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October 24 2006

That's it for me with quotes from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Jamie Moyer.  I can't go on for 60 more starts.  It's just too much.  I think it's all probably just propaganda from the albatross lobby anyway.

On August 19 the Phillies smoked Nats starter Ramon Ortiz for eight runs in the second inning on their way to an 11-2 win.  It was the game that Ortiz got ejected after hitting Utley and Rowand and Chase seeped out of the dugout pontificating the merits of charging the mound.  He decided against it.  Howard hit a home run on the day, his 43rd, and Victorino went 3-for-5 with three RBI.  The Phillies had played 122 games on the year and were 60-62. 

Cole Hamels started the game on the 19th and pitched well, allowing just two runs over six innings.  In the two days before, however, Phillies starters had combined to go 0-2 while allowing 12 earned runs in 7 1/3 innings on 17 hits and six walks.  Brett Myers had been blown up on the 18th and Scott Mathieson got shelled on the 17th.  For Myers it was the worst start in his worst stretch of the season -- the last of a stretch of four starts in August where he allowed 21 earned runs in 20 innings, giving up at least four earned runs in every start without ever going more than six innings.  If Myers was a proven commodity in a slump, Mathieson was just a young kid getting bombed.  He had appeared in eight games for the Phillies at that point, seven of them starts, and thrown to a 7.23 ERA.

On August 20 the Phillies acquired Jamie Moyer and cash from the Seattle Mariners for Andrew Baldwin and Andrew Barb.  They would go 25-15 in their remaining 40 games.  September, the only full month where the Phillies had Moyer in the rotation, was the month they would allow the fewest runs.  The Phillies allowed 115 runs in their 28 September games after allowing 131 in April, 123 in May, 165 in June, 131 in July and 144 in August.

In those last 40 games the Phils gave starts to Lieber, Myers, Wolf, Hamels and Moyer.  And one to Mathieson on September 2 where he would get hurt without getting an out.  Madson, Floyd, Brito, Bernero, Mathieson and Fultz combined to get 39 starts in the first 120 games the Phillies played and one in the last 40.

Moyer did more than just bar the door to keep out the not ready for prime time players, however.  The 4.03 ERA he threw to in his eight starts was the best of any pitcher to start a game for the Phillies other than Brett Myers (Hamels threw to a 4.08).

He also pitched deep into games.  Here's a look at the average number of innings pitched per start for some key Phillies and for Moyer in his starts with Seattle:

 

Player IP GS IP per start
Myers 198.0 31 6.39
Lieber 168.0 27 6.22
Hamels 132.1 23 5.75
Lidle 125.1 21 5.97
Wolf 56.2 12 4.72
Floyd 54.1 11 4.94
Moyer with PHI 51.1 8 6.42
Moyer with SEA 160.0 25 6.40

It all looks good.  There are some things to keep in mind, though:  Moyer didn't carry the Phillies to a 25-15 mark at the end of the season.  Myers was 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his seven starts after Moyer joined the team.  Hamels was 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA.  Ryan Howard's OPS was a ridiculous 1.324 in September.  The Phillies got unheard of production from third base as Nunez on-based .398.  The other thing is that the Phils don't just get to add Moyer next year, they also lost Cory Lidle.  Lidle went just 8-7 with a 4.74 ERA for the Phils last year, but did his best to help stabilize the rotation in the early going when things were really ugly.  He went 2-3 with a 4.40 in five April starts.  In his ten starts in July and August he went 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA. 

Still, when you look at how the Phillies rotation looked going into '06, and how they look now as they head into '07, it's clear things are better:

 

06 07
Lieber Lieber
Myers Myers
Lidle Moyer
Madson Hamels
Floyd TBD

It's pretty much a no-brainer.  Things are going in the right direction.  Moyer is better than Lidle and Hamels is better than Madson.  TBD is better than Floyd.  The strength of the Phillies is still their offense, even though they seem likely to score fewer runs next year with the loss of Abreu.  They don't need their pitching to be great, they just need it to be not terrible.

There still doesn't look like there's much of an answer to what happens if somebody gets hurt.  Somebody will.  Hamels and Moyer seem like the most likely candidates to go down, but Moyer has pitched 200 or more innings for six straight seasons now.

While it's likely the problem of what will happen if and when one of the guys in the starting rotation goes down isn't going to have an attractive solution before the start of the season, the problem that will get solved is finding a fifth man to fill out the rotation.  The Phils seem to be set on trying to bring back Randy Wolf, which seems odd to me given the $9 million Wolf made last season.  Clearly Wolf will not be making $9 million again anytime soon -- it may just wind up being a matter of what it will cost to bring him back.  If the Phillies conclude they don't have an in-house candidate, and I assume the front-runners would be Madson, Brito or Floyd, you would think they would be looking at a free-agent group that, while it doesn't have a lot of huge names past Glavine, Schmidt and Zito, still has a lot of names on it.  A lot of the names on it didn't make $9 million last year or throw to a 5.56 ERA and aren't coming off Tommy John surgery.  Wolf has 15 wins in his last three seasons -- as many as former Phil giveaway and now free agent Vicente Padilla had last year for Texas.  Any sign of Ricardo Rodriguez?

Most of all, however, it's nice to see the Phillies focusing first on fixing their pitching.  The addition of Moyer should be viewed as good news for Phillies fans and hopefully there is more to come. 

Finally some good news out of the Arizona Fall League re: Gavin Floyd.  Floyd pitched well yesterday as the Big Cacti topped the Scottsdale Scorpions 5-3 to improve to 7-5 on the season.  Floyd threw three scoreless innings, allowing no hits and a walk.  His ERA sits at 9.82 after three appearances.  JA Happ also pitched for the Saguaros.  He threw three scoreless innings as well, allowing one hit and two walks and dropping his ERA to 4.26.  Jason Jaramillo was 2-for-5 with two singles and is hitting .321.

Game 3 of the World Series is tonight.  Chris Carpenter faces Nate Robertson.  The lefty Robertson has made two post-season starts after going 13-13 with a 3.84 ERA in the regular season.  He got bombed by the Yankees in the ALDS, allowing seven runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, but threw five shutout innings in getting a win against the A's in his start in the ALCS.  Carpenter (15-8, 3.09) has made four starts in the post-season and has allowed two or fewer runs in three of them.  Overall he's gone 2-1 with a 3.70 ERA in the playoffs this year. 

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