The Phillies were in the top half of the league in ERA during April and May of last season. They even led the league in strikeouts in the month of April with 245. From that point on, it’s been downhill for the pitching staff and much-talked about pitching coach Bob McClure, who’s job security has been debated by the blogosphere and fans alike.
The pitching staff finished 29th, 19th, 28th, and 28th in each of the subsequent four months after May 2016. Take a guess where the pitching ranks this year? It’s 28th in the league. It’s not just regression anymore, but stability.
Jerad Eickhoff, who has been Mr. Consistent since his arrival to Philadelphia in 2015, has been anything but with 6.67 ERA in his last five starts. Our own Daniel Walsh dug up that Eickhoff’s bread-and-butter curveball has lost a considerable amount of movement from last season. His curveball last year averaged 7.8 inches of movement, compared to just five inches this season. That’s a big difference. Though the coaching staff saw a mechanical flaw in Eickhoff’s delivery, the result of his curveball remained the same: still flatter than last year. Opponents are hitting his curveball almost 40 points higher than last year, according to Fangraphs.
Vince Velasquez is still struggling to make it past five innings. After his last start in Pittsburgh, Velasquez said to CSN’s Corey Seidman, “I’m clueless right now, running around like a chicken without a head.” You would think with any sort of guidance, no player should ever feel like a chicken without a head. Velasquez mostly used “I” “I” I,” not “We” “We” We,” when explaining what he needed to do to right the ship. It wasn’t until the end of the interview when Velasquez finally inserted McClure’s name for some help. Although the 24-year-old can be a harsh critic of himself – and too harsh at times – it felt as if he was alone and had to do it himself.
Aaron Nola looked like an all-star the first two months of last year. He then curiously fell off a cliff and his season ended prematurely due to injury. The 23-year-old has been good this year, but was that April-May 2016 performance an outlier? He did deliver in his last start by going seven innings for the first time since May 20 of last year, but the jury remains out.
And the bullpen? Just forget it.
So what if these are the last days of McClure? If that’s the case, who would you like to see?
How does Roy Halladay sound?
Okay, maybe that’s jumping the gun a little too much, but eight all-star games, two Cy Young awards and a 19-game winner or more five times sounds good to me. But it’s not just about Halladay’s successes that would make him a potentially good pitching coach.
It’s his struggles, too.
Halladay was called up to the Blue Jays as a 21-year-old in 1998 and started two games. The next year he had a respectable 3.92 ERA in 36 games – half as a starter. Then the wheels fell off in 2000 when he started 13 games and had a 10.64 ERA. In 67.2 innings, Halladay surrendered 107 hits and issued 47 walks. His WHIP was 2.20. He hit rock bottom and was demoted to single-A.
“When things aren’t going your way, when there’s other things in the back of your head going on, it’s not always easy to just go out there and give everything you have,” Halladay said in that National Post story.
It wasn’t until 2002, when Halladay made his first all-star appearance, that he turned it around. He finished that season 19-7 with a 2.93 ERA, soon becoming one of the top pitchers of his generation. But he wanted a ring, so the Phillies traded for him in December 2009. Though he didn’t get the ring he long coveted, he got to pitch in the playoffs … and oh yeah, tossed a no-hitter in his first career playoff start.
Halladay has been through it all. He’s had the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He’s dealt with emotional obstacles, and that Velasquez can certainly relate to that. In spring training Halladay served as a special instructor for the Phillies, working extensively with Nick Pivetta. Halladay is the kind of teacher whose instruction would easily rub off on this young crop of Phillies starters. Heck, maybe even the whole roster.
Forget the pitching coach job for a second. Why not have Halladay work with these guys during the season, if even for a homestand or two?
Seriously, why not?