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At The Half: The Need For A Starter

As it stands, the Phillies have a three-man starting rotation — Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.

There are a few others that could round that out — Brett Myers, JA Happ and Adam Eaton.

A couple other options remain as possibilities — Carlos Carrasco, Kris Benson, Brian Mazone, Player to be Named Later.

So it’s a mess, and not a good mess to have. We know that Hamels is good as an ace; he can go eight and nine innings and pitch masterfully. We know Kendrick and Moyer are good enough to go six innings, but we can’t hope for more. They’re good for the back end of the rotation. Heck, they could even pass as No. 3 and 4 starters in this watered down National League.

It’s been proposed that maybe a rotation with four Kendrickian starters would suffice. Could it?

Last year’s Red Sox won a World Series with one dominant ace (Josh Beckett, 145 ERA+), one pretty good pitcher (Curt Schilling, 122 ERA+) and three slightly-above-average or average guys (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 108 ERA+; Jon Lester, 104 ERA+; Tim Wakefield, 100 ERA+).

This year’s Phillies have one dominant ace (Hamels, 140 ERA+), one above average pitcher (Moyer, 112 ERA+), one average guy (Kendrick, 99 ERA+) and two guys well below average (Eaton, 77 ERA+; Myers, 76 ERA+).

Going back further, the 2006 Cardinals had a rotation mirroring this year’s Phils. But they were the exception, a team that got hot at exactly the right time. Every other champion since 1998 (other than the Johnson/Schilling combo of 2001) had a rotation with four pitchers with an ERA+ over 100. It remains true: To win the World Series, you need consistently good pitching.

And while you can’t speculate, you can’t bank on Myers, or Eaton, or Happ, or Carrasco, or Mazone, or Benson to be the answer. You can’t bank on any of them to obtain and retain ERA+ over 100. You can’t rely on them to be average.

The Phillies are one above-average pitcher away from solving their problem. AJ Burnett has an ERA+ of 82, but in the last four seasons, he’s been consistently over 112. Erik Bedard has a 108 ERA+, which might be enough. But I wouldn’t be happy with just Greg Maddux, with his 99 ERA+ at Petco Park. Or Paul Byrd, with his 77 ERA+. Roy Oswalt? His 92 ERA+ seems like an exception compared to his career 137 ERA+. He would be worth it.

The bottom line is a trade for a “B-Level” pitcher won’t be worth it. I’m not even talking about what the Phils would have to give up. I’m talking about getting through the other 29 teams in baseball. I’m talking about Game 2 of the World Series. Seriously — Matsuzaka vs. Moyer? I know who I’m taking.

Maybe the Phils have something amazing up their sleeve (Roy Halladay, anyone?), but from what we’ve seen, it’s more likely they don’t. And if that’s the case, it’s likely a World Series parade won’t be scheduled for Broad Street in late October.

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