Phillies Starters Need To Show Improvement – Phillies Nation
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Phillies Starters Need To Show Improvement

(AP)

Cole Hamels will have to overcome his slow start and improve for the Phillies to have success. (AP)

“It’s still early.”

That’s the mantra the informed baseball fan repeats to him or herself over and over when the urge to react (or overreact) to the things they see from their team on the field in the first few weeks of the season inevitably crops up.

It’s a phrase that is time-tested and accurate–there is quite a bit of folly in trying to glean too much information from such a microscopic portion of the schedule.

What we know about the team right now isn’t much, and what we think we know can change drastically over the next few weeks and months.

Still, it’s very difficult to ignore the disaster that has been Phillies middle relief through nine games.

Thought to be a strength at the outset of the 2013 campaign, the Phillies bullpen has not been as good as advertised through three series. The major offenders, Chad Durbin, Raul Valdes and Jeremy Horst have a combined ERA of 9.42, allowing 15 earned runs in just fourteen innings of work. Worse, they’ve allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score.

Some have blamed Charlie Manuel for the poor results early, claiming he needs to stop going to these guys in the middle innings of close games. Others have faulted Ruben Amaro for assembling another leaky bullpen. While both those individuals deserve some of the blame, the real culprit for the lackluster performances out of the bullpen so far has been the starting pitching.

For a collection of individuals making $71.5 million (or about 45% of the Phillies total payroll), the starters have thus far not lived up to the expectations that comes with their hefty paycheck.

Collectively, they’ve posted 6.24 ERA, which ranks them 28th in baseball. More importantly, however, in terms of how they’re affecting the bullpen, the starters have only averaged 5.2 IP per start. If you take away Cliff Lee‘s two starts of at least eight innings, the starters have averaged 5.0 innings even.

When your starters don’t go deep, the relievers are forced into the game earlier and expected to record outs in tough situations (in six of the Phillies nine games, relievers have entered the game with men on base). Ideally, you’d like to keep your middle relievers out of the situations as much as possible. So far, Manuel has had no choice but to use them in tricky spots, and the damage has been evident.

Make no mistake about it, it’s no coincidence that in all four of the Phillies wins so far, the starting pitcher has gone at least six innings.

This is a team that was built on pitching. Specifically, they were built on starting pitching and a very strong backend of the bullpen. In order for this team to win, they’ll need the starters to pull their weight. So far, they have not.

As they kick off a series with the light-hitting Marlins this weekend, it’s a good time to turn the page on an ugly first couple of weeks and begin turning in quality outings.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. DaveP

    April 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    It is important for the phillies starters to go deeper for sure, but the phillies relievers have been very bad with allowing inherited runners to score. That has been another area of opportunity for the phillies pitching.

    • Ryan Dinger

      April 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Agree 100%, Dave. The relievers need to perform better. Though I think the main issue, so far, has been that Manuel hasn’t had the option to play matchups with guys who are better suited for that role (As Ian wrote a couple days ago, Jeremy Horst has the makings of a great lefty specialist, for example). When you’re going to your bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning, Manuel is forced to let these guys face multiple hitters. Whereas if the starters could go six innings, Manuel could play matchups through the seventh and then rely on Adams and Papelbon to close it out.

      Whether Charlie would go this route or not is another topic in and of itself. But, in theory, the bullpen works best when they have to record nine outs at most. It’s on the starters to get the team into that position.

  2. bacardipr

    April 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Agreed Dave P. At this point im worried about Doc and Phillies giving any one of the relievers too long of a leash.

  3. Betasigmadeltashag

    April 12, 2013 at 1:39 am

    I think for some reason being a #1 has messed with Cole’s head so I’m not worried that he will come around. Hopfully the offensive output helps him not think he has to be perfect. Doc on the other hand looks like he has been pitching 7 innings in the second I’m worried it is something physically wrong. IMO the inherited runners has been a problem for a couple years. The phillies pen seems to be built to start innings. I would like to see Durbin on very short leash and give a few more innings hopefully in non stressful situations like up by 6 in the 8th imning

    • CarlG

      April 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      I fear you’re right about Cole. He’s demonstrated supreme command under game pressure, but it’s also pretty well established that he’s, you know, a thinking man’s athlete, and that the machinery is all bound up with his brain in a really overt way, which means he might not respond as positively to non-game expectation pressure. Was 2009 about his sensitivity to fan and organizational expectations? I’ve wondered. I’ve also wondered why he wasn’t considered opening day material before, despite coming up in our organization, taking us to a championship, and winning the World Series MVP…

      Still, I feel confidant that we’re not in for a 2009 repeat. He’ll get it ironed out.

      • schmenkman

        April 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

        I agree with the last sentence, but not the rest.

  4. Shine Box

    April 12, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Nothing like playing the Marlins to give Cole and Doc a chance to get their groove back.

  5. Don M

    April 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Carlos Quentin should get suspended for at least 10 games for that stunt last night …

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=26209215&c_id=mlb

    • Chuck A.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Quentin’s a hothead. He CLEARLY had it out for Grienke. Although Greinke DID say something that almost seemed like it egged Quentin on even further. Still….there was no need for him to even think about charging the mound after getting hit on the arm.

    • DaveP

      April 12, 2013 at 11:32 am

      Baseball fights are hilarious. “EVERYBODY GATHER IN THE MIDDLE ANGRILY. NOW LET’S STAND AROUND ANGRILY. YEAH.”

      The bullpens running into the middle of it and avoiding each other the whole run over is the icing on the cake.

      • George

        April 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

        Yeah, they’re so hilarious that sometimes players are injured. Last night’s Dodgers-Padres brawl was fall down laughing funny. I’m sure Greinke hasn’t stopped giggling yet.

      • CarlG

        April 12, 2013 at 4:40 pm

        Still less absurd than the “fights” in the NFL when guys who are padded within an inch of their lives get all tough-guy pushy-shovey.

  6. Don M

    April 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Even worse is CNNSI’s home page headline says:

    “Greinke breaks collarbone in major brawl”

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