2011 NL Playoff Rotations: Philadelphia Phillies

Previewing the National League playoff rotations seemed like a timely and fun idea. Then I realized it would involve writing about the Phillies. What am I supposed to discuss? They’re boring — not “I’ll never have those 133 minutes I spent watching Moneyball back” boring, but “everyone knows they are good what am I supposed to talk about” boring.

Blogging about baseball is hard.

The Phillies’ goal in the past off-season was to put together the best rotation in baseball, and one would be hard put to say they didn’t achieve it. Maybe there were a few hiccups during the season, but it is hard to find too many chinks in their armor, and what can be found is relatively trivial compared to other teams. I’m not a Phillies homer, that’s just the facts. Believe me, I wish there was more to discuss.

For each pitcher, I give a few of his 2011 stats, then his Oliver 2011 projected “true talent” ERA (as of Oliver’s September 19 update) to do some of the regression and application of past performance for us. Take it all as you will: I put that stuff in there for ease of access; one can always look at the player pages for more.

Roy Halladay, 2011: 8.2 WAR, 2.35 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 2.70 xFIP
Oliver projected ERA: 2.73

What can be written about Doc at this point that hasn’t been written a hundred times before? He gets plenty of strikeouts, he hardly ever walks anyone, more than half of the balls put into play against him are grounders, and he averages over seven innings a start. Five years ago he was a really good pitcher who thrived on control and ground balls who, despite his 2003 Cy Young run always seemed to be paying second fiddle to Johan Santana. Since then, he has increased his strikeouts, managed to avoid sandtraps, and he’s headed to the Hall of Fame. A ring would be nice, although I guess someone out there will be disappointed if he doesn’t throw another no-hitter in this year’s playoffs.

Cliff Lee, 2011: 6.7 WAR, 2.38 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 2.68 xFIP
Oliver projected ERA: 2.78

Lee is about as easy to write something insightful about as Halladay. I’ll leave it to others to recount his exchanges with the like-minded Gil Meche. There’s an argument to be made that Lee has been every bit as good as Halladay his season; in many ways their seasons have been practically indistinguishable. Particularly frightening for the Phillies’ opponents now and in the future is that Lee, who just turned 33 in August, has easily the best strikeout rate of his career, and not all of that can be attributed to the move to National League.

One concern: Lee has pitched in the last two World Series, but both times for the losing team. If the Phillies make to the final round, they probably should have Blanton pitch in Lee’s slot, amirite?

Cole Hamels, 2011: 5.0 WAR, 2.75 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 3.01 xFIP
Oliver projected ERA: 3.01

Young Hamels is having the best season of his already impressive career. He’s striking out a slightly fewer batters than in 2010, but a lower walk rate and increase in ground balls more than make up for it. He’s had a bit of homer-itis in September, but while a Pitch F/X guru (which I am not) might see things differently, it’s a small enough sample that it doesn’t seem to be much of a concern.

Roy Oswalt, 2011: 2.3 WAR, 3.86 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.96 xFIP
Oliver projected ERA: 3.47

If you are looking for a “weak link” in the Phillies’ rotation, it would be Oswalt. Due to injuries, in 2011 he’s pitched his lowest number of innings since 2003. There have also been questions about his velocity. His strikeout rate is the lowest of his career. All of that being said, 2.3 WAR in only 133 innings is still very good, his ERA and FIP are both better than average, and he is only their fourth starter. If something really goes wrong, the Phillies can always turn to Vance Worley or everyone’s favorite “fifth ace,” the previously-mentioned Blanton.

Like I said: boring. The Phillies aren’t a perfect team, but their rotation is by far the best of the playoff teams, and that includes the American League. Of course, the Phillies had great pitching going into the 2010 playoffs, too. How’d that turn out? That’s why they don’t play the games on paper, etc.

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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12 years ago

‘That’s why they don’t pay the games on paper, etc.’ = ‘play the games’?