Rotation on a Roll

While the Phillies remain in the mix for every starting pitcher on the trade market, the guys currently starting games for the club have put together a tremendous stretch over the last three-plus weeks. Joe Blanton has led the way, going at least seven innings in four straight starts while allowing a total of four runs, but each of the five starters has been mostly effective and occasionally dominant through the team’s current 18-3 stretch.

Here's the performance of each current starter over the last 21 games: 

Joe Blanton: 3-0, 1.21, 29.2 IP, 4 ER, 20 H, 5 BB, 22 K, 2 HR

Rodrigo Lopez: 3-0, 3.09, 23.1 IP, 8 ER, 26 H, 6 BB, 15 K, 2 HR

Jamie Moyer: 4-1, 3.30, 30 IP, 11 ER, 27 H, 10 BB, 15 K, 2 HR

Cole Hamels: 2-0, 3.60, 25.0 IP, 10 ER, 18 H, 3 BB, 19 K, 6 HR

J.A. Happ: 2-1, 3.00, 27 IP, 25 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 21 K, 2 HR

As TGP Blogger Emeritus MattS noted on a few occasions, Blanton is inexplicably blossoming this season: his strikeout rate is up, but there’s no clear explanation why. Still, he's been so good for more than two months now that it doesn't seem a stretch to believe that he'll stay close to this level--if not quite at the absolute dominance he's shown in July--for the balance of the season. Cole Hamels’ peripherals, on the other hand, continue to run ahead of his results: the six home runs he’s allowed over his last four starts might be bad luck, or unwise pitch selection. (Subjectively, it’s seemed to me that Hamels has made far more mistakes with two strikes this season than he did in 2008.) Happ’s situational excellence/luck is a subject we’ve covered before—and it got away from him a bit in his last start against the Cardinals--but it was his addition to the rotation in late May that began this staff turnaround. For a guy who’s almost always in the strike zone, two home runs allowed in 27 innings is probably good fortune; three walks over the same stretch is simply good work.

Below the jump, see the whole run, start by start:  



Pitching Line


Decision (W-L)

7/3, vs. Mets 


6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K, 0 HR 

W, 7-2

W (1-0)

7/4, vs. Mets 


6.1 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, K, 0 HR 

W, 4-1

W (7-6)

7/5, vs. Mets 


7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR 

W, 2-0

W (5-4)

7/6, vs. Reds 


7 IP, 3 H, ER, 0 BB, 2 K, HR 

W, 22-1

W (5-5)

7/7, vs. Reds 


7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 2 HR 

L, 3-4

ND (5-0)

7/8, vs. Reds 


5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, BB, 4 K, 0 HR 

W, 3-2

ND (1-0)

7/9, vs. Reds 


5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, BB, 2 K, 2 HR 

W, 9-6

W (8-6)

7/10, vs. Pirates 


7.1 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 6 K, HR 

W, 3-2

W (6-4)

7/11, vs. Pitt 


6 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 3 HR 

W, 8-7

ND (5-5)

7/12, vs. Pitt 


7 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 0 HR 

W, 5-2

W (6-0)

7/16, @ Marlins 


7 IP, H, 0 ER, BB, 4 K, 0 HR 

W, 4-0

W (9-6)

7/17, @Fla 


5 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 5 K, HR 

W, 6-5 (12)

ND (5-5)

7/19, @Fla 


7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, BB, 4 K, 0 HR 

W, 5-0

W (7-0)

7/20, vs. Cubs 


6 IP, 5 H, ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 0 HR 

W, 10-1

W (2-0)

7/21, vs. Chi 


7 IP, 5 H, ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HR 

W, 4-1 (13)

ND (6-4)

7/22, vs. Chi 


5 IP, 8 H 4 ER (5R), 3 BB, 3 K, 0 HR 

L, 5-10

L (9-7)

7/23, vs. Padres 


7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, HR 

W, 9-4

W (6-5)

7/24, vs. Cardinals 


6 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 0 HR 

L, 1-8

L (7-1)

7/25, vs. StL 


6 IP, 10 H, 3 ER (4R), BB, 2 K, 2 HR 

W, 14-6

W (3-0)

7/26, vs. StL 


8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, BB, 6 K, HR 

W, 9-2

W (7-4)

7/27, @Ari


6.2 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 0 ER 

W, 6-2

W (10-7)



134 IP, 42 ER (2.82 ERA), 117 H, 27 BB (1.07 WHIP, 92 K, 14 HR, 16 QS 


14-2, 5 ND

*left game early with shoulder tightness
**left after lengthy rain delay

What should we take from all this? 

Admittedly, the Phillies’ opponents over the last twenty games have mostly featured among the weaker offenses in the National League: the Mets are 10th of the 16 teams in runs scored, the Reds 14th, Pittsburgh 13th, the Marlins 6th, the Cubs 12th, the Padres 16th, the Cardinals 5th. (These rankings are somewhat misleading, in that the Cubs are only now fully healthy—and the Mets are, if anything, a worse offense than the number suggests, as it includes work from when their lineup included Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.) That Moyer got knocked around by the Reds and Cubs suggests again that he might be more worthy of displacement from the rotation than Rodrigo Lopez—unless the Marlins are on the schedule, of course. Even Monday night's impressive feats of escapism against a solid Diamondbacks lineup that ranks 7th in the league raised almost as many question as answers: likely some of the seven runners Moyer stranded by using his wiles against Arizona's hitters would have scored against the Dodgers or Cardinals. 

None of this is to argue against a trade for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or any other starter, nor to suggest that Pedro Martinez won’t be a helpful addition when he’s ready to join the active roster. But the last few weeks have seen a sustained stretch of rotation work that can proudly stand alongside the performances of September/October 2008. Here's perhaps the best way to think about it: while Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ are a decent front three starters in a playoff series, Roy Halladay, Hamels and Blanton rise to the level of excellence you'd really prefer to see for a team with realistic championship aspirations.  

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