The Phillies got a brilliant start from Joe Blanton last night as he pitched well and deep into the game. The Phillies needed it badly. The starting pitching has been atrocious this season. Some of the problems seem to have been ironed out in May. Surely the Phils have improved as a group after a terrible April, but by how much?

Here’s what Phillies starting pitchers have done so far in May:

Hamels 4 25 23 8 5 28 2.88 1.12
Myers 4 26.3 25 11 4 17 3.76 1.10
Blanton 5 31 29 16 12 28 4.65 1.32
Moyer 5 24.3 38 26 10 11 9.62 1.97
Park 4 18 21 14 12 11 7.00 1.83
Happ 1 6 4 2 0 4 3.00 0.67
Carpenter 1 4.3 8 5 3 4 10.38 2.54
Total 24 135 148 82 46 103 5.47 1.44

Hamels and Myers have both been fantastic. After last night’s outstanding outing, Blanton’s numbers for the month are around where you would expect them to be. Happ made one start that was very good. Hamels, Myers and Happ have combined to walk just nine hitters in 62 innings during May. Hamels, Myers and Blanton (and Happ in his one start) have all allowed less than a hit per inning for the month. Blanton and Hamels have 56 strikeouts in 56 innings.

Still, 10 of the 24 starts the team has made in May have gone to Moyer, Park or Carpenter. Those guys simply haven’t pitched well. As a group, the three pitched 46 2/3 innings in those ten starts with an 8.68 ERA and a 1.97 ratio. Two problems there, one is an 8.68 ERA is really bad and the other is that averaging about 4.7 innings per start leaves a lot of frames for the bullpen to throw.

Here is what the starting pitchers have done as a group for April, May and over the entire season:

  G IP ERA Ratio H/9 BB/9 SO/9
Season 44 242.7 5.86 1.55 10.83 3.08 7.01
April 20 107.7 6.35 1.68 12.04 3.09 7.19
May 24 135 5.47 1.44 9.87 3.07 6.87

So the good news is that they have been better in May. The walk rate is just about the same and they’ve struck out fewer hitters than they did in April, but they’ve been much better at preventing hits and runs.

The bad news is that even in May they have a 5.47 ERA and a 1.44 ratio. And that’s awful. In 2008, for example, the Pirates had the worst starting pitching in the NL by ERA. Their starters threw to a 5.36 ERA for the year. The ratio for Pittsburgh starters for ’08 was 1.62, but they were just one of four teams (along with the Nationals, Reds and Rockies) who had their starters put up a ratio that was worse than 1.44.

Barring an injury I expect that Hamels, Myers and Blanton are going to be fine at the top of the rotation. Better than fine. The problem as I see it is that you can’t expect JA Happ is going to hold down the last two spots in the rotation for the rest of the year. I’m not even sure it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll hold down one spot at the bottom of the rotation for the rest of the year. The bigger problem is that I don’t see an easy solution — it may look like no more starts for Park and Carpenter is going to solve the Phillies’ problems. It’s not. The fact that those guys are making starts in the first place is a symptom of the lack of depth and options that they Phillies have at the bottom of their rotation. The names may change, but I’m not as sure about the results. A return to form by Moyer would surely help a lot, cause it looks like the Phillies have a number of eggs in the Moyer-being-usable-all-season-long basket. If it doesn’t come the Phillies are going to have to get creative.