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December 18 2006

Having discussed the decisions to rebuild the Phils and trade Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez, we're up to number three on the list of the biggest decisions of 2006.

#3: Floyd and Madson in the Phillies rotation.

Having sent Vicente Padilla packing, the Phillies acquired free agent Ryan Franklin a month later, in January of 2006.  Franklin was coming off of two straight wretched seasons with the Seattle Mariners in which he had gone a combined 12-31 and posted an ERA around five in both seasons.  Heading into spring training, most people had Franklin as the Phillies' fourth starter.  The popular thinking was that Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd would battle it out for the fifth spot.  Robinson Tejeda, Eude Brito and Ricardo Rodriguez were considered by many to have an outside shot for the fifth spot, but Tejeda and Brito would miss time due to the World Baseball Classic.

Franklin was solid in spring training, throwing to a 3.38 ERA in 18 2/3 innings.  He allowed 17 hits and walked six.  Had it been true that the spot had been his to lose he didn't do much to lose it.

Madson was stellar in his bid to make the rotation.  Through 2005, Madson had made just one start in his career but was coming off of a season where he had been solid out of the bullpen for the Phillies, posting a 4.14 ERA in 87 innings.  In his 24 spring innings he threw to a 1.50 ERA with a ratio under one -- he allowed just 16 hits and five walks.

Floyd showed a spark as well.  Coming off of a miserable season at Triple-A where he threw to a 6.16 ERA in 24 games, 23 of which were starts, Floyd posted a 3.16 ERA in his 25 2/3 innings, allowing 22 hits and nine walks.  The warning signs were there, however, as he surrendered six home runs in his 25 2/3 innings. 

Tejeda was traded in the deal that brought David Dellucci to the Phils.  Rodriguez was released.  Brito only got to throw 8 2/3 spring innings with the Phillies after returning from the World Baseball Classic.  He got hit hard in those innings, throwing to a 7.27 ERA.

One of the biggest questions about the decision to put Floyd and Madson in the rotation was who made it.  If the Phillies' primary goal was to make the playoffs in 2006, it was a poor one.  It certainly doesn't smack of Charlie Manuel, the guy who went to his grizzled veterans time after time down the stretch with young and inexperienced arms ready and rested.  Whoever it was, the Phillies went with Floyd and Madson in the rotation and sent Franklin in the pen.

And they got bombed.  Floyd would wind up making 11 starts on the year and posted a 7.29 ERA.  Opponents slugged .599 against him.  He allowed 14 home runs in 54 1/3 innings.  Combining his spring and regular season stats he allowed 20 home runs in 80 innings, about one every four innings.  By comparison, Carlos Silva allowed the most home runs in all of baseball last year.  He gave up 38 in 180 1/3 innings, or about one every 4.7 innings.

Madson was nearly as bad.  He would throw to a 5.69 ERA for the year but a 6.28 ERA in his 17 starts.

Ryan Franklin, meanwhile, got no starts.  He wound up pitching to an unexciting 4.58 ERA out of the Phillies' pen before being traded in August.  The point is not that Franklin was pitching well.  He wasn't.  But he wasn't pitching as terribly as Floyd and Madson were.  Virtually nobody was.  Even in Franklin's worst year, 2005, his numbers far exceeded the horrid starts that the bottom of the Phillies' rotation was putting up.

Whether by design or not, when the biggest piece of the dismantling of the old guard came, trading away Bobby Abreu, there was not much argument to be made that the Phillies had a chance to do something in 2006.  Abreu played his last game on July 28.  The Phillies lost 4-1 to drop to 46-54 on the season.  The Phillies were in a big hole, but it was one that was dug by their starting rotation and not by anything the old guard had done or failed to do.  The Phillies went 39-23 after the Abreu trade and Madson and Floyd would combine to make one start.

The frustrating thing for Phillies fans was that the Phils wound up coming so close to the playoffs and just falling short.  Not only did the Phillies put Floyd and Madson in the rotation, but they kept them there while they got battered.  In the defense of the decision, the Philies fared fine in the games started by Madson and Floyd.  They managed to go 11-6 in the games that Madson started and 5-6 in the games started by Floyd.  The biggest problem may have been the toll their starts took on the Phillies' pen.

Neither of the pair pitched deep into games.  Floyd went just 54 1/3 innings in his 11 starts, or about 4.9 a game.  Madson went 90 1/3 innings in his 17 starts, or about 5.3 per start.  Ryan Franklin, on the other hand, pitching mostly in the pinch-hitting averse American League, had gone much deeper into games over his career, throwing 668 innings in 106 starts or about 6.3 innings per start.  By the end of the year the Phillies were in the playoff hunt and their pen, which had been excellent for much of the year, broke down.  You have to wonder if bailing out Madson and Floyd was a big part of it.

Madson in the rotation also meant there was no Madson in the pen, where he had been good for two straight seasons with the Phils.  Not only did the Phillies put an ineffective pitcher in their rotation, they removed one from their pen.

The pair can't take all of the blame for the awful performance by the Phillies rotation.  The Phillies went 1-5 in Jon Lieber's first six starts and Lieber threw to 7.04 ERA in April.  It was a dreadful combination.  In April, Madson threw to an 8.06 ERA and Floyd to a 6.57 ERA.  One of the differences, however, is that it was reasonable to expect that Lieber was going to get better.

Putting Floyd and Madson in the rotation last year proved to be a big decision, but it was nothing compared to keeping them there for as long as they did.  The bottom line for the Phillies was that their starting pitching was awful for much of the season.  It seems like they had other options and, for whatever reason, they didn't use them.  The fixes, when they finally came, would be Jamie Moyer, Cole Hamels and Randy Wolf, but never Ryan Franklin.  And when the fixes came the Phils very nearly did what many would have thought impossible -- digging themselves out of the huge hole they had made.

This article says the Twins are unlikely to trade their surplus relievers for Jon Lieber.

Toby Hall signed with the White Sox.

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