zone. So when will his age start showing its ugly head?

Moyer never threw a hard ball. He never needed it, so that will probably never be an issue. But towards the end of last season and in the playoffs, you saw the toll that long season had on his body. Moyer had two rough outings in the playoffs before pitching a phenomenal game in the World Series.

Jamie is aging goods, but he should be able to last the two years on his contract. And if he starts to drop off, the Phillies have plenty of young prospects who would gladly welcome the chance to step up.

3. What Will Blanton's numbers be this year?

Joe Blanton was just another hero in the 2008 playoffs for the Philadelphia Phillies. On a team where everyone stepped up to win it all, Joe was no exception. Everyone knows that pitching wins championships, and no one was quite sure whether Blanton would fit into that equation. Although 4-0 as a Phillie, Blanton had his share of rough starts when he first arrived in Philadelphia. As time went on, he gained confidence and took into the playoffs, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA.

I wouldn't expect Joe to be blow anyone away this year, but he'll get the job done at the bottom of the rotation. He looked more than solid in the playoffs, and should pitch quality ball this year.

4. Who is going to be the No. 5 starter?

The most talked about topic in Philadelphia since the post-championship high finally passed. Pitching Coach Rich Dubee has said that he sees Kendrick taking back the spot that was his in the beginning of the 2008 season before being sent down to AAA. After an exciting rookie season, Kendrick didn't match the numbers he had the year before and was demoted to AAA to work on his stuff.

Another possibility is J.A. Happ, who saw some time late in the 2008 season. Happ mostly played from the bullpen and went 1-0 with a 3.69 ERA. Happ will definitely get looked at as a possible candidate.

The race for the 5th spot got very interesting when the Phillies signed Chan Ho Park. Park, although pitching mostly from the pen in Los Angeles, could also find himself being considered for the spot. Park hasn't started since ’06 when he went 7-7 in Sand Diego with a 4.81 ERA. Park is no doubt capable of pitching at number five.

The most interesting option of all would be 21 year old Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco had excellent numbers in AAA, with a 1.72 ERA in 6 starts, striking out 46 batters. He then carried the success into the Venezuelan winter league where he was 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 starts. If Carrasco continues the success through the Grapefruit League, he would be a very interesting pitcher for the fifth spot.

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