The Phillies had six starters in March. Now they're going to have six starters in September. It's like nothing has happened since...
Okay, maybe not. The only guy who's made it all the way through is Jamie Moyer, and since Cole Hamels and Adam Eaton are members of both sextets, we'll put them to the side right now as well. That means the Phils have swapped out Brett Myers, Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber--who entered 2007 with a combined 705 career starts and 296 wins--for Kyle Lohse, Kyle Kendrick, and J.D. Durbin. Before this season, that trio had 164 starts and 54 wins--all but one start of which was Lohse.
Kendrick is probably the biggest single reason why the Phillies are still relevant to the playoff conversation, and Durbin and Lohse have helped as well. But soon it's going to be decision time; either the team will go with a six-man rotation--which I suspect might be totally unprecedented in a pennant race--or someone is getting sent to the bullpen. We know it won't be Hamels, the ace of the staff. And I don't think it will be Lohse, because he's pitched well since joining the team and has pennant-race experience. (I'm not arguing that this means anything; I just believe the team thinks it does.)
But among the other four guys, there's a fair debate to be had. You can make a case for or against any of them. Kendrick and Durbin have been the best of the group this month. But Kendrick is about to pass his previous career high in innings, and the combination of fatigue and his lack of swing-and-miss stuff could prove telling as he faces teams seeing him for the second and third times. Durbin's command remains spotty, he isn't striking many guys out either, and of the four he's probably the most likely to be effective in a relief role.
Gramps Moyer might have saved his job with a winning performance against the Mets Wednesday night. I'll be honest: I was only able to watch the first two innings of the game, and he was getting cuffed around badly enough in the early going that I thought there was no way he'd make it through the 4th, let alone finish six innings. But he did, and if there is a case to be made for experience as an input to winning, that has to be it. Moyer has now pitched 164.2 IP this season, which is a lot for a 44 year-old but not so much for a guy who has thrown at least 200 innings in eight of the last nine seasons. At the least, I'm less sure he's cooked than I was six hours ago.
Then there's Adam Eaton. I think it's fair to say that if Eaton had been bombed by the Mets in his return Tuesday night, he'd be gone from the rotation. Eaton brought a career 5-0 record and 1.89 ERA against the Mets into the game, and he was good enough to earn consideration going forward. But I'd still be inclined to pull him.
A look at Eaton's career ERA against each of the Phils' remaining opponents, aside from the Mets, might explain why:
Florida (6.53, 6 starts)
Atlanta (6.14, 8 starts)
Colorado (6.29, 24 starts)
St. Louis (6.82, 7 starts)
Washington (4.80, 5 starts)
That just ain't right. Eaton's ill-starred deal still has two years and a bit more than $17 million to go. That should bring enough pain that there's no particular need to inflict him on the fans in what should be an exciting final month of the regular season.