Quick — who allowed fewer runs per start in 2010, Cole Hamels or Roy Halladay?

I’m guessing Halladay is your answer. Or at least it would have been mine before I looked it up. But it’s a trick question. Both Halladay and Hamels made 33 starts for the Phils last season and each of them allowed 74 runs, which is 2.24 runs per game.

They didn’t have the same ERA, of course. It wasn’t close. Hamels 3.06 and Halladay 2.44. Hamels had a higher percentage of the runs he allowed go as earned runs (if all of the runs that both pitchers allowed were earned, Hamels would have thrown to a 3.19 ERA and Halladay a 2.65 ERA) but that’s not the biggest factor in accounting for the difference. As you surely know, the reason that Halladay’s ERA was so much better and Halladay’s year was so much better was that Halladay pitched way more innings. Halladay threw 250 2/3 innings in his 33 starts compared to 208 2/3 innings for Hamels in his 33 starts.

The 208 2/3 innings that Hamels threw is still a lot — only 13 pitches in the NL threw more than that in 2010. But it’s not 250 2/3. Nobody in the NL threw more than that in 2010. Nobody was close. Chris Carpenter finished second in the NL in innings pitched behind Halladay with 235.

There were 39 NL pitchers that made at least 30 starts in 2010. Of those 30, four of them (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt and Kendrick) pitched at least part of the year for the Phillies. Of those four, Halladay and Oswalt threw an unusual high number of innings per start, Kendrick threw an unusually low number of innings per start and Hamels was in the middle.

among the 39 NL pitchers with at least 30 starts
Halladay 33 7.60 1
Oswalt 32 6.61 8
Hamels 33 6.32 17
Kendrick 33 5.83 36

Again, among the NL pitchers making at least 30 starts, Halladay and Oswalt had unusually high numbers in terms of innings per start, Hamels was in the middle of the pack and Kendrick was near the bottom.

In 2011, the Phils will presumably go into the season with Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels and Lee as their first four starters. How many innings might that save their bullpen is that group stays in the rotation for a full season?

Last year the Phillies threw a total of 1,456 1/3 innings. The starters combined to throw 1,035 1/3 innings and the pen threw 421 innings. The starters on the 2010 Phillies that weren’t Halladay, Oswalt or Hamels threw an average of 5.88 innings per game.

The table below looks at how many innings the rotation and pen might throw in 2011 if

  1. The Phillies overall (starters and relievers combined) threw the same 1,456 1/3 innings in 2011 as they did in 2010.

  2. Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt all threw the same number of innings per start in 2011 as they did in 2010.
  3. Lee threw the same 6.44 innings per start in 2011 as he has over his career (206 of his 218 career starts have come in the AL — in his 12 career NL starts he has thrown 6.64 innings per start).
  4. The Phillies starting pitchers who aren’t Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt and Lee will throw the same 5.88 innings per start in 2011 that they did in 2010.

IP/S IP 25 Starts IP 30 Starts IP 32 Starts IP 35 Starts
Halladay 7.60 190 228 243.2 266
Oswalt 6.61 165.3 198.3 211.5 231.4
Hamels 6.32 158 189.6 202.2 221.2
Lee 6.44 161 193.2 206.1 225.4
Total for
674.3 809.1 863 944
Starts by
other SP
62 42 34 22
IP by other
364.6 247 199.9 129.4
Total IP by
1038.8 1056.1 1063 1073.3
Total IP by
417.5 400.3 393.4 383

So, for example, the table above suggests that if each of Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt and Lee made 32 starts in 2011 at the rates defined above, they would combine to throw 863 innings over those 128 starts. The other 34 starts would be made by other pitchers, who would throw 200 innings. That would give the rotation 1,063 total innings pitched and would leave about 393 1/3 innings to be pitched by the bullpen if the staff overall was going to throw the same 1,456 1/3 innings in 2011 they threw in 2010.

Last year, the Phillies starters overall threw 6.39 innings per start. That means Hamels was below the team average at 6.32 and Lee, had he actually made starts for the Phils in 2010 and thrown 6.44 innings per start, would have been very close to the team average. While Lee may have thrown 6.44 innings per start over his career, his numbers over the past three years are way up from that. Over the past three seasons, Lee has made 93 starts in which he has thrown about 7.18 innings per start. In 2010, he made 13 starts for Seattle and threw 103 2/3 innings on a team that would wind up going 61-101 . That’s a ridiculous 7.97 innings per start. It sounds like the kind of thing that might not even be that good for you.

The difference between 7.18 innings per start and 6.44 innings per start is a lot of innings (a little more than 22 over 30 starts). Even the difference between Lee’s 6.64 innings per start (what he threw in his 12 starts with the Phillies in ’09) and his career mark of 6.44 innings per start adds up. If you replace the 6.44 innings per start for Lee with 6.64 , the TOTAL IP BY PEN numbers at the bottom of the table would switch from 417.5, 400.3, 393.4, 383 to 412.5, 394.3, 387 and 376.

Also important to consider is that while it’s true that the non-Halladay/Hamels/Oswalt starters for the Phils in 2010 combined to throw 5.88 innings per start in 2010, they could easily throw fewer than that in 2011. Blanton was the guy outside of the big three who made the most starts and he went pretty deep into games, throwing 174 2/3 innings over 28 starts or 6.24 innings per game. That inflates the number for the group. By comparison, the group of Kendrick, Happ, Figueroa and Worley combined to make 37 starts in which they threw an average of 5.62 innings per game.

The deal with Dennys Reyes fell through and this article says that JC Romero is still hoping to come back to the Phillies.