Would Your Hand Win If You Had Four Aces? (Part II: Pitching)

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Corey M. Schwartz

Pitching is often touted as the essential ingredient for winning championships while offense is often referred to as the entity that fills the seats. You would think that with a lineup consisting of players by the names of Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Victorino would be the guaranteed magnet that continues to draw consecutive sellouts to Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia this summer. However, in 2011, we may hear about another foursome that overtakes that throne.

Historically, if you ask any merchandise director of a professional baseball team what position sells consistently the most, I guarantee their response will be an offensive player. However, for the first time in franchise history the pitching staff of the Philadelphia Phillies might legitimately outsell the rest of the team as the city of brotherly love shows they also <3 their pitchers.

I could honestly spend the next five years discussing how R2C2 (commonly known as Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and Lee) may in fact be the best starting four pitchers any rotation, yet alone the Phillies, has ever embraced in baseball. However, rather than spending several paragraphs gushing like a school girl over how much talent the Phillies starting rotation presents this year. Instead, I will just share some statistics that will concisely express the awesomeness that is about to embark in the city of Philadelphia. Enjoy:

Wins – Loss ERA CG K
481-275            3.47  105   5,362

Low and behold, the above statistics are the combine career stats for Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. Without jinxing the Phillies pitching staff, I think the biggest concern this year for the Phantastic Phour is not their impending success, but who will come out at the end of the season as the statistical ace of the staff. Keep an eye on this starting rotation as it seems for this deck of arms, aces will be wild.

Loudly heard, the biggest concern for the Phillies pitching staff going into the 2011 baseball season is the current state of their bullpen. After spending close to 100 million dollars on their fierce starting rotation over the last two years, the Phillies have unfortunately neglected the one area on their team that needed the most attention – middle relief.

Inadvertently, the Phillies pitching staff is exceptionally strong at the front (Oswalt, Halladay, Hamels, Lee, Blanton) and at the rear (Contreras, Madson, Lidge), but like an Oreo, they currently have a very weak middle. Even more troublesome the most consistent middle reliever of the Phils pitching staff over the last several years – Chad Durbin – has still not re-signed with the club in 2011. As it looks right now, the bullpen lines-up like this on Opening Day 2011:

Middle Relief:
Danys Baez, David Herndon, and Kyle Kendrick

Left-Handed Specialist:
JC Romero, Antonio Bastardo

Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras

Brad Lidge

Excitingly for the Phillies this year, Madson came off an impressive year in the setup roll in 2010, Jose Contreras was very consistent last season, and for the first time in three years Brad Lidge reported to spring training this year healthy and probably in the best shape of his career. On the flip side of that coin, JC Romero walked more people than he struck out in 2010, Antonio Bastardo has very little major league experience and Baez, Herndon, and Kendrick are inconsistent at best.

So, as a die-hard Phillies fan, we can only hope that the work ethic, competitiveness, and energy surrounding the Phillies starting rotation will rub off on the rest of the pitchers this spring. Yes, pitching can and will win championships, but only if their whole is stronger than the parts that makes up its’ composition. With young pitchers waiting in the wings like Vance Worley, Michael Zagurski, Brian Schlitter, and Justin De Fratus, I expect no less than an arms race this spring for the middle relief spots on the opening day 25-man roster. Let the games begin…

Corey, an avid Phillies fan, will be analyzing the Phillies chances at another ring through a 3-part series looking at their offense, pitching, and the x-factor. Corey is also the Founder and CEO of RemixYourHealth, a grassroots and social media based health promotion initiative. Visit RemixYourHealth.com for more information.

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