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October 7 2006

During the 2005 season, the Phillies gave four starts to pitchers that ended their year with an ERA over five with the team.  Not to beat a sick-and-dying-if-not-quite-declared-dead horse, but the four starts went to Gavin Floyd.  Floyd pitched in seven games with the Phillies in '05, four of which were starts, and over the year threw to a 10.04 ERA.  The other 158 starts went to hurlers that ended the season with an ERA under 5.00.

In 2006, 51 of the 162, or 31.5%, of the starts made by Phillies pitchers went to pitchers that would end their year with the Phillies with an ERA above 5.00.  Here goes:  Madson, 17 starts and a 5.69 ERA for the year.  Wolf, 12 starts and a 5.56 ERA for the year.  Floyd, 11 starts and a 7.29 ERA.  Mathieson, 8, 7.47.  Brito, 2, 7.36.  Bernero, 1, 36.00.

I don't want to be the one to press the panic button, but that's something of a dramatic change without a ton of hope in sight.

In 2005, the Phillies played in a Citizens Bank Park that gave a significant advantage to hitters.  Prior to the 2006 season, the fences were moved back and the Phils played their home games in 2006 in a yard that still gave an advantage to the hitters, but not as dramatic of one.  And in '05 they allowed 726 runs, 86 less than the 812 they would allow in 2006 in a better park for pitchers.  As a group, starters threw to a 4.20 ERA in 2005 and 5.08 in 2006.

This past season was a disaster for the Phillies starting pitching.  The bullpen broke down towards the end of the season, but had it not been so good early the Phillies would have been blown away this year.  The Phils pen threw to a 3.79 ERA in 2006, which was third-best in the National League, after throwing to a 4.24 ERA in '05, which was tied for 9th-best in the NL.

Here's a look at the other teams in the National League East, and the percentage of their starts that went to pitchers who would end their season with the team with an ERA above five.  And if you're a Nationals fan, just trust me, you wanna look away right now:

 

Team Starts by 5+ ERA Percentage of starts
Mets 36 22.2
Phillies 51 31.5
Braves 31 19.1
Marlins 34 21.0
Nationals 120 74.1

And yes, I understand there's something that needs to be said about the Nationals and it should go right here.  I, however, am dumbfounded.    I'll give it a try, though.  120 is really a lot in this context.  Too many, really.  Only one of the five guys on the Nationals who made more than 15 starts with the team threw to an ERA under 5.00.  Mike O'Connor did it, but just barely, going 3-8 with a 4.80 ERA in 21 games, 20 of which were starts.  And they really can't move their fences back much further and have it still be considered baseball.

The Padres allowed the fewest runs in the National League this season, surrendering 679 while throwing to a 3.87 ERA as a team.  They gave two starts to pitchers who ended the season with an ERA over 5.00 (Dewon Brazelton and his 12.00 ERA got two starts).  Houston, on the other hand, allowed 719 runs, the second-fewest in the NL, on their way to a 4.08 team ERA.  They gave 54 starts to plus-five guys, mostly Wandy Rodriguez and Taylor Buchholtz.

So both the Phillies and the Astros gave a similar number of really bad starts to guys that got bombed, but somehow the Astros gave up the 2nd fewest number of runs in the NL but only three teams allowed more than the 812 runs the Phillies gave up.  How?  It wasn't the pen.  The Astros pen was good, allowing the third fewest runs in the league, but the Phillies pen was almost as good, allowing the fourth-fewest.  The answer may be simply that in addition to having guys that got blown up, the Astros had guys that were lights out as well.  Oswalt, 15-8 with a 2.98 ERA.  Clemens, 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA in his 19 starts.  The Phillies didn't.  The most productive Phillies pitcher was Brett Myers, and he threw to 12-7 mark with a 3.91 ERA.  A nice season.  But not enough to offset the awful years from
the hide-your-eyes-guys the way Oswalt and Clemens did for the Astros.

The list of problems with the Phillies starting pitching is pretty long.  But it's not just the presence of the guys who get blown up and get too many starts.  It's also the absence of the guys to offset them, and unless and until the Phillies start to get some better than pretty good years from some starting pitchers, they're going to stay in the middle of the pack in terms of the runs that they allow.

In playoff action, the A's beat the Twins yesterday 8-3 to sweep the best of five series.  Dan Haren got the win, going six innings and holding the Twins to two runs.  Oakland blew the game open with a four-run seventh inning.  The A's will face the winner of the series between the Yankees and the Tigers in the ALCS.

The Yankees are suddenly down two games to one after Kenny Rogers led Detroit to a 6-0 win last night.  Rogers allowed just five hits over 7 2/3 innings while striking out eight.  Curtis Granderson had a home run and two RBI, he's hitting .417 in the series.  I don't know how much longer we're going to see the best-of-five format in the Division Series, but the Tigers are on the brink of a shocking upset.  Game four is this afternoon.

All four remaining NL teams play today.  The Cardinals are up two games to none on the Padres and the Mets are likewise up 2-0 on the Dodgers.  

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